Glasshouse restoration project aims

The Restoration Project will do more for Chelsea Physic Garden than restore the built heritage, it will also provide for our natural heritage and act as a driving force for an innovative activity programme, new interpretation, and engagement opportunities.

Saving horticultural history

Our glasshouses are a rare example of craftmanship, a unique part of London’s Victorian heritage. The Burmese teak structures contribute to the special atmosphere of the Garden, quite literally bringing our collection to life.

Over the years the wood has rotted, the glass has cracked, and the metal has rusted. This means these beautiful buildings, built to be admired as well as to protect the plants within them, are struggling to survive. They need your help. An inspection in March 2020 revealed extensive damage to all the glasshouses in the north-west corner of the Garden, including the Tropical Corridor and the three connecting glasshouses, as well as the standalone glasshouse and a glazed Pit House.  The Cool Fernery is also in need of repair.

With your generosity we can sympathetically restore them to their former glory.

Restore heritage

The Glasshouses at Chelsea Physic Garden are a rare example of their craftmanship, a unique part of London’s Victorian heritage and the horticultural history of Britain. The Burmese teak structures contribute to the special atmosphere of the Garden, quite literally bringing our collection to life.

Over the past century, the wood has rotted, the glass has cracked, and the metal has rusted. This means these beautiful buildings, built to be admired as well as to protect the plants within them, are struggling to survive.
The project will sympathetically and sustainably restore the Glasshouses to their former glory, retaining as much of the heritage fabric as possible whilst making them fit for the future with new climate controls and energy-saving measures.

Cultivate and share stories

The restoration project has also given us the opportunity to design a new layout and approach to planting that will allow people to experience the whole plant life cycle, through moving our Propagation House (where our plants bring their lives) out from behind the scenes.

We will also create new displays and interpretation, so to shine a light on horticultural science and conservation, as well as letting you see things through the gardener’s eyes. Through a language audit and the widening of our narratives, we will highlight the relationships between people and plants, reflecting the living history of the cultures and communities of our plants’ origins.

To improve the visitor experience, we will create more inclusive activities and opportunities so that people, regardless of socio-economic status, background, heritage, or familiarity with horticulture, can enjoy the glasshouses.

Protect plants and provide for people

The Glasshouses are home to some 1200 plant species, many of which are rare or not often cultivated. The restoration project has allowed us to review our plant collections, which is informing how we continue to care for them to support biodiversity and raise awareness of climate change and habitat loss.

In addition to the providing better growing conditions for life under glass, the project will also allow us to adapt the currently cramped spaces and narrow passageways to accommodate a one-way visitor route the caters for a range of access requirements.

Lastly, we will invest in our people, providing a training programme for staff and volunteers and recruiting a Volunteer Development Manager for the first time to develop and care for all those who give their time and expertise to the Garden.

Interactive Map

Use our interactive map of the restored Glasshouses to find out more about each collection and how we share these with visitors.

Glasshouses

Click a Glasshouse to discover more

Glasshouses
Tropical CorridorPelargoniumsAtlantic IslandsSouthern HemispherePropagationCold FramesNurseryPit HouseCool Fernery

Tropical Corridor

The Tropical Corridor allows visitors to experience our rainforest plant collections. This is our hottest glasshouse and is maintained above 15 ̊C year-round. The diverse uses of plants - food, medicine and commercial – will be a key feature of the new displays.

Pelargoniums

Chelsea Physic Garden was one of the first places in the country to grow Pelargoniums. The collection dates to 1724. Visitors will learn about plant classification, plant families and how hybrids are created.

Atlantic Islands

Our Atlantic Islands collections are uniquely adapted to their habitats and many are endangered. The local flora is very susceptible to environmental changes and habitat loss, and visitors will find out more about this important topic.

Southern Hemisphere

This glasshouse brings together plants from the Cape Floral Region in South Africa - one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world. The new interpretation will illustrate the importance of ecology and our role in protecting plants.

Propagation

For the first time, visitors will be able experience and understand the whole seed-to seed-life cycle. Our role in plant reproduction and the journey of seedlings and cuttings from potting shed to planting will be explained.

Cold Frames

Cold Frames are used to protect young plants against frost as a step between their journey from the Propagation House to the Nursery. The frames act has temporary housing for plants that no longer need the protective environment of the glasshouses.

Nursery

Propagated plants grow in the Nursery until they are suitable age or size to be planted in the wider Garden. In the winter months visitors can enjoy the sight of the Nursery full of snowdrops ready for Heralding Spring trail.

Pit House

Semi-sunken beneath the earth to extend the growing season, this glasshouse is warmer in winter and cooler in summer. The collection includes succulents known as living stones and the Welwitschias Mirabilis, which - with no known plant relatives - are ‘living fossils’.

Cool Fernery

This glasshouse displays some of the earliest plants to grow on earth - some of which were collected to extinction during when Victorian ‘Fern Fever’ struck Britain. The fascinating story of plant evolution will be told in new displays.