This week it definitely feels like spring is in the air. Getting out into the garden at this time of year is such a pleasure after spending the winter indoors – hibernating almost. To celebrate the arrival of spring, I thought it would be timely to take you on a tour of one of my favourite places – Petersham Nuseries. Located next to the Thames, in the heart of Richmond’s historic Arcadia, running from Kew Gardens to Hampton Court, Petersham Nurseries is an absolute gem and definitely one to add to your must visit places this year.
Petersham Nurseries, a local garden centre, was carved out of the Petersham House grounds in the 1970’s. Shortly before the turn of the century, the business was bought by Gael and Francesco Boglione who have, with their family, lived in the adjoining Petersham House since 1997. After extensive restoration works, the nurseries re-opened in 2004 completely transformed. For the first time, furniture, gifts and antiques were found amongst the plants which adorned the greenhouses, and in the most elegant wooden teahouse, whole leaf teas and homemade cakes were on offer.
In the summer of 2004, Gael and Francesco decided to open a charmingly casual restaurant, Petersham Nurseries Café, with Skye Gyngell installed as head chef. It was a huge success and the intervening years saw the business grow and flourish as Petersham Nurseries developed an international reputation and built a loyal customer base. The Boglione family has nurtured the space, demonstrating an innate ability for recognising and drawing out the beauty in the simplest of things.
In the last years Gael and Francesco have taken a step back from the business allowing their children, Petersham’s next generation, to forge a bright future for the Nurseries and Petersham offshoots.
The success and ripening of the business can be attributed to the ideas and determination of eldest daughter Lara Boglione. Lara studied social anthroplogy at SOAS, writing her thesis on seeds and sustainability, and then spent a number of years travelling and developing our international buying links. It is due to her time spent in India and elsewhere that you see the “Rama” paintings in the restaurant; her connection with the husband and wife that weave our tattie blinds hung throughout the nursery; her relationship with the village community that produces our terracotta pots; granite pillars and zinc tables; and closer to home sourcing Murano glass, olive oil and Sicilian crockery.
On her return, Lara began to take on more and more responsibility for all facets of the business, ensuring the values on which it was founded were sustained, a part of developing this consciousness beyond their walls has been to found the Petersham Platform. This venture encapsulates the belief that on a macro and micro level we do not operate in a vacuum; to this end it has been Lara’s desire to create a space for discussion, education and expression, aiming to engage with the community of fellow thinkers on issues of sustainability, gastronomy, agriculture and ethnobotany, an ethos that is spread across all business functions.
Lara explains: “We hope to have created a place of calm, away from the bustle of London, somewhere that respects and is in tune with nature and positive living”.
In 2014 the Boglione family secured the talents of a new head chef, Damian Clisby, previously head chef at HIX Soho and executive chef at Cotswold House. Damian works alongside culinary director, Lucy Boyd, gardener, food writer and cook, who has worked at the nurseries for most of the last decade. Lucy’s exceptional produce knowledge, culinary background and lifelong affection for Italian flavours combines perfectly with Damian’s technical skills and shared passion for ingredients.
Collaborating on a daily basis with Lucy, Damian’s team is acutely responsive to what they find growing in the garden. Together they create an ever evolving menu, responding to the seasons and showcasing only the only the best and most carefully sourced ingredients, supplemented with edible flowers, herbs and heritage vegetable varieties from the Petersham House Kitchen Garden.
Spectacular seasonal displays and a sensational cutting garden compliment an abundance of verdant foliage and flora handpicked by an expert horticultural team. Headed by Thomas Broom, this team is responsible for the Nurseries’ plants, displays, propagation, cutting garden, seeds, soil and all other horticultural miscellany! They enthusiastically share their many years of gardening knowledge and experience (which is constantly growing through their projects trialling new and traditional methods, techniques and varieties) hosting weekly planting workshops and a series of seminars and demonstrations throughout the horticultural year.
I hope you enjoyed this springtime wander around Petersham Nuseries! For more information you can visit their website or give them a call – details below:
General Enquiries: 020 8940 5230
All images credit: Marimo Images