Nursery and Garden Industry Australia finalists and winners

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Elegant Outdoors at Turramurra in the northern suburbs of Sydney makes brilliant use of a small, narrow site. It was the smallest garden centre among the finalists.


Newmans Nursery at Tea Tree Gully in the Hills north of Adelaide is an immaculate and innovative nursery that’s always a pleasure to visit. It was one of the five finalists in the Specialist Garden Centre category.

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Stoneman’s Garden Centre at Glenorchy in Hobart is a Plants Plus branded nursery that’s undertaken a huge rejuvenation of the property in recent years to improve customer flow. It was a finalist in Best Lifestyle Garden Centre.




  12 finalists in 2014 awards

It’s a tough gig running a garden centre in Australia at the moment. Years of drought and water restrictions on top of the Global Financial Crisis and the rise and rise of big box hardware stores, have taken their toll. The number of garden centres has declined in the past decade as owners close shop some selling their land for far more than the business ever earned while operating while others have simply closed the gate and hung up the secateurs.

But it is not all doom and gloom for garden centres. Those who remain in business have lifted their game and become exciting and inspirational places to shop. Australia’s top quality garden centres are recognised by excellence awards from the Nursery and Garden Industry Australia (NGIA). These are announced at the association’s conference which this year was held in Sydney with the theme of ‘Blue Sky Thinking, Real Green Living’.

I was lucky enough to be the onsite judge for this year’s garden centre awards and also presented the awards to the winners. I visited the 12 finalists, which were selected from entries from around Australia. I spent a hectic two weeks visiting every part of Australia to track down the finalists and put them through their paces.

Eden Gardens

Eden Gardens in Sydney is a large garden centre and one of the finalists for Best Lifestyle Garden Centre.

High quality makes it tough for the judge

From the very first nursery I visited (Eden Gardens in Sydney), I knew I had taken on a tough job. The garden centres were all excellent and ticked all the boxes on the assessment form I’d been given. They had signage, clean accessible trolleys, healthy plants, well-stocked shelves of garden products as well as ornaments and gift lines and inspiring display gardens. Most also had coffee shops and shady seats where customers could relax and drink in the atmosphere. For anyone into plants and gardening the modern nursery or ‘garden centre’ is a wonderful place to visit.

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The friendly staff at Allora Garden Centre in Darwin, NT made me welcome when I visited despite the lashing rain and cyclonic winds that had swept through just before my visit.

All were run professionally, employed friendly and knowledgeable staff and put a focus on plants. Many grew a lot of their stock themselves and all sourced plants from top suppliers. One specialised in salvaged grasstrees. In all the garden centres finalists, plant stock was well maintained and

Grasstrees Australia, Perth WA

Grasstrees Australia, Perth WA excelled in salvaging and marketing grasstrees. This business was a finalist in the Specialty Garden Centre category.

correctly labelled. Plants were also well displayed. It was very hard to not grab a trolley and start filling it with plants as I wandered the garden centre paths.

So, how do you judge the best of the best? Part of the decision was out of my hands as, for these awards, the original entry counted for a portion of the marks. I awarded my marks based on how things looked on the day of my visit. As not all the garden centres had the same offerings these results were then worked out as a percentage. Hopefully it is a fair system, but really any of the businesses could have been winners.

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Tim’s Garden Centre at Campbelltown in Sydney’s busy south-west is an oasis and a finalist in the Best Speciality Garden Centre.

Before I announce the winners, here are the 12 finalists grouped into three categories: Best Lifestyle Garden Centre, Best Speciality Garden Centre, and Best Group Garden Centre. All are very worthy finalists and worth visiting to buy plants or other garden-related products.

Best Lifestyle Garden Centre

Upside down pots greet customers at Brookfield Garden Centre in Qld.

Upside down pots greet customers at Brookfield Garden Centre in Qld, which was a finalist in the Best Lifestyle Garden Centre award.

Allora Gardens Nursery, Berrimah, NT

Brookfield Garden Centre, Brookfield, Qld

Eden Gardens, North Ryde, NSW

River’s Garden & Home, Yarrambat, Vic

Stoneman’s Garden Centre, Glenorchy, Tas

Best Specialty Garden Centre

Elegant Outdoors, Turramura, NSW

Grasstrees Australia, WA

Newman’s Nursery, Tea Tree Gully, SA

Tim’s Garden Centre, Campbelltown, NSW

Zanthorrea Nursery, Maida Vale, WA

Best Group Garden Centre

Also a Plants Plus branded nursery,

McDonalds Nursery is a Plants Plus branded nursery was one of the two finalists in the Best Group Garden Centre representing Bendigo in country Victoria.

Barossa Nursery, Nuriootpa, SA

Macdonald’s Plants Plus Nursery, Bendigo, Vic

And the winners are…

Congratulations to the three winners.

Best Lifestyle Garden Centre River’s Garden & Home, Yarrambat, Vic

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Part of a lifestyle complex, Rivers won Best Lifestyle Garden Centre for this family-owned business at Yarrambat in the north of Melbourne.

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With nothing out of place, beautifully maintained display gardens and stock, and a happy, helpful staff, Zanthorrea in Perth, WA was a worthy winner of the Speciality Garden Centre.

Best Specialty Garden Centre Zanthorrea Nursery, Maida Vale, WA

Best Group Garden Centre Barossa Nursery, Nuriootpa, SA

Barossa Garden Centre at Nuriootpa in country SA is a welcoming site along the road.

Barossa Garden Centre at Nuriootpa in country SA is a welcoming site along the road. It provided excellent plants, products and advice for local gardeners in a friendly and relaxing atmosphere.

Small is green

An artist's impression of the Goods Line park at Ultimo in Sydney.Turning small brown and grey bits of left over city into green space is the latest trend in urban landscaping around the world. Australia is following suit with a new project in inner city Sydney. Jennifer Stackhouse was at the launch of Sydney’s newest park project.
Cities may be growing up and out, but there are lots of leftover pieces down at ground level, wastelands that look unsightly and create a management problem for local authorities. In recent years several such spaces have been given a makeover to provide much-needed green space for city workers and residents. London’s Mayor Boris Johnson recently announced two million pounds in funding for 100 ‘pocket’ parks in London from underused urban spaces into small green oases including a car park roof in Stratford which is set to become a fruit orchard.English: Meatpacking District/Manhattan Català...
One of the success stories however is the High Line in New York. This goods line has been transformed into an elevated linear park that’s become a Mecca for tourists and New Yorkers alike. Once providing access to the Meatpacking District on the lower west side of  Manhattan, the elevated West Side Line is now a 2.33km linear park complete with lots of seating among the trees, perennials and grasses. It is accessed by steps along its route and has encouraged rejuvenation of the area around it with lots of real estate development.

Sydney’s high line
The High Line has provided inspiration for a new park in Sydney along a disused rail line. Known as the Goods Line, it ran between what was the Darling Harbour Goods Yard and the main rail line between Central and Redfern stations.

Pyrmont, Darling Harbour, Sydney city CBD: The...

Darling Harbour after the removal of the Goods Yard and prior to its development in the 1980s.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A length of the Goods Line from the Power House Museum to the redeveloped campus of the University of Technology is being transformed into a park to provide pedestrian access from Broadway to Darling Harbour. The park is being developed for the site’s owners the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority by ASPECT Studios.
The site of the new park was the venue for the launch of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association initiative 202020 Vision in November, 2013.

Sacha Cole is leading the design team for the Goods Line park

Sacha Coles from Aspect Studios is leading the design team for the Goods Line park.

Speaking after the launch, the director of ASPECT Studios, Sacha Coles (pictured), said the area had been shut to people for 100 years or more and yet it is a vital link between Central railway and Darling Harbour (itself formerly a goods yard). It has been used as little more than a parking area and is sadly neglected.
“We want the new park to be thriving and buzzy,” says Sacha. His aim is to create a place that’s about engagement, ideas and participation as well as a new pedestrian access and city oasis. The Goods Line has a four-metre elevation, well below the elevation of New York’s High Line, which at 7.6m above the pavement is accessed by steps. The Goods Line also has no issues with contamination. The lines will be left in situ, revealed where possible and surrounded by lawns, trees and sitting areas. Sacha says there are also plans for a meeting space. Tenders have gone out for the construction of the park, which should be completed in around 10 months and open in late 2014.
“The 500m long park is around 20m wide. It is bordered on one side by Sydney’s light rail and on the other by a series of large buildings and smaller factory or storage areas. One of the key buildings for the park’s precinct is Frank Gehry’s innovative brick building (likened to a crumpled paper bag) for Faculty of Business for the University of Technology. The building, which is still under construction, is known as the Chau Chak Wing building. It is due to open in mid 2014 with space for up to 2000 students and 390 academics. Dr Chau Chak Wing donated $20 million to the building’s construction.
At its northern end, beyond the Powerhouse Museum, it becomes a park for the people of Ultimo. At the southern or Broadway end it includes a heritage railway bridge, which is no longer structurally sound for the use of rolling stock. Sacha says the park will not remove any of the Goods Line infrastructure. It will lie dormant under the park and could be reused in the future.

Meeting space and playground
A key feature of the park is a round enclosed space designed for meetings. The simple structure is based on the Guggenheim Lab, which is a steel frame temporary building sponsored by BMW that moves from city to city. There will also be a children’s playground area. The area will be accessible at night with pole lighting providing high level of LED lighting around the new park.Recycled materials are being used where available. Planting includes some local and indigenous plants along with deciduous trees and lawns.
BMW Guggenheim Lab Media Preview - August 2, 2011“It is not an intensive planting scheme,” says Sacha Coles. “It is going to be very utilitarian with post-industrial feel including barrage mulch.”
As well as transforming a long-neglected industrial space into green and usable parkland for students, workers and local residents, Sacha Coles says it is part of a much a larger and long-term vision for the western side of the city. By using some existing tunnels and other space, Sacha says he would like to extend the walkway park extending from Carriage Works at Redfern in the south to Barrangaroo Parkland to north at the edge of Sydney Harbour to form a cultural ribbon for Sydney.

For more of my stories see the current issue of Greenworld magazine or visit GardenDrum.