Petersfield Physic Garden

Just after parting from Ginger we went to take solace in the Petersfield Physic Garden.


It is set out in the traditional geometric garden patterns of the 17th century, and the plants grown there were all also growing in physic gardens 300 years ago. The old lady who was looking after the place told us of the terrible trouble they had in keeping all these “new plants” from moving in.

It was thrilling to see all the plants labelled and separated in their new spring growth.

Ed got over excited and took hundreds of identification pictures. Here are some of the plants we found. The plants here are all in their early spring stages, without flowers and summer growth. To look at pictures of these plants in flower, try typing the name into google images.


As the name suggests, soapwort leaves can be boiled in water to make a soap froth containing a good amount of saponin for washing with. In the summer it has pinky white flowers.





Good King Henry

This plant is part of the Chenopodium family, most of which are good edibles. You might know Fat Hen, the sister of Good King Henry. It makes a good salad when the leaves are young, and can be lightly steamed as it gets on a bit.







Licorice root was found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharoahs and has played a significant part as a healing herb throughout recorded history. It is used to treat the common cold, asthma and wounds.

The root is used to help with stress as it boosts the production of adrenalin, which is great.

The root makes a lovely sweet tea.

And then, as a kind wolf lady pointed out below that someone has moved the label in the garden and in fact the licorice was young horseradish. But i will keep the details above for your digestion and try to take some proper pictures of licorice. If anyone has some photos of the plant, please send them in.



Woad is the plant that makes the blue dye worn by Celtic warriors of Briton.

You remember Braveheart?

The leaves are fermented in order to obtain the blue paint which as well as making the warriors look frightening, was also effective in treating their wounds.

A poultice of fresh leaves can also be used for treating wounds.

Woad was the main blue dye in this country until Indigo was imported from eastern lands in 1660. It was used to dye cloth, wool and skin blue. A pink dye is yielded by the younger leaves if you use an alum mordant.

Gather the leaves in the plant’s second season, before she flowers.







An aromatic plant with a saucy background. Known as ‘lad’s love’ or ‘maid’s ruin’ (depending on your perspective), Southernwood is an aphrodisiac. Young men would rub it on their faces both to attract the ladies and to make their beards grow.  We will be doing some scientific field testing soon. Reports will follow.

The plant will help to ease menstrual obstruction and can be combined with Mugwort and Pennyroyal. It makes a relaxing addition to a bath and discourages moths from clothes (it was calle ‘garde-robe’ in French).

The old Welsh Physicians say “Take Southernwood, and pound it well, and add thereto some wine or old mead, strain well, and let the patient drink a portion thereof night and morning.” This was said to be a cure for those who talk in their sleep.

Southernwood yields a yellow dye from the twigs.

The plant likes rocky ground.




One Response to “Petersfield Physic Garden”

  1. Charlotte says:

    I find it so very delightful that you too have come to appreciate the wonders of the physic garden! I myself spend a great deal of time there and it holds a very special place in my heart (despite the bee’s nest)

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