Arno KingBrookfield Garden Centre rises above

At the recent Nursery and Garden Industry Awards in Melbourne, Queensland’s Brookfield Garden Centre was awarded both ‘Industry Business of the Year’ and ‘Large Retailer of the Year’. I happen to know this garden centre very well as its my ‘local’ – the nearest garden centre where I can get my garden fix. For years the site in the western suburbs of Brisbane was run down and over grown. The eight years ago, it was reborn, when owners Robin and Scott McLay purchased the business. From that time, it has gone from strength to strength.

A view through Brookfield Garden Centre

NOW – a view through Brookfield Garden Centre

The floods start to recede leaving products on the roof

THEN – in 2011 as the floods start to recede, leaving products on the roof

However it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. I first met Robin and Scott at a Horticultural Media event at the centre in 2011. This was shortly after the floods devastated Brisbane. We were all dumbfounded by what had occurred and how quickly they had opened the doors to the public again.

2011: Everything covered with drying mud - none of the remaining stock was saleable

2011: Everything covered with drying mud – none of the remaining stock was saleable

Located adjacent to a tributary of the Moggill Creek and in a low-lying area, the nursery was devastated by flooding and all the stock was destroyed. Robin recalls:

“it was heart-breaking to have to throw away every plant. Neighbours returned pots and plants that had floated streets away”.

The floods completely submerged the main building and even flooded the restaurant building on the hillside above. 100 local volunteers helped with the massive clean up. Today it is hard to imagine such devastation.

Wild Canary is named for the Canary Island date palm

Wild Canary is named for the Canary Island date palm

A recent addition to the site is the ‘botanical bistro’ Wild Canary, which has just celebrated its first birthday and has become an icon in the local dining scene. Diners can sit inside the building or outside on the terrace, beneath the old Canary Island date palm (the ‘Wild Canary’) in the shaded courtyard. Open 7 days a week, the restaurant draws diners from all over Brisbane.

Dining on the shaded terrace of Wild Canary

Dining on the shaded terrace of Wild Canary

The Fig Tart looks delectable

The Fig Tart looks delectable

 

Chef Glen Barratt, ensures there are lots of delectable and irresistible items on the menu. Glen is a great fit as, like Robin, he is a passionate gardener and maintains his own ever-extending vegetable garden at the family home in Samford.

Herbs and vegetables in the gardens supply the restaurant

Herbs and vegetables in the gardens supply the restaurant

Robin and Scott McLay receive their award

Robin and Scott McLay receive their award

 

Unlike many other garden centre restaurants (which are run by tenants), Wild Canary is owned and managed by the McLays. Robin considers that the garden centre and restaurant impact upon one another and it is thus important to have input into the direction of both businesses.

Customers gain inspiration from the gardens

Customers gain inspiration from the gardens

Between Wild Canary and the garden centre are the organic vegetable and herb gardens, chockablock full of fresh produce. You will see staff out there picking herbs and vegetables for the restaurant. These gardens are used as the focus for regular workshops and demonstrate how to grow superb vegetables all year round in subtropical Brisbane.

Brookfield Garden Centre kitchen garden

Brookfield Garden Centre kitchen garden

So what makes a great garden centre? As any retailer will attest, it’s a lot harder to grow a business these days. Not only do garden centres have to compete with the big box retailers, but also with online retailers and nurseries who deliver plants and product to the door.

Cross-marketing in the vegetable area

However Brookfield Garden Centre is buzzing every time I visit, and I sometimes have to go to the back of the car park to locate a parking space. The plants look fresh, are well presented and grouped to complement one another. There is a lot of cross merchandising – pots with plants, pest netting near vegetables etc. These displays provide inspiration and give customers ideas for their own gardens. Robin likes to keep it fresh and focus on new release plants and products. She suggested I come and take photos on Friday when the fresh stock had been set on display. She was right, it looked fabulous but by the end of the weekend there will be a lot less stock on display.

Over recent years the garden centre has started to provide branded products. The specially blended potting mix is very popular, and they have released their own cards, candles, and tea towels, with more products planned for the future.

The Brookfield brand potting mix has become very popular

The Brookfield brand potting mix has become very popular

The friendly staff obviously enjoy working at the Brookfield Garden Centre and they know their regular customers by name. They are qualified horticulturists and have been provided with additional on-the-job training. When the centre opened they had 4 staff, today they have 60. Robyn believes that each staff member has expertise in different areas and the secret to their success is “recognizing this expertise and letting them run with it”.

Art displayed in the garden

Art displayed in the garden

April Simpson manages the marketing for the business. This is done entirely on-line using social media – facebook, instagram, a blog, and Youtube videos. They feature new plants and products, seasonal gardening tips, and notices of regular events.

This marketing is aimed at younger gardeners (particularly 20-30 year old women), using snippets and images for inspiration. The focus is on a destination-based experience – the restaurant, the gardens and the garden centre.

Attractive arrangement of succulents

Attractive arrangement of succulents

A lush greenwall

A lush greenwall

Robin is passionate about the industry and considers that garden retailing has a great future. She believes that the public is crying out for inspiration for their gardens and interiors. However she also considers that retailers must move with the times and continue improving their businesses.

“The industry moves at a fast pace and what is new now, will be dated in 12 months time”.

This positivity filters through to the staff and the public.

If you are a keen gardener and live in, or are visiting Brisbane, head out to the western suburbs and check out the Brookfield Garden Centre for some fresh inspiration, a good coffee or a delicious meal.

Brookfield Garden Centre  2371 Moggill Road, Brookfield. Ph (07) 3878 7739
Wild Canary

Other Brookfield Garden Centre links: FacebookShopping onlineBlogVideosInstagram

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Arno King

About Arno King

Landscape architect, horticulturist, journalist and keen gardener, Arno is a regular contributor to Subtropical Gardening Magazine. Based in Brisbane, Arno grows a wide diversity of unusual plant species and has particular interests in growing edible plants in creative settings and biological and organic gardening. Brisbane, Queensland

One thought on “Brookfield Garden Centre rises above

  1. Lois Davey on said:

    Staying in Bribane with our daughter and went to Brookfield Nursery today and were very impressed.Had a lovely lunch at Wild Canary and wished I lived in Brisbane so I could buy some plants. Well deserved award.

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