London has plenty of lovely, unusual and interesting garden centres tucked away amidst the urban sprawl. Here’s our guide to some of the best…
What better way to idle away a weekend than mooching around looking at flowers and greenery and, when that gets too exhausting, dropping into a really top notch café? Yes, you can’t beat a good garden centre – and London has loads of them.
We’ve selected seven of our favourites around the capital and listed them here in no particular order. But these aren’t your usual garden centres, mind. They’re all totally unique, quirky and, of course, naturally lovely…
1. Petersham Nurseries, Richmond
Image credit: Ming Tang Evans
Let’s face it, the term ‘garden centre’ doesn’t really do justice to Petersham Nurseries, that remarkable, rather bohemian collection of greenhouses and gardens in Richmond. It was carved out of the grounds of the grand Petersham House in the 1970s and later transformed into a world-class plant nursery by Gael & Francesco Boglione, who also added the café. We say ‘café’, but how many garden centres can boast an eatery that twice won a Michelin star, as Petersham’s did in 2011 and 2012?
Image credit: Ming Tang Evans
Now under the management of the Bogliones’ daughter Lara, Petersham Nurseries is not just one of the best garden centres in London, but one of the loveliest places full stop. There are events all year round, from fungi-collecting walks to wine-tasting, and the garden shop stocks very swish stuff. Meanwhile, the new head chef at the café Damian Clisby (previously of HIX Soho and Cotswold House) has put an emphasis on slow food, and last year won the Best Slow Food Restaurant in the SF London Awards.
2. The Chelsea Gardener, SW3
A gorgeous oasis of calm and green, just off the King’s Road (on Sydney Street to be precise, in what was once The Brompton Hospital), The Chelsea Gardener is a firm favourite of garden-loving locals. It’s the place to go for plants, products and expert advice on making the most of outdoor spaces in an urban setting – and they also offer a complete landscaping service.
But as well as all that, it’s just a lovely, relaxing place to go when you’re in Chelsea and need a fix of flowers. There’s even an Orangery, and who doesn’t love one of those?
3. Clifton Nurseries, W9
This Maida Vale institution can trace its roots all the way back to 1851, and under the stewardship of a series of legendary London horticultural entrepreneurs including Johannes Krupp and Sydney Cohen, (plus the backing of Lord Jacob Rothschild) it became established as one of the most important suppliers of garden goods in the capital.
And it still is to this day, as well as offering world-class garden design services. The Design Director is Matthew Wilson of TV fame and Clifton Nurseries has won no fewer than five gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, so it really is the gardener’s garden centre (and The Quince tree café is lovely too).
4. Camden Garden Centre, NW1
This lovely garden centre in Camden is inspiring in every sense of the word: it offers superb supplies, inspiration and helpful advice for North London gardeners, and it is also a charitable organisation designed to offer employment, training and educational opportunities to local young people.
Since it was established in its current venue in the early 1990s the Camden Garden Centre has won tons of awards, including UK Garden Centre of the Year; Urban Garden Centre of the Year and Outstanding Contribution to Education and Training in UK Horticulture. It remains a key part of Camden community life, and the Pritchard and Ure Café offers fresh local produce (and free wifi).
5. N1 Garden Centre, N1
Founded by urban gardening visionary Beryl Henderson in 1998, on the site of a derelict button factory, N1 is a special garden centre with a mission to help city dwellers bring plants into their life, whatever amount of outdoor or even indoor space they have.
If you’re into any kind of urban gardening, N1’s knowledgeable staff are just the people to go and prod for advice, tips and top quality plants.
6. Alleyn Park, SE21
This is a small but perfectly formed and quite charming ‘boutique’ garden centre in West Dulwich. As well as offering really interesting plants, mostly sourced from small UK growers, Alleyn Park is a really fun place to shop for all sorts of things.
It has a specialism in reclaimed and vintage objects from around the UK and across Europe, including statuary, ceramics, furniture and antiques.
7. RHS Wisley Plant Centre, Woking
This, arguably, is the big one. At the opposite end of the scale to boutique garden centres like Alleyn Park or N1 is the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Plant Centre . It stocks more than 12,000 different plants, including 3,000 species and cultivars of herbaceous perennials, 50 cultivars of apples and 50 cultivars of potatoes, plus lots of roses, shrubs, trees and much more.
You can get pretty much anything in the shop, including a staggering array of gardening books.
Did we miss your favourite garden centre in London and surrounds? How about fabulous, unusual garden centres further afield? Let us know!