Making time to visit a garden centre may not strike one as the most obvious thing to do on a visit to a teeming, exciting metropolis like London, but then to those who aren’t avid enthusiasts for the art and gardening, that very past-time might strike them as odd as well. For keen amateur gardeners staying a short while in the UK capital, they might well consider paying one or more of its vast array of garden centres a visit (seriously) because there’s quality, idiosyncrasy and probably many a decent bargain to be found in them. Intrigued? Read on…
The Chelsea Gardener (Chelsea Farmers’ Market, 125 Sydney Street, London, SW3 6NR)
Unsurprisingly perhaps, as it’s located in Chelsea, this offering isn’t the cheapest, but it boasts a genuine old-school, English garden-like charm, with a dash of Chelsea elegance and glamour thrown in for good measure. It stocks a good range of plants, fertilisers and fruit trees too – possibly the place to head if you’re interesting in redeveloping your garden into a haven of tranquillity.
Growing Concerns (2 Wick Lane, London, E3 2NA)
One for those who like the idea of giving a little back when doing their gardening shopping and browsing, this effort is a community garden centre whose staff is committed to improving the local environment of the East End, most of all for those who live there. Its entrance is almost hidden between the St. Mark’s Gate entrance of Victoria Park and the Union Canal, but don’t be put off; its run by a dedicated team of horticulturalists and garden designers that very much knows what it’s about, so much so they visit local schools to raise awareness of the benefits of gardening as well as running classes (including how to grow a successful vegetable patch) that the most eager visitors can take should they wish to improve their gardening skills or help with community projects.
Alleyn Park Garden Centre (77 Park Hall Road, London, SE21 8ES)
Often cited in newspapers and magazines as one of the UK’s – and so certainly among London’s – best garden centres, despite it being rather diminutive, Alleyn Park makes a point of focusing onBritish-grown stock from small suppliers, including herbs, fruit treesand herbaceous perennials, some of the latter coming in biodegradable sacks so they can be planted into the ground with the minimum of fuss.
Rassells of Kensington (78-80 Earl’s Court Road, London, W8 6EQ)
This Central London operation offers both a local delivery and landscaping service, but the thing that really makes it stand out is its playful appearance. On first glimpse, from the outside it pretty much looks like a florist, with cut flowers lining the entrance and when you go through the door, the place seems to be teeming with small pot plants, indoor plants and orchids. But looks can be deceptive because, delving deeper into Rassels, you suddenly find yourself standing in an unexpected, large courtyard in which the garden centre-proper takes over. Everything from bedding plants to fertiliser and even trees are on display, as well as garden furniture and compost. A hidden treasure trove for the amateur gardener, no question, and perfect to pop into for those staying nearby – such as, say, at one of the many hotels near Piccadilly Circus.
North One Garden Centre (The Old Button Factory, 25 Englefield Road, London, N1 4EU)
Winner of numerous awards already, this relatively new Islington establishment is a very small business done good – originally a small backyardoutlet, it’s now grown into an admirable, nay essential, boutiqueyvenue noted for its excellent choice of shrubs and indoor plants. Granted, it may look like the pages of an interior design magazine, but there’s much more to it than a garden centre for urban sophisticates, such as its quality range of tools and the knowledgeable and approachable staff.
Boma London Garden Centre (51-53 Islip Street, London, NW5 2DL)
If ever a garden centre were more than a garden centre, Boma is it. This place offers visitors full range of gardening services (not just bedding plants, bushes trees and tools), but also personal shopping and entire re-landscaping projects.
Neal’s Nurseries (Heathfield Road, London, SW18 2PH)
It may be situated just across the road from Wandsworth Prison, but don’t let that put you off, for this is a monster of a garden centre – one of the largest in the whole city, in fact. Fittingly, it seeks to appeal to the mainstream customer, its large shop decked out with a broad selection of accessories (designer garden furniture, irrigation kits and barbecues among them), while any of its specimen trees can be delivered for a small fee and a landscaping service is available for no fee at all.