Jennifer StackhouseAustralia’s best garden centres

Each year the Nursery and Garden Industry Australia (NGIA) celebrates excellence with annual awards. Twelve garden centres were finalists for this year’s awards in three categories. As a judge for this year’s awards, my job was to whittle them down to one winner for each category.
The 12 finalists grouped under the three categories of Best Lifestyle Garden Centre, Best Speciality Garden Centre and Best Group Garden Centre. All are very worthy finalists and worth visiting to buy plants or other garden-related products.

Finalist Stoneman’s Garden Centre, Glenorchy, Tas

Finalist Stoneman’s Garden Centre, Glenorchy, Tas

Hard times
It’s a tough gig running a garden centre in Australia. Years of drought and water restrictions on top of the Global Financial Crisis and the rise and rise of big box hardware stores, have taken their toll. The number of garden centres has declined in the past decade as owners close shop, some selling their land for far more than the business ever earned while operating, while others have simply closed the gate and hung up the secateurs.

But it is not all doom and gloom for garden centres. Those who remain in business have lifted their game and become exciting and inspirational places to shop. These awards help to recognised and celebrate Australia’s top quality garden centres.

Finalist Elegant Outdoors, Sydney, NSW

Finalist Elegant Outdoors, Sydney, NSW

I was lucky enough to be the onsite judge for this year’s awards. I visited the 12 finalists selected from entries from around Australia. I spent a hectic two weeks visiting every part of Australia to track them down.

Finalist Eden Gardens

Finalist Eden Gardens

From the very first nursery I visited (Eden Gardens in Sydney), I knew I had taken on a tough job. All of the garden centres were excellent, and ticked all the boxes on the assessment form I’d been given. They had signage, clean accessible trolleys, healthy plants, well-stocked shelves of garden products as well as ornaments and gift lines and inspiring display gardens. Most also had coffee shops and seats where customers could relax and drink in the atmosphere.
For anyone into plants and gardening the modern nursery or ‘garden centre’ is a wonderful place to visit.

Finalist Allora Nursery, NT

Finalist Allora Nursery, NT

All were run professionally, employed friendly and knowledgeable staff and put a focus on plants. Many grew a lot of their stock themselves and all sourced plants from top suppliers. Their plants were well maintained, correctly labelled and well displayed. It was very hard to not grab a trolley and start filling it with plants as I wandered the garden centre paths.

So, how do you judge the best of the best? Part of the decision was out of my hands as, for these awards, the original entry counted for a portion of the marks. I awarded my marks based on how things looked on the day of my visit. As not all the garden centres had the same offerings these results were then worked out as a percentage. Hopefully it is a fair system but really any of the businesses could have been winners.

And the winners are…

Rivers Garden Centre

Rivers Garden Centre

Best Lifestyle Garden Centre – River’s Garden & Home, Yarrambat, Vic
Not just a garden centre but part of a well-planned lifestyle centre

Part of Zanthorrea's display gardens

Part of Zanthorrea’s display gardens

Best Specialty Garden Centre – Zanthorrea Nursery, Maida Vale, WA
Nothing out of place, beautifully maintained display gardens and stock, and a happy, helpful staff.

Barossa Nursery from the road

Barossa Nursery from the road

Best Group Garden Centre – Barossa Nursery, Nuriootpa, SA
Barossa Garden Centre at Nuriootpa in country SA is a welcoming site along the road. It provided excellent plants, products and advice for local gardeners in a friendly and relaxing atmosphere.

However all 12 finalists in the 3 different categories are very worthy finalists and worth visiting to buy plants or other garden-related products.

Lifestyle Garden Centre
Allora Gardens Nursery, Berrimah, NT
Brookfield Garden Centre, Brookfield, Qld
Eden Gardens, North Ryde, NSW
River’s Garden & Home, Yarrambat, Vic
Stoneman’s Garden Centre, Glenorchy, Tas

Best Specialty Garden Centre
Elegant Outdoors, Turramura, NSW
Grasstrees Australia, WA
Newman’s Nursery, Tea Tree Gully, SA
Tim’s Garden Centre, Campbelltown, NSW
Zanthorrea Nursery, Maida Vale, WA

Best Group Garden Centre
Barossa Nursery, Nuriootpa, SA
Macdonald’s Plants Plus Nursery, Bendigo, Vic

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Jennifer Stackhouse

About Jennifer Stackhouse

Recently Jennifer Stackhouse made the big move from Kurmond in NSW to a Federation house in the little village of Barrington tucked beneath Mt Roland in northwest Tasmania. With high rainfall, rich, red deep soil and a mild climate she reckons she's won the gardening lottery. She's taken on an acre garden that's been lovingly planted and tended for the past 28 years by a pair of keen gardeners so she is discovering a garden full of horticultural treasures. Jennifer is the author of several gardening books including 'Garden', which won a Book Laurel for 2013, as well as ‘The Organic Guide to Edible Gardens’, ‘Planting Techniques’ and ‘My Gardening Year’, which she wrote with her mother Shirley. She was editor of ABC 'Gardening Australia' magazine and now edits the trade journal 'Greenworld' magazine and writes regularly for the Saturday magazine in 'The Mercury'. She is often heard on radio and at garden shows answering garden queries.

2 thoughts on “Australia’s best garden centres

  1. Karen Montgomery on said:

    Great recap of your judging! I was the NGISA judge a few years ago when Barossa won & I am thrilled that they keep winning, lovely family & great nursery. What a privilege to visit all the wonderful nurseries, though I appreciate the stress of judging. Cheers Karen

  2. Jennifer Stackhouse on said:

    It was a privilege and one I am glad I was able to enjoy even if I had a very tough job. Visiting all the nurseries gave me hope for the future of retail garden centres in Australia. I would recommend that if you live near any of the finalists try to follow them on Facebook and take time to visit in person. But also take some time to pop down to your own local nursery to give it your support in what are very tough times.

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