A message from Founder and Director of

Chelsea School of Botanical Art, Helen Allen


After eight wonderful years based in the Chelsea Physic Garden and one in Ham the Chelsea School of Botanical Art will close its doors to new students effective immediately.

There are a number of reasons for this but the current situation with COVID-19 and all its horrors, sadness and uncertainties has made hands-on classroom based teaching an impossibility. As a result of the regulations concerning COVID-19, hands-on classroom based teaching has become impossible.  Technology has advanced so quickly making on-line learning available to so many more aspiring botanical artists.  I am just amazed and so impressed by the ingenuity and hard work of my fellow botanical artists and tutors to keep themselves and their students busy and motivated.

I would like to thank all of you who have supported me and the school: Mary Ellen Taylor, Elaine Searle, Lucy T Smith, Anna Haigh, Sally Pond, Penny Price, Julia Trickey Sarah Gould,Mary Dillon.  Also guest tutor, Anne Marie Evans, classroom assistants and mentors in 2014 and 2105: Carolyn Dimond, Shirley Richards and Ruth Wharrier; and more recently graduate tutors Marion Olsen and Rui Jiang.Your enthusiasm, support, dedication and the fine teaching delivered to CSBA students has always been much valued and appreciated.

To Mary Ellen for her pivotal and staunch support, administration and presence in the school, my sincere admiration and thanks.

To Victoria Tonkin for managing the business side of CSBA and me, huge thanks

Also to those who have guided CSBA students and external painters on Short Courses, a huge thanks.  I have been honoured to host you and count you as some of the best botanical artists and painters in the country: Martin Allen, Mary Dillon, Jo Edwards, Anne Marie Evans, Rui Jiang, Christabel King, Deborah Lambkin, Marion Olsen, Lizzie Sanders, Rosie Sanders, Elaine Searle, Gael Sellwood, Sarah Simblet, Lucy Smith and Julia Trickey.

And finally to those who have mentored and advised me, huge thanks: Beverly Allen, Gillian Barlow, Katie Lee, Vicki Matthews, Helen Newman, Vicki Thomas, Josephine Hague and the host of ‘Botanical Friends’

All CSBA graduates have had their work scrutinised and marked by a revolving group of botanical artists, illustrators, tutors, botanists, publishers, galleries, RHS picture librarians and writers. I cannot thank them enough for their attention to detail and appreciation of the extremely hard work that CSBA students put into their submissions.

CSBA students have many things in common. Coming together to learn this gentle and fascinating scientific art has been rewarding, forging many strong friendships.The welcoming of overseas students  has brought us closer in our common goals as we shared varieties of flora and painting techniques from around the globe.


Watching the personal development and achievements of graduates of the original English Gardening School from 2004 until 2012 and CSBA 2014 - 2018 is a joy and I am so proud of what you have all achieved and continue to do so.  AMICUS BOTANICUS, a group of EGS and CSBA graduates continues to flourish and grow, whilst many graduates paint for florilegium societies.

You can find out more about Amicus Botanicus here: www.amicusbotanicus.com

The Florilegium Society at Hampton Court Palace here: www.florilegium-at-hamptoncourtpalace.co.uk 

The Chelsea Physic Garden was a spiritual home for botanical art, a quirky and endearing place for me and one that I miss.  Support from the Curator, gardeners, ‘Growing Friends’, volunteers and staff was much appreciated and I hope there will always be a connection as CSBA students graduate and some become members of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society.



During these strange times we have all had time to reflect on direction and to begin to understand new ways of working in the future. 

I simply love teaching and sharing all those wonderful things with you that others have shared with me.  I shall continue to teach here in Ham when it becomes physically possible.

Regular weekly classes will return and there will be several short courses for those who want something more intensive. I will also be offering one-to-one tutorials comprising feedback, advice on works-in-progress and a practical technique session.

The CSBA website will direct you here, to my personal site : www.helen-allen.com

Please visit my personal website for information regarding classes in Ham and subscribe to be the first to  receive dates as they appear. You will also receive some’Botanical Snippets’, occasional notes from me on all things botanical.

I look forward to continuing to work with you and to welcoming you here in Ham.


Helen Allen,Founder and Director of Chelsea School of Botanical Art 2015-2020

27th July 2020