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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Best Specialty Garden Centre Zanthorrea Nursery, Maida Vale, WA
Best Group Garden Centre Barossa Nursery, Nuriootpa, SA