Sunday, June 10, 2012

Physic Gardens

loth June, 1658. I went to see the Medical Garden at
Westminster, well stored with plants, under Morgan, a
very skillful botanist.

Diarist John Evelyn perhaps sought medical relief in the Westminster Physic Garden in 1658.  Edward Morgan, like many modern day herbalists, explored a foreign place for medicinal plants.  In this case, Wales.  There are currently at least two physic gardens in England that have their beginnings in the 17th century, the Chelsea Physic Garden (1673), and the University of Oxford Botanic Garden (1621).   In Scotland, Edinburgh has the Sibbald Physic Garden, which has roots dating to 1656.  What became Sibbald was originally created by the Incorporation of Barbers and Surgeons. Sir Walter Scott mentions a physic garden in “The Surgeon’s Daughter”:

‘On the morning after this gay evening, the two young men were labouring
together in a plot of ground behind Stevenlaw's Land, which the Doctor
had converted into a garden, where he raised, with a view to pharmacy as
well as botany, some rare plants, which obtained the place from the
vulgar the sounding name of the Physic Garden. [Footnote: The Botanic
Garden is so termed by the vulgar of Edinburgh.] Mr. Gray's pupils
readily complied with his wishes, that they would take some care of this
favourite spot, to which both contributed their labours, after which
Hartley used to devote himself to the cultivation of the kitchen garden,
which he had raised into this respectability from a spot not excelling a
common kail-yard, while Richard Middleman did his utmost to decorate
with flowers and shrubs a sort of arbour, usually called Miss Menie's

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