Florilegium Society

Rosa 'Scabosa' by Ruth Woakes

Rosa ‘Scabosa’ by Ruth Woakes

Tilia cordata by Judith Hillelson

Tilia cordata by Judith Hillelson

The Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society was formed in 1995, with the primary aim of recording in paintings and drawings, the plants growing in the Physic Garden. Work would be donated to the Garden’s Archive, subject to selection, for the use and benefit of the Garden. Its nucleus was a small number of students who had just completed the first certificate of Botanical Illustration Course to be offered by the English Gardening School, directed by Anne-Marie Evans, who remains Hon. President of the Society she helped create.

In 1995, Evans wrote: ‘whereas the Florilegium of the 17th Century were created to portray the beauty and novelty of those plants brought back from the expanding colonies, the modern Florilegium may be seen as a conservation tool, instrumental in recording for posterity collections of plants within a chosen garden. Although the CPG has played a central role in the development of botanical painting in the UK and abroad, as yet no Florilegium of its content has been produced’.

Abelmoschus esculenta (Okra) by Ainslie Ensom

Abelmoschus esculenta (Okra) by Ainslie Ensom

Morus alba (white mulberry) by Sarah Gould

Morus alba (white mulberry) by Sarah Gould

The society’s first Hon. Patron was the remarkable Professor William Stearn and the Society is honoured that Dr Phil Cribb of Kew agreed to become our second Hon. Patron.

The primary aim remains the portrayal of the Garden’s entire collection and, as there are more than 5000 plants listed, current members are still merely laying the foundations of a vast project! From the members’ annual submission of paintings and pen and ink drawings, work is selected by an independent panel to maintain highest standards. Over 200 watercolours and 120 drawings have currently been accepted. All plant material is grown in the Garden and Herbarium specimens are also prepared. The Head Gardener and his team continue to instruct and help members, willingly providing both cuttings and advice when requested.

We aim to help promote Florilegia worldwide and are affiliated with several we helped set up. The society grows from strength to strength: may the next decade be as exciting as the first. As our work is donated for the benefit of the Garden, it is gratifying that our drawings are used to illustrate the Annual Report and several Garden booklets to aid artists and benefit the Garden.

Previous exhibitions:

Treasures from a Hidden Garden:
Plant portraits by the Florilegium Society

1-30 August 2013, The Gallery, Chelsea Physic Garden
22-23 October 2013, RHS, Horticultural Halls

Cynara cardunculus (Globe artichoke)  by Julia Trickey

Cynara cardunculus (Globe artichoke) by Julia Trickey

The society fulfils its further aim, “to further general awareness of this exacting method of portraying plants” with occasional exhibitions of drawings and paintings.
This August, the Society is staging an exhibition which brings together work by all its over 60 botanical artists, reflecting the diversity and sheer beauty of plants in the Garden.
Staged with the support of the Royal Horticultural Society, The Finnis Scott Foundation & Chelsea Physic Garden

This exhibition is now over. A selection of this exhibit: 47 paintings from 47 different Florilegium members will be on display 22-23 October at the RHS Horticulture Halls in Westminster, London. For details see the RHS website


Cydonia oblonga by Margaret King

Cydonia oblonga by Margaret King

Inner Beauty? Paintings of Medicinal Plants
by the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society

This exhibition was displayed at the newly opened Shirley Sherwood Gallery for Botanical Art at Kew Gardens in 2008, and at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York, USA in 2009. It featured 45 paintings by 45 of the Society’s artists.

Apothecaries’ Artists,
Paintings of Plants Cultivated in the Physic Garden

The Florilegium Society celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Garden in 2005 with this exhibition.

Many Florilegium Society members are successful artists exhibiting worldwide. Some have RHS medals to their credit; some also teach Botanical Illustration. The work of 19 members are represented in the celebrated collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood, whose travelling exhibitions have created a large discerning public for this art.

Plus, in 2000 the Society showed paintings at the Hunt Institute of Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, with which we have   a warm relationship through its Curator of Art James White, our enthusiastic Hon. Patron, USA. Some 35 members are independently represented in the Hunt Collection

(This website page written by Gillian Barlow, Vice Chairman of the Society)

To find out more about the Florilegium Society, including how to become a Painting Member or an Associate Member, then please contact Dugald Graham-Campbell, Chairman of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society, at  d.grahamcampbell@btinternet.com

New Garden of Medicinal Plants takes shape – opened April 2014
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