Walks Talks & Workshops

The current programme of Walks, Talks and Workshops for summer 2014 is described below and bookings are now open.


Fri 1st Aug 11.30am-1pm Prehistoric Plants at the Physic Garden Tom Wells £20
Thurs 7th Aug 11.30am-1pm Behind the scenes tour
Christopher Bailes
Thurs 21st Aug 11.30am-1pm Gardening under glass – a practical guide
Kate Wilkinson


Thurs 4th Sept 10am-4pm The lost art of nature printing
Pia Östlund
Thurs 4th Sept 11.30am-1pm Behind the scenes tour
Nick Bailey
Thurs 11th Sept 10am-4pm Painting flowers & fruits of late summer
Lucy T Smith
Thurs 18th Sept 10am-4pm Introduction to beekeeping
Peter James
Thurs 18th Sept 11.30am-1pm Beginner’s guide to propagation
Nell Jones
Fri 19 Sept 10am-1pm Compost ClinicMichael Holland £30 COMING SOON
Wed 24th Sept 10am-4pm Better garden photography
Philip Smith


Thurs 2nd Oct 11.30am-1pm Behind the scenes tour
Nick Bailey
Fri 3rd Oct 10.30am – 12pm Writing herb-infused poetry
Maria Vlotides & Chris McCabe
Wed 8th Oct 10am-4pm Better drawing techniques
Mia Gubbay
Thurs 9th Oct 10am-4pm Introduction to beekeeping
Peter James
Wed 15th Oct 10am-4pm Become your own chocolate expert, lecture and hands-on workshop
Chantal Coady
Wed 15th Oct 10am-12.30pm Become your own chocolate expert lecture 
Chantal Coady
Thurs 16th Oct 11.30am-1pm Beginner’s guide to propagation
Nell Jones
Tues 21st Oct 10am-1pm Compost clinic
Michael Holland
Thurs 23rd Oct 10am-4pm Plant remedies for winter ills
Lara Bean

Pre-booking is essential for workshops and courses that are not free of charge.

Behind the scenes tour

Fri 4 April, Thurs 1 May, 5 Jun, 3 Jul, 7 Aug, 4 Sep or 2 Oct.



Learn more about the Garden and its rich historical past with this exclusive tour of the Garden with the Head Gardener, Nick Bailey, or Curator, Christopher Bailes.  Discover parts of the Garden not normally accessible to the public and glean some tips on how to create a unique sense of place.

Nick Bailey – Nick is Chelsea Physic Garden’s Head Gardener. He has a degree in horticulture and studied garden design at the University of Greenwich and Hadlow College. He has managed and created gardens in Britain and overseas, including the Wicken Estate in Norfolk and the Brenthurst Estate in South Africa.  Nick is an experienced lecturer and has contributed to various gardening magazines including The Garden.

Christopher Bailes – Christopher has been curator at Chelsea Physic Garden since March 2011.  He began his gardening career in 1971 as gardener for Hugh Johnson at Saling Hall and in the following years has worked at Kew as Supervisor in the Tropical Section, Manager at the Eric Young Orchid Foundation and Editor of the Orchid Review. He joined the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in October 1988 as Curator of Rosemoor Garden. He is a member of the RHS Orchid Committee, the Plant Conservation Committee of Plant Heritage and a Trustee of The Garden House in Devon.

Compost clinic

Fri 11 Apr, Wed 16 Jul, Fri 19 Sep, or Tues 21 Oct



Whether you have a heap, bin or wormery, we lift the lid on the world of compost and teach you how to make the ultimate ‘black gold’. Produce great compost and reduce what you throw away. Learn how to improve the quality of your soil through simple processes to enable your plants to flourish. You will learn about the wonderful creatures lurking in a typical compost heap and how they are beneficial to the composting process.

Michael Holland – Michael is Chelsea Physic Garden’s Head of Education. He has worked for the Garden’s Education Department for 18 years and developed the innovative Chelsea Flower Show award-winning Shelf Life project.  Michael previously taught at Kew and is a keen ecologist, photographer and wildlife gardener. He has been running Compost clinics at the Garden for over 6 years and is a Director of the Botanic Gardens Education Network.

The lost art of nature printing

Wed 16 Apr or Thur 4 Sep



Nature printing is a wonderful way of depicting and discovering plants, a technique developed by physicians in the 15th century as an aid to the study of plants. The day begins with an illustrated talk on the history of nature printing and then you will learn how to make your own impressions using fresh plants and oil-based inks on paper. This workshop includes the rare opportunity to view some exquisite nature printed books from the Garden’s collection.

Pia Östlund – Pia is a freelance designer and printmaker.  She trained at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design. She has been Chelsea Physic Garden’s design consultant for the past ten years.  With a particular interest in the representation of nature through printing, she is currently researching a rare 19th century printmaking technique.

Gardening under glass – a practical guide

Thurs 17 Apr, 19 June or 21 Aug

11am – 1pm


An introduction to caring for plants indoors – from tropical palms to pots on a window-ledge. Dealing with pests, identifying diseases, choosing compost, and the mysteries of watering are amongst the topics covered. We will also take a brief look at the history of growing under glass and have a closer look at some of the remarkable plants which can be grown under the special conditions provided by the glasshouses here at Chelsea Physic Garden.

Kate Wilkinson - Kate started her gardening career on an allotment in Oxford and her botanical obsession is still edible plants. She trained in Horticulture at Pershore College and gardened at Waterperry and at St Hugh’s College, Oxford before undertaking the traineeship at Chelsea Physic Garden in 2011. She has been working here ever since. Kate takes care of the Edible and Useful gardens alongside her responsibilities as Glasshouse Manager.

Better garden photography

Wed 30 Apr or Wed 24 Sep



This day gives you a sound technical foundation for your photography along with deeper understanding of digital processing and the creative opportunities it offers. Philip demonstrates tools and techniques to help you ‘see’ photographs in the garden before taking a shot and you will gain insights into macro close-up photography along with tips and tricks for working with light and colour.

Philip Smith – Philip is a photographer specialising in gardens and plants.  His work has featured in magazines such as The English Garden, The Garden and Gardeners’ World and has been exhibited at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and RHS Wisley.  He is co-founder and managing director of the International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition and author of Better Plant and Garden Photography.  Find out more about Phillip’s work here 

Beginner’s guide to propagation

Thurs 15 May, 18 Sep or 16 Oct



Are your seedlings long and spindly?  Do your cuttings sit and sulk for ages and then die?  Come and learn how to give your seeds and cuttings the best chance of turning into healthy plants.

Nell Jones 

Nell is Propagation Manager at Chelsea Physic Garden and is responsible for raising a hugely diverse range of plants predominantly from seed and cuttings.  She has a degree in agriculture and  is an RHS qualified gardener.  In addition to her propagation responsibilities she looks after the Dicot Order Beds at the Garden which cover approximately ¾ acre of diverse, predominantly herbaceous, planting.

Introduction to beekeeping

Thurs 22 May, 18 Sep or 9 Oct



This practical one-day course gives an insight into beekeeping and the equipment needed to get started. Learn more about bees and the honey production process, along with how to create the right environment for them to thrive. This course takes you through the key steps to becoming a successful beekeeper.

Peter James – Peter became Beekeeper at Chelsea Physic Garden in 2008 and has over a decade’s experience of beekeeping.  He looks after ten beehives on three apiary sites and enjoys passing on his knowledge by training the Garden’s volunteer beekeepers.  He has also starting a queen rearing programme.  The sale of honey from the Garden’s hives supports the charity’s educational programmes.


Prehistoric plants at the Physic Garden

Thurs 26 June & Fri 1 Aug



Discover plants from the dawn of life and see how they’ve shaped our planet and gardens.  From tiny mosses, through verdant ferns, alien horsetails and giant conifers to the very first flowers.

Tom Wells

Growing up gardening and working on farms in East Anglia, Tom trained in Architecture before moving to Japan to practice design and horticulture in the world’s largest metropolis. Back in London, he worked designing, building and maintaining gardens, before joining Chelsea Physic Garden as a trainee. Alongside gardening, he maintains the plant records here; cataloguing the collection, its uses and importance.


Painting flowers & fruits of late summer

Thur 11 Sep



Spend quality time capturing the charming detail of seasonal plants in watercolour.  Advice on technique and individual assistance will be offered.

Lucy T Smith - Lucy is a freelance Australian botanical artist based in the UK, and for the past 14 years has produced many illustrations and paintings for the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.  She has received numerous awards for her work, including two gold medals from the RHS, the Jill Smythies Award for botanical illustration (Linnean Society of London), and the Margaret Flockton award.   In 2001 she took on the role of botanical artist onboard the Endeavour replica for a BBC documentary about Cook’s voyage to Australia. Lucy also teaches botanical illustration at Kew Gardens and the Chelsea School of Botanical Art.


Medicine Matters

Every Tuesday in July


£15 inc. a glass of wine

Join us for a series of talks this July exploring  the uses of medicinal plants in the past, in the present and their uncertain future in Western medicine.


Tuesday 1 July

The success story of a medicinal entrepreneur

Romy Fraser will be delighted to share some stories and pictures about the creation of Neal’s Yard Remedies and her 25 years developing a successful business within the changing world of herbal medicine. She will go on to illustrate the evolution of Trill Farm, with food and fragrances from the hedgerows and herb gardens of her new educational venture in the Devon countryside.

Romy Fraser

Romy Fraser founded Neal’s Yard in 1981, just four years later a small factory in South London opened to meet demand. Neal’s Yard continued to grow and there are now 40 shops, 64 Therapy Rooms and 400 stock lists in the UK including John Lewis and Fenwicks.  In 2005 Neal’s Yard Remedies moved their head office to a purpose-built eco-factory facility at Peacemarsh, Dorset, and that same year Fraser sold the business, although she remains on the board. Romy has been awarded an OBE in recognition for her services to the health and beauty industry.


Tuesday 8 July

Medicines in Apothecary Jars

English Delftware apothecary jars are the familiar tin-glazed jars with elaborate blue cartouches indicating their contents. The medicines they contain were mostly plant-based mixtures, compounded according to the requirements of the Royal College of Physicians’ Pharmacopoeia Londinensis of 1618.   This lecture aims to give the history and uses of their bizarre and fantastical ingredients from the Mithdridates and Thericacs with up to 60 or more ingredients (including flesh of vipers) to the ‘simples’ like Papaver erratica (common corn poppy) and Herba paralysis (cowslips), to opiate-sodden sedatives and violent purgatives, fox lungs and earthworms. It will trace the origins of these medicines to 2000 years ago, illustrated by the pharmacopoeias and herbals of the post medieval period, and attempt to explain why our ancestors thought they worked.

Dr Henry Oakeley

Dr Henry Oakeley is a retired psychiatrist who is the Garden Fellow at the Royal College of Physicians, London. He has a particular interest in the history and development of plant-based medicines.


Tuesday 15 July

The application of Phytotherapy in a modern day pharmacy

Health is one of the most important aspects of human life. The service of promoting health has evolved throughout the centuries along with the evolution of mankind, and the plant world has provided fundamental means during this process. Although modern day drugs and pharmaceutical studies focus mainly on synthetic or semi-synthetic substances, there are still a lot of benefits to be gained from rational Phytotherapy. A pharmacy functions as a primary Health Care site and the Pharmacist is one of the providers responsible for the promotion and maintenance of people’s health.

Georgia Syllignaki will present some examples of plant pharmaceutical preparations that are nowadays dispensed in a Greek pharmacy.  She believes that in this context, Phytotherapy will continue to have an important place in the present and future of health services.

Georgia Syllignaki

Georgia currently works and co-owns a family pharmacy which specialises in phytotherapy and homeopathy.  She studied at the School of Pharmacy, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki where she specialised in Pharmacognosy- plant pharmaceutical products. Georgia is also a Member of the Greek Society of Ethnopharmacology.


Tuesday 22 July

Steam engines, overhead projectors, film cameras… and medicines from plants?

In the past flowering plants have been the source of medicines for most human societies and even in our age of advanced technological medicine the chemicals that they contain are still the source of many important drugs.

However, together with many technological  icons of recent years, their usefulness in the past is without dispute, but it  has been proposed that their current  role is more of historical interest than as a source of novel therapeutic materials, especially since the pharmaceutical industry is perceived to have turned its attention elsewhere in looking for new drugs. The lecture will examine briefly the past and present use of flowering plant constituents in Western medicine before discussing current perceptions and prospects for flowering plants as providers of medicines by established and novel ways.

Professor Peter Houghton  – BPharm PhD MA FRPharmS FRSC CChem

Professor Houghton is Emeritus Professor in Pharmacognosy at King’s College London, having retired from the Department of Pharmacy there in 2008. He is also an Honorary Research Associate at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.  He represented the Royal Pharmaceutical Society on the Chelsea Physic Garden Advisory Committee from 1995 to 2013. Professor Houghton has written and edited several books and published over 250 research papers and reviews on many topics connected with the chemistry and biological activity of plants and their constituents. In 2008 he was ordained in the Church of England and now has responsibility for two parishes in Herefordshire.


Tuesday 29 July

Medicine, marvels and mesmerists

Roll up, roll up… From book wheels to flying machines, Georgian Quacks to Victorian medicine shows, this talk will guide your way through some of the dreamers, opportunists and charlatans, whose magical medicines and outlandish schemes are contained within the collections of the Wellcome Library.

Ross MacFarlane

Ross MacFarlane is Research Engagement Officer in the Wellcome Library, where he is heavily involved in promoting the Library’s collections. As an archivist, he has worked at a number of London institutions including King’s College, Tate Britain, the Royal Society and the Reform Club.  Whilst doing so he has handled a mermaid, discovered a lost alchemy manuscript written by Isaac Newton and found out almost too much about Henry Wellcome.

He has researched, lectured and written on such topics as the history of early recorded sound, freak shows and notions of urban folklore in Edwardian London.  He has led guided walks around London on the occult past of Bloomsbury and on the intersection of medicine, science and trade in Greenwich and Deptford.  He blogs – not as much as he should – on the Wellcome Library’s blog.


Writing herb-infused poetry

Fri 3 Oct

10.30am – 12pm


This poetry writing workshop, inspired by an art piece and book called Pharmapoetica: a dispensary of poetry will explore the medicinal properties of plants.  Participants will gain insight into the medicinal properties of selected plants, and discover their healing magic as well as current research on these plants.  Be guided through the process of writing poetry, and leave with at least the beginnings, if not the final draft, of a herb-infused poem.

Chris McCabe and Maria Vlotides – Chris is a librarian at the Saison Poetry Library in the Southbank Centre as well as a published poet and teacher at the Poetry School.  Maria is an artist and medicinal herbalist. Together they have created Pharmapoetica: a dispensary of poetry.

Listen to Christ McCabe and Maria Vlotides discuss Saison Poetry Library, Pharmapoetica, art, poetry, psycho-geography, typography and herbal medicine in this interview with N Quentin Woolf for Londonist Out Loud: A Podcast About London.

Better drawing techniques

Wed 8 Oct



This workshop will include making sketches from microscopes, sketching in the Garden from various perspectives, focusing on shapes, repetition and rhythm within the Greenhouses and rendering and re-sketching.

Mia Gubbay – Mia trained as an illustrator at Central Saint Martins and has taught, drawn and performed across Europe at venues including The V&A and Palais De Tokyo and with The Last Tuesday Society. Mia has worked for charities such as The Concordia Foundation, the National Trust and The National Arts Learning Network.

Become your own chocolate expert, lecture and hands-on workshop

Wed 15 Oct


Morning Talk – £30

Whole day – £95


Illustrated talk and workshop with award winning chocolatier Chantal Coady


A brief history of chocolate, (mentioning Hans Sloane, our Chocolate hero) and a demonstration of micro-chocolate making which will be followed a chocolate tasting session. The opportunity to buy your personally signed copy of Rococo: Mastering the Art of Chocolate by Chantal.

This will be followed by a step-by-step overview of the chocolate-making process, using small artisan techniques which are transferrable to your own kitchen.  Learn how to make the perfect chocolate ganache (the base for truffles) to take home in a beautiful Rococo gift box and be your own chocolate expert.


Illustrated talk only


A brief history of chocolate, (mentioning Hans Sloane, our Chocolate hero) and a demonstration of micro-chocolate making which will be followed a chocolate tasting session. The opportunity to buy your personally signed copy of Rococo: Mastering the Art of Chocolate by Chantal.

Chantal Coady – Chantal is the Founder and Creative Director of Rococo Chocolates, she transformed the stuffy, conservative, commercial norm of chocolate retailing to the inspiring engagement of the senses.

Plant remedies for winter ills

Thur 23 Oct



Herbs have been used for centuries to keep the family healthy through the winter, from vitamin-rich berries to antiseptic leaves.  Learn to make traditional cough syrup from garden herbs, boost your immune system using wild berries and fight off infection with teas made from culinary herbs in this practical workshop with Lara, a qualified herbal medicine practitioner.

Lara Bean - Lara grew up in the Welsh village of Myddfai famous for its herbal legacy, dating back to the sixth century.  She has a science degree and clinical training in herbal medicine and is a practising medical herbalist. Lara works in the community to preserve Britain’s traditional herbal knowledge. She is the welsh regional co-ordinator for the Remembered Remedies Ethnomedica project. She is passionate about keeping our herbal heritage alive and runs practical plant medicine workshops, walks and talks in numerous places including the National Botanic Garden of Wales and has lectured at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Lara has featured on television both in the U.K and internationally, including Routes of Britain with Griff Rhys Jones, The Medicine Woman and Gardeners World.   


How to book: Pre-booking is essential for workshops and courses that are not free of charge.

Book Online NOW!

You can book by phone with a credit/debit card on 020 7349 6471, or by downloading, filling in and sending us the booking form (PDF/39Kb) along with your course fee.

Payment and cancellation
Please pay your course fee in full at least two weeks prior to the course taking place. For last minute availability we recommend that you call first to check whether space is still available. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ or you can pay by credit card by calling our booking line 020 7349 6471 or by downloading, filling in and sending us the booking form (PDF/39Kb) along with your course fee, via our Freepost address. Or book online here.

We are unable to offer refunds on bookings but we may be able to transfer your course fee to another person or to another date. Please call our office for further advice if required. In case of unforeseen circumstances, we reserve the right to cancel a course in which case you will be given a full refund or the option to transfer to another date.

Booking confirmation and course information
You will receive a course programme shortly after booking along with joining information and any course requirements. Your course confirmation for full day courses will entitle you to a 10% discount in our Shop on the day. Please note that this discount does not apply to the Illustrated talks or free events.

Please note
If for a reason beyond our control one of our tutors or gardeners is unable to lead a course at short notice, we reserve the right to work with an alternative tutor with appropriate experience.

Tea & coffee will be provided on full day courses. You are welcome to bring a packed lunch to have in the Garden or to book a table in our Café (N.B. the Café is currently only open on public open days of Tues to Fri). There are also plenty of shops and cafés locally should you wish to eat out. Your full day course confirmation will entitle you to a 10% discount in the Café and Shop on the day. Details of how to make a priority café reservation will be provided when you book.

Most course materials are included in your fee unless otherwise specified in the brochure or joining letter. Please bring your own notebook and pen to record notes. You will need to bring your own camera for the photography course. Please also wear appropriate clothing and footwear for any work or walks in the Garden.

Disabled access
Please contact us if you have specific access requirements and we will do our best to assist.

New Garden of Medicinal Plants takes shape – opened April 2014
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