“Do you want to go on an outing to Petersham Nurseries?” When our WI president read out the details at the meeting a few years back I promptly signed up for it. Garden Centres, nurseries – anywhere with plants – are great places to spend an afternoon and admission is free. A handful of us took the train to Richmond, then the bus out to Petersham. We found Petersham Nurseries tucked away down an unmade lane about one field away from the River Thames. It was unlike any garden centre I had ever visited. As soon as we entered the gate we found wooden tables laden with plants and trees and shrubs in pots displayed in between – after all this was a nursery. However, it did not just sell plants. There were three greenhouses: two used for catering and one containing all manner of quirky, “retro” stuff and fun ornaments. Wooden French cabinets had been painted, given an antique finish and priced accordingly. After all, this is Richmond – instead of picking up a cheap second hand wardrobe and giving it a lick of paint themselves, customers dip into their pockets. We wandered around the collection of cupboards and furnishing accessories. And I found a dear little green glass vase priced at £6 so I bought it. The nursery was full of shabby-chic tables and chairs tucked in amongst the plants where visitors could sit to enjoy a cup of tea and or a snack. We had a most enjoyable time poking around in the greenhouses, wandering through the collection of garden furniture outside and admiring the plants. After refreshments, half the group followed the footpath back along the Thames to Richmond while the others caught a bus.
So when I was in the area this summer I just knew that I had to pay a return visit, taking my friends to introduce them to the Petersham Nurseries. I was certain that they would enjoy exploring the greenhouses and wandering amongst the plants. By the time we had finished browsing we were in need of refreshment and a sit-down. We bought ourselves a cup of tea and a slice of cake and sat at a metal table in a greenhouse surrounded by plants.