Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Harborough Nurseriesat Guestling Thorn on the A259.

Best garden centres and nurseries near Hastings

Hastings Online Times is pleased to welcome another occasional blog – Stephanie Gaunt, aka Battleaxe, visits many garden centres and nurseries at this time of year – we have some very nice local places – these are some of her favourites.

We have had to find lots of plants for our new garden, especially at the front, where the previous owners had ripped up most of the vegetation (except for the array of eye-popping Barbie pink azaleas mentioned in a previous blog) and replaced it all with, would you believe, terraces of pink-tinged granite chippings, with the odd clump of, ooh, you’ve guessed it – pink heather. “Looks like a pink graveyard,” sniffed one of our neighbours. Anyway, the chippings are gradually disappearing under greenery. “Are you entering for Ore in Bloom?” asked the same neighbour recently. I have had some plants from kind friends, but inevitably, garden centres are visited.

Battleaxe says beware of buying plants from car boot sales. I got some fuschias from the Icklesham sale last year and they all had some horrible disease that would have infected all my existing ones if I hadn’t noticed and chucked them out. So, here is my garden centre and nursery selection. I know I have missed some, but I can’t be everywhere…No order of merit.

Scones again

Hastings Garden Centre, Bexhill Road, St Leonard’s.This is part of a national chain. Has already found Battleaxe fame as the winner in the Good Scone Guide. Scones are still as yummy, as are all the cakes. The cafe is clearly a favourite haunt of older Hastingas, as meals are very reasonable and sustaining, and it has a pretty outside seating area among the plants.  Toilets are OK, parking is fine.Lots of tools and home stuff. Nice garden centre cat. Has a reasonable, if fairly standard, selection of plants that are always bright and healthy, at average garden centre prices, and also usually a selection of tattier half-price offerings that still get up and grow OK when planted. Quite a lot under cover if wet. Will order plants if not in stock. Avoid home delivery – we bought a birch tree from them and nearly collapsed at the cost. Good selection of tools and normal garden centre lifestyle tat. They have a good loyalty scheme and send us lots of members’ offers, loyalty points, etc. We visit this place often – partly because it is on the way to places like the tip and the retail park, but also because it is pleasant.

Blackbrooks Garden Centre, A21, opposite Sedlescombe turn-off. This is apparently owned by the same family that keep Winchester’s hardware stores in Ore. A very large, very busy, independent garden centre that has set out to make itself a life-style destination for the aspirational homeowner (eh? what am I on?). Has loads of books, food,  house stuff, large pet and garden bird store, vast gas-fired barbies, garden furniture, fountains, gazebos etc. Has a nice, but very busy cafe, with large, faintly bleak outside seating area, which seems to do particularly popular full English breakfasts. Toilets and parking fine. Standard garden centre selection of plants, some of which, to my eye, are not always in tip-top health. Prices for everything on the expensive side. We like Blackbrooks for an excursion on a dull morning but not for large-scale purchasing.

Harborough Nurseries, A259, Guestling Thorn. This is at the other end of the scale. No cafe, no toilets, a few pots and garden ornaments, but mostly plants – lots of them. They have a very good selection, including some quite unusual stuff, and things like scented-leaf geraniums in their inside houses. The plants are all beautifully strong and healthy, and attractively displayed. We never leave empty-handed. On our last visit we found a rose – Double Delight – which I have only ever seen once, blooming in a garden in the Old Town, and I thought I was going to have to order it over the internet from a specialist rose supplier. The owners and staff are both knowledgeable and pleasant. An excellent place.

Rother View Nursery, Ivyhouse Lane. Another place with no fancy facilities, tucked away on the quiet lane to Westfield.  They are familiar because they run a plant stall down in Hastings town centre which is open most days. The nursery is peaceful and pleasantly shambolic, with areas of plants that have run wild. Two lovely black labrador dogs live here. They make and sell attractive tufa troughs for alpines. Good selection of plants if you can prise them out of their niches! The people who run it are very pleasant, knowledgeable and full of good advice. Prices are very reasonable. We would visit more if it was not quite so out of the way.

Garden Gems

Wakehams Farm Shop and Garden Gems, on the road from Pett Level to Fairlight. A small set-up with a plant centre attached to the farm shop. However, the selection of plants is amazing for its size – especially for old-fashioned perennials, and the prices are some of the cheapest I’ve seen. Nice cat and pleasant people. Again, we never leave here empty-handed. It is the best place I have found for stocking up my new borders.

Merriments Garden and Nursery, Hurst Green, signposted from the A21. It is not exactly on the door step, but I have included it


because of its stunning selection of plants. This is a very large place, specialising in unusual plants (all very healthy). They have a truly excellent range of things like perennial geraniums. There is also an extensive show garden attached – you have to pay to go in there – we have not as yet.
Has a cafe, shop, large bird care centre, good parking. An excellent place for an outing.

Great Dixter, Northiam. What can I say about this place? Gardens, breathtaking, nursery, slightly shambolic, but has some interesting and unusual things – sometimes grown a bit wild and rooted in to the bottoms of their enclosures.

Great Dixter

Plants are expensive and sometimes a bit temperamental when you get them home, but darlings, they are divas. Currently I have a crocosmia which I planted last year and has grown precisely three leaves this year. It is so brittle that it has to live in a protective stockade of sticks. Nice cafe, loos, shop, etc. Not a cheap outing but totally worth it. We are lucky to have such a beautiful place near us.

Athelas Exotic Plants, Hooe. Now, here is an unusual and wonderful place. As its name implies, it specialises in exotic plants, including very large

Athelas topiary ship.

and unusual specimens. Huge palm trees, hundred year old olive trees costing £1,000, waiting to be craned in to the gardens of the very affluent. They have smaller things, too – to be afforded by us on a good day. Last year we bought an Australian mint bush, which is doing surprisingly well on the pink chippings, and a palm tree, which, as mentioned in my last blog, is not doing so well.

The nursery is laid out beautifully, with a surface made of white seashells which shine in the sun – you could be on the Riviera. It is next to a nice farm shop and cafe. Easy parking, and toilets. This is a really lovely place to visit.

That’s enough for now, I think. Of course, our very closest place is B&Q in Ore (closing shortly, one understands, to be replaced by an Aldi. I don’t mind the thought of that – it is not as bad as Tesco…). I don’t dismiss these DIY places – many times I have trotted out with a wilting tray of something reduced to 79p, only to see the stuff revive and grow happily.

Posted 12:41 Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 In: Shops & Things

1 Comment

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  1. Tony

    Rother View specialises in Camellias, and very good they are too, well worth seeking out.

    A bit further away, Lime Cross nursery at Herstmonceux has really excellent plants, both range and quality, especially if you like conifers, and a also a splendid café (they had a scone festival a few weeks ago!)

    Comment by Tony — Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 @ 20:43

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