Harry Potter’s Wizarding World opened to the public last month, complete with faux castle, a hippogriff roller coaster ride, and plenty of opportunities to purchase wands, butterbeer, and chocolate frogs.
I had a proud parenting moment when discussing the Sunday New York Times Travel section report on the new theme park with Miss M. Not only did she not beg to go there, she effectively turned up her nose at the whole idea of it because it’s fake and the way Hogwarts really looks is the way she sees it in her imagination. I love that her own vision is still stronger than the ideas imposed on her, and that she still believes that there are plenty of places in the world that are actually magical, so why settle?
For a girl who is forever making potions out of plants she finds in the yard, there are a few public gardens with especially magical appeal. They may be a bit more Madam Pomfrey than Professor Sprout–herbs good for “calming the spirit” rather than changing rats into teapots, but no matter. It’s the idea that the right combination of plants and properties will make something happen.
The Chelsea Physic Garden in London was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and we all some of them were alchemists. The screaming mandrake that Harry and company had to harvest in Sorecer’s Stone actually grows here in its real-life form, mandrake, sans screaming. No mimbulus mimbletonia or devil’s snare, but there are loads of other strange plants from around the world, and it has the feel of this tucked-away little magical place in London.
There are some interesting physic gardens on this side of the pond, too. The UBC gardens in Vancouver have recreated a medieval physic garden, and the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens has a Chinese medicinal garden which includes plants for balancing qi and other such magical properties.
The Florence Bakken Medicincial Gardens at the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis is based on a Renassiance-style physic garden design, and in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Hospital Physic Garden sits adjacent to the 200-plus year old hospital (the garden was proposed in the mid 18th century, but not actually completed until 1976).
Near us in North Carolina, Bethabara Park in Winston Salem is home to what’s thought to be the oldest colonial medicinal garden in the US.
Leave it to Australia to come up with something even cooler, the Witch’s Garden a private garden of witchy herbs sometimes open to the public.
On Midsummer’s Eve, we talked about how certain plants were said to take on temporary magical powers: St. John’s wort, verbena, and roses among them. We planned to pick some and find out what it would do, but a particularly powerful thunderstorm kept us indoors. If we only had one of Snape’s potion books so we could do some experimenting.