Leafy shrubs and lattes
PUBLISHED: 14:29 15 November 2013 | UPDATED: 14:29 15 November 2013
How one man’s vision transformed two old sheds and a greenhouse into a thriving boutique garden centre with eclectic cafe in Sandon
The village of Sandon is located just outside Chelmsford, and for many of us it would be easy to drive past. Local landmarks include the village green and St Andrew’s Church. It is from here, two miles down a country lane, that you will find the hidden treasure that is Sandon Garden Centre, where owner Richard Doubleday wants you to experience something different from the traditional garden centre.
‘From my experience of working for a small independent travel company I learned the value of detail and quality.
Boutique hotels offered customers somewhere with individuality and personal service and I wanted to reflect this ethos in my garden centre.’
Having worked at his father’s garden centre for several years, it wasn’t until a small nursery came up 15 years ago, that Richard saw an opportunity not to be missed. So, with a few greenhouses and a couple of run down sheds later, he started the boutique garden and café.
‘I will always remember working in a cold damp shed potting on Dahlias ready for next season, with only my hot flask of coffee to keep me warm and always reflecting on being in a cosy relaxing office!’
Since then, Sandon Garden Centre has transformed into the boutique-style garden centre that Richard set out to achieve. Central to the business is the café built in 2011. With mix and match furniture and a veranda that overlooks the garden centre, its main emphasis is home cooking and local products.
‘I no longer have to rely on a hot Thermos flask, I can now choose from lattes, cappuccinos or loose leaf tea! I have stuck with my principles on individuality and service, with fresh local produce delivered daily to the café, and it’s really building a reputation for fresh home cooked food.’
Around the setting of the café are the stars of the show - the plants. Customers are welcome to meander around small display gardens offering inspirational ideas for all, complimented by plants that are arranged by palettes of texture and colour.
‘Many garden centres now have plants in straight rows following a strict A-Z format, offering very little creativity. The fantastic thing about living in England is that the seasons are constantly changing and I wanted to reflect this in our display of plants.
People want ideas of how to mix colour with texture and how this can be reflected in their own garden.’
It would appear that, from a small seedling of an idea and vision, Sandon Garden Centre has grown into the outdoor boutique that Richard envisaged.
‘One of the biggest challenges is our location, although only 15 minutes from
Chelmsford. However there is nothing more rewarding than receiving such great compliments from a customer who has been for the first time!’
Sandon Garden Centre
Tel 01245 223524
Just off the A414 between Chelmsford and Danbury. Follow the signs to the garden centre.