Royal College of Physicians’ Medicinal Garden

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Royal College of Physicians’ Medicinal Garden

I have been invited to draw the Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) as part of their celebration for the 500th anniversary of the Royal College of Physicians and the 400th anniversary of the college’s publication of Britain’s first pharmacopoeia, the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis (PL).  In 2018 they are planning to produce an illustrated reissue of the first PL, a Florilegium.  This will be launched at the College with an art exhibition in 2018.

On my visit I was totally amazed by the building of the Royal College of Physicians – a Grade I listed building designed by renowned architect Sir Denys Lasdun (1914–2001).  Opened in 1964 next to Regent’s Park, it is widely considered a modernist masterpiece and one of London’s most important post-war buildings.

The RCP garden of medicinal plants is not overpowered by Modernist building.  In my opinion they work well together framing the organic shapes.  The garden is unique in that almost every one of the over 1000 species of plant has a link to medicine. It may be a herb with a long history of use in folk tradition; it may have provided the model for a pharmaceutical drug; it may be a fibre plant used to make bandages or its botanical name may commemorate a Physician and honour a contribution to science. The myriad stories they tell come from diverse cultures, different countries and from every age in recorded history.

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