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I have a pipe dream of one day opening a garden centre - combining the best bits of all the ones I like, plus a few things I don't think anyone does.

what are the things that make you go back to a garden centre and what would stop you going to  a particular one again?

also, I'm interested in what 'newbie' gardeners  want as opposed to experienced gardeners.

i'd love to hear everyone's thoughts and preferences!


I want plants, tools, seeds,pots,  fertiliser, other chemicals as required.

 I want someone there to know that you don't display all the ferns in full sun so they go all frazzled. Also someone with some gardening knowledge. No calcified seaweed is not the same as seaweed meal.

I don't want scented candles, helium balloons, jewellery, other niknaks , daft mugs that say"worlds best teacher" cards, overpriced confectionery.


I'm with fidget. A garden centre should sell stuff for the garden. Maybe other stuff at chrismas but thats it. I managed a nursery for 10 years. What customers really seemed to value was that you knew about the plants and could actually help them with choosing.

Try and offer unusual stuff. So many times garden centres are much of a muchness. Keep the place clean, weed free, plant examples of plants you sell. Let them see size form etc. Offer bargains. If a plant looks past its best reduce it drastically. customers love a bargain. Seems in this area...Hampshire...a dire shortage of alpines find out in your area what people cannot get hold of elsewhere and stock it.

And avoid dutch plants like the plague. Die more often than not, have little or no info on labels and customers want a refund!  

Would love to open one too but can't see it happening 

Highland Jeannie

We have a couple of GCs round here, but at least 4 "nurseries."  3 definitely grow a lot of their plants, the others I think grow-on some.  None is specialised & sell a good variety of things, but at least if something's grown there then I know it's suitable for my conditions. So if you're growing your own plants then it's a good selling point for the local market, as people will know that they're suitable.

Knowledgeable & friendly staff would certainly make me come back - I'd rather pay a little bit more & be treated in a friendly manner than go to somewhere cheap & just be regarded as another "punter."  Also if a proprietor treats their customers well, then they probably look after their plants too!

I'm 100% with fidget re what to sell or not!

One local nursery has started grouping their plants into their suitability, eg windy, seaside, boggy, etc.  I suppose it's good for people who don't have much gardening knowledge, or time to read labels, but I prefer things in alphabetical order - having done some research first.  I found it most confusing.


Cheap plants and sundries! plain and simple. We have a few garden centers near us, they tend to put in coffee houses which is a nice idea if there is a huge area to get round and you'd like to take a break at some point. They tend to be a bit on the expensive side. The most successful little garden shop is a family run business who have a great selection of reasonably priced plants, and sundries they also have a fruit and veg area where you can buy their own grown produce. If your looking for something specific they'll source it for you and they are really knowledgable about what they sell.


Thank you all of you, these are great points. What about free home delivery if you spend over £50 - so heavy pots/compost/trees don't have to get squeezed into your car?



Absolutely Jonty- lots of people don't have the means of getting stuff home or don't have a team of people to help get it in and out their car. Delivery anyway would be a must I'd say. The bigger GCs tend to be more about other 'stuff' and plant knowledge is in short supply compared to nurseries. Addict is right too- they all have the same plants so everyone's gardens tend to end up the same. A dedicated area with a few more unusual varieties or a service where customers could order different varities could be a winner. Jeannie is right too -nurseries selling home grown plants means you get plants that suit your conditions.

 I was amazed recently to see a very small GC near me having plants delivered!

They have tea shop and nick- nacks to keep us going all year round.


Many years ago I used to supply unusual plants grown from seed to a small local nursery. I wonder if you could get a team of growers to do that. There are so many more interesting plants out there than you ever see in a GC.

Salino a nice big cafe/restaurant... I always find more people in there than looking at plants.... I think it's where they make their money...

The ultimate thing for me is price, when i go to the large independant GC's around here i think they are ripping people off.

The small nursery types are charging £1.50 for tray of bedding plants, b&q charge £3-7, but the inde's charge £6-10, the plants are no better.  The only redeeming feature for the large ones is the choice.  

Here again its difficult to find anything reasonably priced though, an example being a clemetis, the GC had a vast selection, but wanted £15 per plant.  This to me is too much for what is a relatively small plant which is at least double, more likely triple to what you can get them for elsewhere.

Is it better quality? maybe, but not by much.

As to coffee shops and all the tat they sell, i am not going to a GC for a day out, but then i expect most of the clientel (older generations) are going for a day out.

That is my early thirties view, which probably is not your customer target age.


The big GCs, with the restaurants, stinking candles, and general tat, have their uses. I took my ancient mother to them quite often. 

But there are plenty of those already. 

Have all local plants the ones that grow sucessfully, available. Organic compost and all things like chicken manure. Green-friendly garden products. Knowledgable staff with experience.

Don't do any of the following; camping equipment, garden furniture, bbqs, gazebos, fairys on sticks, outdoor ornaments, plastic flower baskets with plastic flowers in, door chimes, jumpers made in Scotland, massive restaurant style 'cafe', ice-cream parlors as, there are plenty of Centres that have all the above already, it spoils it in my opinion.

Thank you all - what are your thoughts on having small 'situation' display gardens, that have full grown versions of plants available in the GC, all labelled, I.e.

Shade garden, winter garden, summer garden, spring garden, autumn garden, tiny garden etc?

That way you could get inspiration for different things and also see what things look like when they're grown?



So are we talking about a garden centre with display gardens such as Bridgemere, or a garden with a plant centre, such as Harlow Carr?


agree with cypresseed about local plants. There are dozens of ericaceous plants at our local GCs and it's miles from the nearest acid soil

Garden centre with display gardens, each one small and very focused on its subject

Maybe a 'member's club' and hold monthly talks about seasonal topics, hints and tips.  That is definately something that I would attend, an expert whose ear I could bend for advice!


...I went to a garden centre today that I've not been to before, and I have to say it's just about the best I've seen... Dobbies Garden World at Peterborough... I once went to one of their Scottish centres which was quite small at the time, and now I see they've moved south with big plans since becoming part of the Tesco group, but we needn't let that put us off... I spent a fortune in there today... just about the best large centre I've been to over the years...  if you're ever in the area do consider a visit, if you can... even the staff were helpful... I couldn't say enough about it to be fair...

contrast this with a local small family run centre near me...just a few weeks ago [I shall not be going back] I bought some items and paid by debit card, only to find that, the single phone line they had to do transactions with, was engaged by an employee in the back office... despite repeated attempts this person refused to get off the phone so my transaction could go through... we waited and waited and I almost walked out... until finally they got off the phone....  I complained that this was appalling service and gave a terrible impression... he just shrugged his shoulders...   I mean with all the competition today businesses like this should be upping their game... instead of just treating customers like they couldn't care less...