Newest Review: ... retailers as Argos, Tesco Direct and the like and one of the unique selling points of The Garden Centre Group is that they also offer th... more
So much more than just an online shop
The Garden Centre Group
Member Name: ladybracknell
The Garden Centre Group
Advantages: A wealth of gardening information, plants and more unusual offerings for keen gardeners
Disadvantages: The click and collect service may not be cost effective if you live in a rural area
The Garden Centre Group has been created from the amalgamation of several independent nurseries and a number of small garden centre groups, including such well known brands as Blooms of Bressingham and Country Gardens, all now under the umbrella of the Wyvale group. All these companies operate online under the banner of The Garden Centre Group and offer a comprehensive service for the British gardener.
What's on offer?
Although the major reason for the website is, not surprisingly, a commercial one and I'll cover that later in the review, there are several other offerings which perfectly complement the garden sales.
~~ Gardening Club
Joining Gardening Club is simple and free and after completing the online registration, the new member will receive a club card through the post and this can be used every time anything is purchased from one of the participating garden centres to gain 5 points for every £1 spent with double points on offer on Tuesdays for the over-60s. The points are converted into money off vouchers sent out with the quarterly newsletter.
Other benefits of the Gardening Club include special members only seasonal offers both online and in the garden centres, with members being invited to preview events and also they can have unlimited use of The Gardener's Handbook which is an online learning tool accessed through the members area of the website. There is also a monthly competition.
Current special offers for members include half price on many seasonal plants and shrubs, including acers and autumn flowering hebes. These offers are unavailable online and are subject to availability at your nearest garden centres. My most recent purchase using my club card was a rather beautiful acer palmatum, already turning a rather fetching shade of crimson, grown in a 3 litre pot for the very acceptable price of £12.48 instead of the £24.99 other customers were having to pay. Being over 60 and having bought it on a Tuesday, I also gained 25 points towards my next quarterly voucher.
There is a wealth of very useful gardening advice on the website including lots of detailed instructions for growing specific plants/vegetables, a Plant of the Month page, as well as tips on what tasks need to be done for that particular month. I've found this area invaluable, especially at times when I'm unsure how or when I should be pruning a specific shrub.
All the garden centres in the group have restaurants which offer wholesome, homemade food suitable for all the family and the website gives menu details and prices, addresses of the various restaurants as well as a selection of recipes used for you to recreate at home. If you need an added inducement to eat at one of the restaurants, you may like to know that free wi-fi is available at all of them. I've only ever had coffee and a cake at Wyvale Garden Centre at Binfield but it was very tasty and reasonably priced.
Depending on whether your local garden centre is participating in the scheme, the Garden Centre Group offers allotments so that even those with limited garden space can grow their own. The plots, of course, are subject to availability and as my local garden centre in Binfield isn't participating in the scheme, I don't know how readily available these are. A basic plot of 90 square meters with access to a water trough is available to rent for £5 a week or plots with a greenhouse, shed and water butt for £10 a week, as well as organised talks and events for plot holders. As the plots are close to the garden centres involved in the scheme, seeds, tools etc are never in short supply and there is free advice available from horticultural staff who work there.
~~ Coach Trips
Some of the garden centres even organise trips to various local gardens and gardening events and a list of these is given on the website. One of the garden centres was even running a trip to the Hampton Court Flower Show this year, though I imagine that was pretty quickly sold out!
Buying plants online
Anyone who regularly shops online will be aware of the click and collect option offered by such large retailers as Argos, Tesco Direct and the like and one of the unique selling points of The Garden Centre Group is that they also offer this service which I've used on several occasions and found to be a very effective way of getting hold of rarer varieties of plants unavailable locally.
The website has a very large database of every conceivable kind of plants, shrubs and trees, including rare varieties and fruit, all of which can either by delivered to your home, for a fee, or alternatively, they can be ordered online and then collected from your local garden centre. There is no obligation to accept the plant if you feel that it's not of a good enough quality and you don't pay for the item until you collect it.
Once ordered online, a confirmation email is sent and you will receive a further email or telephone call to let you know when your plant is ready for collection. On the several occasions I've used this service, the delay time between ordering and collection has never been more than two weeks. Every single plant I've bought using this service has been very healthy and well established, grown in either a 2 litre or 3 litre pot, and every plant so far has been of exceptionally good quality. Using the click and collect option has allowed me to buy varieties which were not available for sale in my local garden centre so having a facility which allows plants to be shipped in from other garden centres or nurseries is a real bonus.
If you aren't sure quite what plant you want or have a particular situation where you're unsure how well a plant will thrive, the website has a useful plant finder tool so that you can select the perfect plant for that tricky spot in the garden.
What else does The Garden Centre Group sell/do?
With regard to sales, the website has a wide selection of garden furniture, although personally I find it rather on the pricey side.
And for those who don't enjoy motorway food, there is a list of all the garden centres located close to motorways and major roads which offer a much more civilised alternative to the ghastly motorway service station.
As far as I'm concerned this is a great website offering an excellent service both on and offline. Others, however, may not get quite as much use from it, especially the click and collect service. Although there is a large network of garden centres under The Garden Centre Group umbrella, these do tend to be located in fairly urban areas of the UK so the distance to your nearest garden centre may be quite far especially if you live in a particularly rural area. However, as the plant sales element offers a delivery service, this site can still prove useful.
I'm thoroughly impressed by The Garden Centre Group website and the services it provides. The website is well laid out in a user friendly, magazine style which makes navigating the pages easy. Although the prices of the plants may be a couple of pounds higher than one might otherwise pay, I feel this is offset by the fact that the plants are all well established in larger sized pots and the click and collect facility cuts out delivery costs and lessens the chance of any damage the plant might sustain during transit.
I recently bought a clematis which was also available on eBay. The eBay plant was being sold in a small pot and the height of the plant given was 30cm. The price for the for the plant, plus postage came to exactly the same as the plant I bought via The Garden Centre Group website. That plant, however, was well rooted, came in a 2 litre pot and stood approximately 90cm tall.
The plant buying service is definitely the area of the website I use the most but with the additional pages of tips and advice, plus the special offers available to Gardening Club members, I'm delighted I discovered this excellent website.
Summary: One of the best websites for plants, with lots of extras which are well worth while