Judging from the hyacinths on my windowsill—fragrant and fresh not so long ago, but now defeated and dying—I am the very opposite of a green thumb. And yet: garden shops make me happier than almost anything in the world. The latest crop of nurseries seems to speak to people like me, who hesitate to call themselves “gardeners” yet feel compelled to surround themselves with beauty.
More Domino magazine than Fine Gardening, these shops are all about celebrating the outdoor lifestyle. So in honor of spring and the budding trees outside my window (just beyond my wilting hyacinths), here are my three all-time favorites.
The ne plus ultra of modern garden shops has to be the U.K.’s Petersham Nurseries (above), in Richmond Surrey (a quick train ride from London). This place is wonderfully bucolic, and also wickedly chic. Greenhouses and an exuberant cutting garden are interspersed with vignettes of antique outdoor furnishings and accessories; there are linen ribbons and napkins, beeswax candles, eco cleaning products, even photogenic balls of twine. Of course, there’s also chef Skye Gyngell’s Petersham Nurseries Café, where diners sit in a kind of artistic shed and feast on garden-fresh produce off zinc-topped tables. (This image is from an event for artist Cy Twombly.) New for spring: seasonal classes from their Urban Gardening School, including the flower-arranging workshop on May 12th. (Off Petersham Road, Richmond Surrey, U.K.; 44-20/8940-5230; petershamnurseries.com)
San Francisco’s Flora Grubb Gardens is so infused with the energy of its owner—the bewitchingly named Ms. Grubb, seen here, below—that you’ll immediately want to quit your job and move to the West Coast and devote yourself to the outdoors.
Her specialties are palms and succulents, and she’s created a magical little oasis on the industrial outskirts of town. (Bonus: an on-site Ritual Coffee Roasters café, a Bay Area cult favorite with a seriously potent brew.) Love the sexy Concreteworks lounge chairs seen above in the foreground—the perfect complement to Flora’s modern, multilayered aesthetic. (1634 Jerrold Ave., San Francisco; 415/626-7256; floragrubb.com)
Finally, from the folks who brought you Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie (!), there’s Terrain at Styers. The 11-acre store brings the whole West Coast indoor-outdoor thing to the Philadelphia suburb of Glen Mills: that means lots of reclaimed wood and antique vessels, plus a café in an antique greenhouse. This may not be the cheapest place to shop for plants or a pruner—but for sheer lifestyle inspiration, it’s in a class of its own. (914 Baltimore Pike, Glen Mills, PA; 610/459-2400; terrainathome.com)
Irene Edwards is the Special Project Editor at Travel+Leisure.