There’s still space on the high street for cultivating optimism.
It’s no surprise that gardening television shows across the globe clocked record viewer numbers in 2020. With many cooped up at home, neglected greenery suddenly had the attention it deserved. The garden beds and indoor pots flagged as projects for long weekends were planted, watered, pruned and fertilised. “Our homes are our sanctuaries,” says Peter Milne, co-founder of The Nunhead Gardener, a London garden centre that opened its second location – in Camberwell – in September. “The past year, and this summer in particular, has made people appreciate and value their homes more than ever.”
This shift has meant that although recent months were rough for retail, the climate is ripe for a new garden centre. Taking a punt on an unlikely south London high street (not far from its original outpost in Nunhead), Milne and his partner Alejandro Beltran have set up shop in a former bank. Nestled among coffee chains, bookmakers and small supermarkets, the space offers a wide collection of indoor and outdoor plants, homeware and garden supplies. It’s the first shop of its kind in the area, giving customers access to wares and horticultural advice. Judging by the constant flow of visitors, it’s a hit.
“The past year, and this summer in particular, has made people appreciate and value their homes more than ever”
“I’ve been in twice already this week,” says Lauren Hand, who lives nearby. “I have a bit of an obsession with plants and then there’s a lot of nice candles and soaps. I’ll be back all the time.” It’s this sort of relationship that The Nunhead Gardener intends to grow. It’s an ambition embedded in the layout. “You don’t even need to buy anything,” says Milne. “You can just wander in, have a browse and then walk out the back. It can be a distraction on your way to work, on your way home or at the weekend.” The outside is intentionally inviting with the big front windows appointed with lush plants and gentle lighting.
The Nunhead Gardener hopes to be a shop for stocking up on bulbs but also a meeting place and point of pride for the community. And in this regard it’s got a pretty good barometer for success – one that Milne and Beltran cultivated themselves. “We’ve been at our original Nunhead location for five years now and we feel that we’re really positioned at the heart of the community,” says Milne. “We’ve seen people start dating, get married and begin families, and we feel as though we have been on that journey with them.” Expect the green shoots of success to also take root in Camberwell soon.