Visiting your local garden centre; social distance style

Camden Garden Centre

Camden Garden Centre - Credit: Archant

Camden Garden Centre has reopened so the Ham&High’s resident gardening expert Ruth grabbed a trolley to investigate ‘the new normal’

Peter Hulatt, Manager of Camden Garden Centre © Ruth Pavey

Peter Hulatt, Manager of Camden Garden Centre © Ruth Pavey - Credit: Ruth Pavey

When Camden Garden Centre was shut, Peter Hulatt, the manager, and some of the staff continued working; watering, cancelling orders of plants they would not be able to sell, sending out other plants in surprise collections, keeping the business above the waves, re-ordering….

Now that it is open again, Peter suggested I come and experience the new, socially distanced version of Camden Garden Centre. So I did.

At the gate you are greeted at a stand with hand sanitizer and trolleys and guided into the beginning of a one-way route.

Not expecting to buy much I declined a trolley, but it was gently made clear that trolleys are part of the system, they help with distancing and are the means of keeping count of the customers (max 30, outside and in). Another member of staff stands at the entrance to the plant yard, advising on procedure, “take your time because it’s all one-way, if you’re not sure you want something, take it anyway and decide at the end….”

Then through you go, into a heart-lifting scene of colour and greenery.

Peter, disguised in lockdown beard, was being recorded demonstrating how to plant up a window box, so I had an enjoyable look round.

Most Read

Later he said that sourcing plants is currently hard, but you would not know that from all the beauties on offer. If I had garden space I would willingly have filled the trolley with Scabiosa perfecta alba, Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’, foxgloves of varying colours including deep pink Foxlight plum gold, lupins, geums Mrs Bradshaw and Totally Tangerine (complete with bumblebees).

As it was, I took just one shot of instant gratification, the deliciously scented Philadelphus Belle Etoile.

About the sourcing of plants, Peter says that good relationships with existing suppliers have helped, but annuals and bedding plants are scarce.

Growers have been unable to keep to their usual successional schedules, so he expects a shift towards herbaceous perennials and flowering shrubs to fill the gaps.

Also “compost is the new flour”. Maybe the message should be … never mind rosebuds, gather ye bedding plants and bags of compost while ye may. As we were speaking, a customer stopped to thank Peter for re-opening, something he says happens quite often.

Preparing to leave, I heard the staff-member at the entrance repeating her welcoming guidance with all the warmth and kindness of an hour ago. As she said, “we just want everyone to be safe but still have a nice time.”

Well, I had a nice time, and it was clear that the staff are working hard to promote everyone’s safety. But there is no knowing yet how safe we all are.

When out and about, let’s just keep those trolley distances between us for a while longer, and hope for the best.

Camden Garden Centre, 2 Barker Drive, St Pancras Way NW1.

New extended opening hours Mon – Sat, 8.30am – 7pm

Browsing on Sundays 10 – 11am. Shopping, 11.00am – 5.00pm Some parking space, and the toilets are open.