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Betty Brown Eyes

We have a small friendly nursery in Salterforth, staff very helpful, prices reasonable, no tat! Just what you need, when you need it... and while we are on the subject of service, I had excellent service from based in Edinburgh. I recently bought a couple of covers for my veg trug and the mesh cover was a tight fit, so they sent out a replacement which was a better fit, but they said I could keep the one that was tight as it would cost more to collect it ! I would have posted it back to them but they were insistent I could keep it. Unheard of in my opinion. I will definately be using them again....

I've just been to a very big garden centre near me.  More of a small shopping mall really as there are franchises in there for shoes, clothes, cards and so on.  I had a nice lunch in the cafe, which is huge.  I came away having only bought a birthday card however as the plants seemed really expensive. There were actually coaches full of older people arriving for a day out. There are several GCs like this around here and I sometimes drop in to one in my gardening clothes when I need something.  The looks I get from people in their Sunday best is very amusing, they don't look like they ever go near a garden, let alone get their hands dirty!

I recently discovered a small nursery near me too.  It has probably been there for ever but I didn't know it existed until a flyer came through my door.  The plants were obviously mostly self propagated, good quality and reasonably priced.  The proprietor was working away potting on but was very friendly and helpful.  I bought quite a bit of stuff and will definitely go back. I imagine it is quite hard to make a living out of this sort of place though when you have to compete with the slick chains and supermarkets but this is the kind of place I like to spend my money in.

Good luck if you decide to give it a go!

Thank you Tall Paul! Some other ideas include offering planting plans for newbie gardeners, based on criteria of shade, soil etc and size of bed, with planting instructions and care details for every plant and of course making sure they're all plants stocked in the garden centre....

EveniNg tall paul

What did you get ?

I enjoy visits to local nurseries. Quite a few here.  It's not just the plants it's the dialogue, friendliness, enthusiasm and knowledge.  I often get invited to  look at plants not  really for sale ..for my opinion, etc.  if in a hurry though not a good idea to stop off!!


I think all garden centres are missing out on my great idea....

Have a few small sample gardens all planted up in different styles, with all plants clearly labeled. Then have areas set aside with all these plants potted up and labeled.  That way customers can get inspiration from the sample gardens and see the plants growing and working well together. They can then go and grab the plants they want from the display area and buy them. 




But Jontydoggle had that idea on the previous page. I think it's a great idea.

I would like a good choice of healthy plants at reasonable prices, tools, equipement, fertilisers, weedkillers etc a good coffee shop and a nice clean loo.

Buzy-Lizzie - great minds think alike! I was trying to explain to my boyfriend the other day how women will judge a restaurant on how clean their loo is - because if they can't be bothed to clean their loo, how dirty is their kitchen.... He didn't really get it....


I like to see good quality plants, a tidy GC.  Great composts and soil improvers.  Plants you can grow in your locality, preferably locally sourced.  Unusual plants.  Umbrellas keep customers outside even if its raining.  Toilet as above - sparkly clean and smell free. No debris about.  Good tools and equipment - if you don't have it - can order it to arrive within a few days.  Decent and reasonably priced Delivery service - small cars are sometimes a challenge to get long items in  e.g. bean poles.  Reference books for looking up plants or PC to do that with (would need to bolt that one down).

Essential to me are staff who know what they are talking about, plant and possibly design wise.  My local GC always has a lovely display of plants in flower by the in door as a sample of what's in store.   Good luck


Last time I bought my seed potatoes and onion sets. Also some tulips (it was a few months ago!).

Lead farmer,

I agree with your vision.  That's why I am a big fan of Barnsdale.  They sell most of the plants you see in the demonstration gardens in the nursery.  They even have a stand as you exit the gardens with "plants that are looking good now" for sale. They are also reasonably priced and great quality.  As it is only 30 miles or so away from me the plants all seem to do well in my garden, presumably owing to the climate being similar, also because they are good plants.




How about hire a expert for a day where a knowledgeable Gardner visits a client’s home/garden and gives advice also a garden design service lots of new houses have just a lawn. With wall to wall fencing

Large tool Hire.

Organic produces at sensible prices example homemade nettle/comfrey tea.

Demo days

Friendly staff that are not trained to avoid eye contact and customers’

A nice Sunday market, even a farmers market

Be seen to be part of the community, hold fun raising day  

Just a few suggestions, I hope it helps




Good quality plants at sensible prices is the bottom line for me. Knowledgeable, friendly staff.  Lots of information about the plants.

We were at a large garden centre recently, arrived just after it opened on a Sunday morning and the staff were busy dead heading plants - that's a sign that they care about what they're selling. 

I've been to far too many garden centres of late which are really no more than box shifters and staff have little knowledge and even less interest in what they are selling.  Plants which were too far gone even for the compost heap left for sale etc.

Lavender Lady

We live very close to Blooms of Bressingham.  Up until a few years ago it was still  owned by the Bloom family and you would often see family members walking about and only too ready to pass on their advice and experience.  You could buy some very rare plants and something different.  They sold only plants, had a small tea shop and a shop for gardening sundries.

About 5 years ago they sold out to Wyvale.  They have doubled the size of the tea shop and have included a large childrens play area which is very noisy.  There used to be a large area dedicated to shade loving plants.  That has been built over and in its place a shop selling sportswear etc.   It also sells shoes, craft stuff, toys, books, candles, you name it they sell it.  Basically what you can buy at any other Garden Centre.   Bank Holidays are devoted to Fireman Sam days etc aimed at families..  Also prices of plants are high and the quality low as selling plants seems to be secondary.

I do not visit there anymore but give my business to the individually owned nurseries.  It is such a shame to see such a renowned business be reduced to a run of the mill department store type oulet.


Hi all this is such an interesting feature the answers of what people want should be sent to all G/C because some of them hav,nt a clue,as Dovefromanbove has told me im lucky to have one near me at Overstrand Norfolk its just what everybody's asking for and i Dont work their honest, its just so good i noted the prices were sometimes half the local ones here in Wales,its has got little cafe, and the family talk to you and value your custom and no silly stuff for looking forward to using it, and i alwauys try to do a deal with the prices of things in a friendly way and get free delevery when they are passing it works ,good for their bussiness and good for me Alan

Its a shame Blooms is no longer run by the family. When I bought this house I travelled to Blooms, buying shrubs, and perennials for this garden. I could not have fitted another pot into the car. All excellent quality, and they have grown really well.

I recently found Ashwood nurseries near Kingswinford, West Midlands.

 It makes it a full day trip, but I think it's worth it. (excellent coffee and cake too)

I went to our local Blooms last weekend to get some flower pots - they didn't have any.  Wrong time of the year apparently!

I got some in Homebase - says it all really


George Barnes

I know I posted this a few months ago so sorry for repeating it, but I thought it is very apt!

The Nation's Love Affair

As a nation, we have often been regarded as dog lovers, tea lovers, useless lovers and also garden lovers and today it is the latter that I most want to focus on. We would all like to think that we are as green fingered as the next man, but when we look at the houses and gardens around us, it is quite easy to see that we are more like a village or small hamlet rather than a nation of garden lovers.

This is why I am going to make this claim. We are not a nation of garden lovers; we are a nation of garden CENTRE lovers. That’s it, we are obsessed with spending every un-worked minute, casually browsing the endless displays of pitch forks and gas barbeques, knowing full well that the more time spent planning where the decking will go, the less time spent turning the borders and digging up weeds.

Now, I don’t blame people for choosing this addiction, as I have to admit that I am also an addict and no amount of self denial will change this fact.

I am an addict, I feel liberated for saying that. In fact I might even form a support group so we can talk about petrol hedge trimmers whilst slurping a cup of tea and munching on a sports biscuit. (Biscuit may vary) 

What is it that we adore so profusely about the garden centre?  I found myself trying to answer this question a few weeks ago and I came up with: plants, hanging baskets, tools and country clothing, but then I realised, I had forgotten the most integral part to any self respecting garden mall (sorry, centre) and that is the café. People, old and young, flock to the café to queue for their cup of Earl Grey, homemade soup & a roll or may be a flap jack, which will need a good twenty five minutes to work around the mouth before you can even think about swallowing. 

The garden centre cafe is slowly taking first place in the race to become the hub of the social community. When once it could be said that the local pub filled this role, it is the garden centre that is taking the baton and leading us all to a life of fertilisers and scones. 

Is this a bad thing? Well who am I to judge? All I can say is that, I for one enjoy this craze and I hope that it lasts. Oh and if there are any garden centre managers reading this, please, moisten the flap jacks.


Woodgreen wonderboy

My favourite local GC has the following; it is of medium size so it carries a good range of plants at reasonable (average to slightly high prices). They do buy in as well as growing some themselves. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and prepared to spend lots of time with you. Several have become friends over the years and we spend time just chatting. Gardens we have visited, Chelsea, GW, MD etc all favourite topics. They have a discount of 10% for "super adults" i.e. pensioners on Mondays which seems to be very popular, and a second loyalty card for the rest of the clientel and rest of the week. They have a very good tearoom with excellent lunches, cream teas etc, which seems to bring in lots of people. They do not do "lifestyle".

They have a garden construction service should you have a project.

Hope all this helps.

Wow - thank you everyone. I hadn't realised there had been so many contributions (I was away for much of September and life has been hectic since I returned, so I hadn't been on here at all). Thee are really fantastic ideas across the board here, as well as a clear neiva tour of what does/doesn't float the boat of those truly into their gardening.  I think at the entrance of my garden centre I'll need two boards: one that's says 'Newbies' and then lists how we have show gardens, instructions,eto etc for ideas. And one board that says 'experienced gardeners' and lists that we have rare/wide varieties of particular plants, ability to orr in specific plants etc.  it's clear there's a distinct divide. And then there's the tea,cake and a day out people - so a big sign advertising the cafe for them! 

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