Chelsea Physic Garden last night for an evening of Butterfly spotting. The garden had exotic butterflies in its tropical corridor, butterfly friendly flower beds outside and had commissioned six new watercolours by the botanical artist Mary Ellen Taylor. These were to celebrate the links with James Petiver (1664-1718) and his work with butterflies at the Chelsea Physic Garden. The exquisite watercolours were of common English butterflies.
The Chelsea Physic Garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London to train apprentices in identifying botanical plants. It has a long history of being associated with prominent botanists. James Petiver was Demonstrator of Plants at the Chelsea at the garden between 1709 and 1718 He was one of the first people to make a scientific study of British butterflies, recording their habitats and common names.
Mary Allen Taylor lived and worked in the Galapagos Islands and the Andes Mountains of Ecuador for two decades. She returned to Galapagos in February 2009 to paint a commemorative series of watercolours for the Darwin 2009 Initiative; the watercolours were of habitat relating to the six most endangered birds in the Galapagos Islands. There is more information about her, and images of her work on the Amicus Botanicus website.
Wandering round the gardens themselves, there was not only information about butterflies. There was also the opportunity to see the exhibition, Pertaining to things Natural curated by David Worthington, Vice-President of the Royal British Society of Sculptors. Works by 20 sculptors, installed in and around the garden, each responding in their own way to the garden and its history. Though, to our eyes, not every piece was successful, some of the larger pieces were quite spectacular and striking in the way that they interacted with the garden.