One of England’s largest and most successful garden centres, Bridgemere Garden World, has been part of a large chain for several years. Its independent roots still shine through as a result of the group’s strategy to preserve the local feel and individuality of their acquisitions. It’s one of my oases of pleasure in an increasingly mad world.
Home interiors brands have long been aware of the power of the room set to inspire and reassure. We don’t all visualise well, so an Aga cooker is helpfully shown to us in a rustic kitchen, and a designer sofa in an elegant, contemporary living room. It’s a pity that it’s relatively rare to see flowers in display gardens, even at Britain’s most upmarket or extensive retail outlets.
So Bridgemere Nursery’s pretty brick cottage with its flower and vegetable garden makes a welcome change, positioned near the entrance to the six acre display garden. Even on an overcast, drizzly summer’s day it’s a cheery place, with masses of blooms quivering on the breeze among cottage garden staples such as a white picket fence, meandering paths, an obelisk and a bird house.
Regular visitors will notice that the planting around the cottage is regularly refreshed, though the cottage garden theme remains. The top two pictures are from 2015, with sweet peas, cosmos, achillea and liatris; the one below shows some of this year’s stars: lupins and peonies.
I’m sure there are many thousands of visitors to Bridgemere Nursery and Gardens each year who never take the time out to stroll round the display gardens, or don’t realise what’s being done here for our education and pleasure. But those of us who do will have a completely different experience than that on offer at most other garden centres: the chance to see the shape, scale and character of plants in a garden setting. That can be very different to the effect of the same plants lined up as youngsters in standard sized pots.