My famous five

London garden centres, by Pattie Barron
At The Chelsea Gardener you can find a great range of bedding
At The Chelsea Gardener you can find a great range of bedding


125 Sydney Street, SW3 (020 7352 5656;
Plant lovers and instant gardeners of SW3 congregate on this restful half-acre, just off King's Road. Here are fabulous statement plants, such as a half-standard scarlet bottlebrush for £85, a tall mophead photinia for £155 and what has to be London's oldest potted olive tree, for a whopping £2,750.

However, there are also baby sweet peas ready for planting, little lavender standards for £10.90 and pieris dripping with flowers for a bargain £12.50. Much of the summer bedding is grown at its own Colchester nurseries, and the conservatory houses some of the most exquisite orchids and citrus trees in town. Check out the indispensable Cape Code weeder from TCG's exclusive range of hand-forged steel tools.

Alexandra Palace has a wide choice of containers
Alexandra Palace has a wide choice of containers


Alexandra Way, N22 (020-8444 2555;
One of Capital Garden's six London garden centres, on the southern side of Alexandra Park, Alexandra Palace Garden Centre has few group displays to inspire but plenty of plant ideas, including a useful section of shade lovers.

Renowned for climbers, this major plant centre has ivies grown on giant tripods to make instant green walls, six-foot twisted bays for under £200 and ready-planted, variegated euonymous ranged in long terracotta troughs; several would look great banked around a patio.

Petersham Nurseries has lovely displays
Petersham Nurseries has lovely displays
The herbaceous section beckons summer: apricot foxgloves for £2.99; scarlet Oriental poppies £3.99, and the vegetables in the glasshouse are ready to pop into the ground for an early harvest. If you're after reasonably-priced box and bay topiary in great shape, this is the place.


Off Petersham Road, Richmond, TW10 (020 8940 5230;
You can hardly call this glamorous celebrity stop-off a garden centre but it does have, as well as a great riverside location in Richmond, an excellent selection of plants and wonderful displays of merchandise sourced from around the world by the equally glamorous, globetrotting owners.

Find old apple crates crammed with flowering bulbs, Spanish olive jars and Edwardian flower stands, vintage garden chairs and French pails, antique cloches and Medici urns. Even the Petersham Teahouse, with resident chef Skye Gyngell, is legendary. See the website for spring workshops at their School for Urban Gardening.

Hand-written plant labels at Rassell’s include tips
Hand-written plant labels at Rassell’s include tips


76-80 Earl's Court Road, W8 (020 7937 0481)
Although at the top of bustling Earl's Court Road, Rassell's has the air of a rural plant nursery. There is never any great order here, and if you come with a specific list of plants, you are likely to leave with very different ones because there are all kinds of temptations to discover in the rather charmingly haphazard layout.

The staff are helpful and clearly love their plants; advice — in the form of hand-written labels and tips — is one of Rassell's strengths. Right now, the whole place is stiff with spring's most seductive: stripey camellias, scented mimosas, sprouting tree ferns and perfect white ranunculus, as well as weeping cherry blossoms that are impossible to pass without claiming. The strawberry hanging baskets are coming on a treat.

Clifton Nurseries is long-established as a centre for top-quality plants
Clifton Nurseries is long-established as a centre for top-quality plants


5A Clifton Villas, Little Venice, W9 (020 7289 6851;
This walled garden by the canal of Little Venice has been going strong for over 150 years, so is long-established as a centre for top-quality plants.

Always geared to urban gardeners, Clifton offers a new range of trees for small spaces, an exclusive-to-London range of larger-sized David Austin roses, starting at £34.95, and later on this spring, ready-planted square tubs of 10 mixed vegetables and herbs, from £20.

You can find the best French café furniture, powder-coated in a choice of 22 sumptuous shades, sweet little mind-your-own-business plants in varying tones of green, the healthiest climbing hydrangeas and ravishing candlestick primulas. Even the conifers are covetable: baby standard pines. The Clifton Kitchen provides home-made cream teas.

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