Diana Lawrenson

— Writer —

Diana Lawrenson Pages to Places Blog

Welcome to my blog that takes you from pages to places. Come and discover some quirky, little-known, or loose-but-relevant links from books to places around the world. You might even like to add a book suggestion of your own to the topic.

30 October 2016 | Chelsea, England


Chelsea physic Harden

Dr Seuss wasn’t a doctor, although a US medical school is named after him and his wife. Drs No, Dolittle, Frankenstein and Zhivago are among fictitious physicians. And then there are Odo Hirsch, Khaled Hosseini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anton Chekhov and Nick Earls among many qualified doctors-cum-authors who never preface their own name or pseudonym on their books with ‘Dr’.

While not all doctors write books, all medical doctors write prescriptions, and from time immemorial the palliative and curative value of plants has been recognised.

Behind high brick walls and bordering the Chelsea Embankment by the River Thames is the 3½ acre Chelsea Physic Garden in whose beds medicinal, edible and useful plants, as well as a woodland garden, grow. Medicinal plants are grouped together in accordance with their specialty uses: gastroenterology, cardiology, anaesthesia, oncology etc. Digitalis (foxgloves), Belladonna (deadly nightshade), Salix (willow), Papaver (opium poppies) and Colchicum (crocus) are just a few of the plants used in the treatment of various conditions.

The Garden began in the 17th Century as the Apothecaries’ Garden, under the auspices of the Worshipful Chelsea Physic GardenSociety of Apothecaries, later becoming known as the Chelsea Physic Garden. Back in the age of long sea voyages botanists collected plants and seeds from far-flung places, delivering them up the Thames for propagation. I could have stayed there all day reading weird old cures for ailments, seeing how seeds were brought back from expeditions centuries ago, and discovering Joseph Banks’s link to this garden as well as the more famous, but younger, one at Kew.

Almost 350 years old and open to the public, this small, tranquil haven is fascinating to garden lovers or those with a medical or pharmaceutical interest. Local residents from surrounding apartments take advantage of an annual membership to spend spare time reading on the lawns between the garden beds. Bliss on a warm, sunny day, especially if a jar of aloe vera is handy to relieve any sunburn.



  • A.J.Cronin – Dr Finlay; The Citadel
  • Nick Earls – 48 Shades of Brown (YA); Word Hunters series (children)
  • Peter Goldsworthy – Three Dog Night; Everything I Knew
  • Odo Hirsch – Hazel Brown series (children); Bartlett series (children)
  • Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner; And the Mountains Echoed
  • Oliver Sacks – The Man who Mistook his wife for a Hat
  1. Yes, Diana. Absolutely fascinating and what a wonderful place to visit. As usual a great post.

  2. This is a fascinating post for me as I have a character in my WIP who is a botanist and there is also a healer! Thanks for another wonderful post.

    1. What a coincidence! Do hope your WIP is progressing well.

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