Ruxley Manor Garden Centre

I have been looking for a fabulous garden centre for some time now. Given the price of land around Greenwich it’s hardly surprising that there isn’t much more than the piss-poor garden section of B&Q (Homebase is slightly better) but if you go out just a few miles there are quite a lot of them, some more impressive than others. There is one near the M25 which will remain nameless which didn’t seem to have a plant in it that wasn’t diseased when I visited, but others are at least clean and have a reasonable selection.

But I wasn’t prepared for the sheer size of Ruxley Manor Garden Centre. Lovely Anita from House of Beauty told me about it and I thought I’d give it a try. The website looks nice enough but can’t show just how big this place is. As you go in, you pass what turns out to be the overflow car park (the ‘proper’ one is next to the entrance.) What I like is that they have made an effort everywhere. Most garden centres have plenty of plants and then might do one or two displays, the rest being -well – a bit scruffy, really. This place, from the moment you go in. has well-cared for beds and smart displays. Presumably you pay for it in the prices, but I didn’t notice many stupidly expensive items (and you know what a skinflint I am…)

If it goes outdoors, Ruxley will have it. There are huge sections of different kinds of plants – palms and ferns, fruit bushes, architectural talking points, perennials, annuals – you name it, they’ve got it. There are all manner of hard landscape-y things, outbuildings, summer houses, interesting ideas for back gardens from Japanese minimalism to country cottage charm. I particularly liked the dancing teddy bear topiary.

Indoors, every garden tool, accessory and frivolity jostles outdoor wear, conservatory furniture, kitchen stuff and dining clutter. There’s a big aquatic and pets department I didn’t go into – not my kind of thing, but I’m sure it’s the same quality as the rest.

Plenty of loos, a cafe (Anita recommends the panini) and an intriguing-looking Italian Restaurant, which is open not just for lunch but evening too, implying that it’s a proper restaurant – we’ll see – it’s now on my long and growing list of eateries for review.

The old manor itself (more like a lovely farmhouse than a traditional ‘manor’) isn’t open to the public, but is a pretty place, and its attendant chapel, now totally dead, its windows covered in chicken wire to prevent bird damage, is also worth a look – it has a curious ruined tower next door.

I reckon this place is well worth a visit (if you’re into gardens of course – if you’re not, I’d give it a wide berth…) It’s about 20 minutes from Greenwich by car, but much better than the same old, same old (and the horrid queues) at B&Q…

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