Tranquil oasis in the heart of the capital

best medicine: The Chelsea Physic Garden. Below, the Icelandic  lava and Tower of London stone rockery.

best medicine: The Chelsea Physic Garden. Below, the Icelandic lava and Tower of London stone rockery.

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IF you’re visiting London, there’s no better place to get away from it all than the Chelsea Physic Garden, tucked away beside the Thames.

This walled oasis was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants.

The mild microclimate means tender plants can be grown, such as pomegranates, citrus trees and Mediterranean and Canary Islands species, especially Echium pininiana, with its 8ft blue flower spikes.

There’s not a chance it’ll grow here, but a similar effect can be achieved with foxtail lilies (Eremurus) – next on the wanted list!

The Cretan collection is grown on the restored rock garden, the oldest in Europe still on public view, dating from 1773.

It was built with stones from the Tower of London and lava from an Icelandic volcano. The latter was donated by plantsman Sir Joseph Banks – it had been used as ballast in his ship.

There’s a great café (lovely wine and cake), shop and bookshop to keep non-garden lovers happy.

Entrance is £9 for adults/OAPs, £6 concessions.

Madame Tussauds is about £30 – I know which I’d go for.

* Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4HS, 0207 352 5646, email: enquiries@chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk.