leisure 05.6.19

Out of Town: Nature Calls

Chelsea Physic Garden
Founded in 1673, the Chelsea Physic Garden isn't the oldest botanic garden in England. That distinction belongs to the garden at Oxford University which dates back another 52 years.

Let's not get too worked up about those details. It's still really old. And it's in London. And there's a good chance that you've visited London, perhaps often, and never knew about the place. Now you do.

It was originally called the Apothecaries' Garden because the idea was apprentices would come here to learn plant identification for use in medicine. In a sense, that mission has never changed. Showcasing the medicinal use of plants is still a key reason for the Garden's existence.

The Pharmaceutical Garden makes the point with plants in various beds and their story of healing. For instance, salicylic acid was made from Meadowsweet and that led to the development of aspirin. There are plants that have been important in such fields as Oncology, Cardiology, Lung Disease, and Neurology. If you're at all into natural healing, you will find all this totally cool. If you're not, you'll probably find it interesting anyway.

Still, that may not be the best reason to visit. All cities need their oases and sanctuaries and this is one of London's best. In this small spot by the Thames, London and time itself seem to pause. The plants around you unlock nature's gift of healing and the same could be said of the Chelsea Physic Garden itself.

The French believe that they have everything in France. They may have a point: Beaches, churches of world renown, gastronomic temples, museums, vineyards, and ocean views. And if you were trying to think of things the country doesn't have, don't play the bamboo card.

The story begins with plant-lover Eugène Mazel, who started began growing non-native species in 1856 on the southern France site now called Bambouseraie.

After his death in 1902, the Négre family took over the care of the giant bamboos, the Japanese maples, the horse chestnut trees and all the rest on the 37 acres.

In 1953 opened to the public and remains relatively unknown to the traveling hordes, allowing it to provide a refuge of great beauty.

Cape Cod Lavender Farm
This isn't the land of Van Gogh and Matisse, but in late June, a patch of Cape Cod turns into something right out of their paintings: It's harvest time at the Cape Cod Lavender Farm.

Here, on a patch of land overlooking Island Pond on the lower Cape, owner Cynthia Sutphin planted 400 lavender plants in the early 1990s. Today, her family runs one of the largest lavender farms on the East Coast with more than 14,000 plants, in seemingly endless varieties, like Grosso (a French favorite for its strong scent), Hidcote pink (it smells like peaches) and Harwich Blue, a dark indigo hybrid developed right here on the farm.

You can buy individual potted plants, fresh-picked bouquets to dry, and all sorts of products sprung from the farm's bounty: Sachets, handmade skincare products and an herbes de Provence blend.

Or you can just stroll through the fields and take in the spectacular sight—alley after alley of blue-grey-purple mounds—and scent: The mingling of lavender and saltwater breeze makes for a fairly potent combination.

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