Englefield's secret garden
Judith Edwards • Published 25 Jul 2012 11:00 0 Comments
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Magical: Englefield Garden Centre is bursting with colours and little Taffy (inset) is just one of reasons people visit.
COULD there be a more peaceful and picturesque haven than Englefield Garden Centre, near Reading? It is positively bursting with colour, points of interest and gorgeous little enclaves to delight the eye and calm the spirit.
In Victorian times the site was part of the kitchen garden belonging to the Englefield Estate, and now it is a bustling little garden centre, managed by the Affinity Trust.
The core team of Bob and Chris, along with Rob, Janet and Jane, plus a number of volunteer helpers, between them have an impressive spectrum of horticultural knowledge, each with their own special field of interest. Jane, for example, really knows her roses. If you have not bought a rose recently you may be surprised at the range on offer, from new varieties of shrub, climber and standard roses, exotic hybrids and perfumed - with an ever-increasing spectrum of colours. Jane can tell you what the best-sellers are and she will help to steer the customer to the most appropriate options for their garden, and their taste. If you want to know about shade-loving plants or what grows well in different types of soil, Rob is your man. Bob, the manager, loves lawns, and Chris, who has a background in horticulture, has excellent all-round knowledge. Chris's trusty terrier, Taffy, is also very much part of the team.
Bob, who previously worked in marketing at Yell for 20 years, said: "This is a fantastic place and I love working here. We are passionate about growing plants which will continue to thrive. While we want to develop the range of plants, garden supplies and gifts, we also want to keep this as traditional a garden centre as possible."
And it does not take a trained eye to see that the plants here are in tip-top condition. Some of the lovely things at Englefield Garden Centre, which prove that customer service is a high priority, are the basket of umbrellas for visitors to use, and the little landscaped areas created for peaceful contemplation and enjoyment, including a bird garden - much visited by many species of feathered-friends, as well as bees and butterflies. Bob and his colleagues positively encourage visitors to sit in the garden areas, and bring their own picnic, but on Thursday and Sunday the little coffee shop serves delicious, and reasonably priced, items. My husband I had afternoon tea there on a Sunday with scones, double cream and jam, tea and the freshest cheese-sandwich with cold crispy lettuce, for £3.50 each. The ladies in the coffee shop will open especially by arrangement and they regularly cater for pensioners' groups and local societies. Another point of interest is the little outdoor workstation which is the base for sculptor Andrew (McAlistair) Hood. And, for those who have reached their 60th birthday, they can claim 10% off everything on a Thursday.
August 27 is the date for Englefield Garden Centre's summer fete, the busiest day of the year for the centre and the Affinity Trust team. The Affinity Trust is a charitable organisation which supports adults with learning disabilities, helping to improve lives and enabling people to fulfil their potential through gaining workplace experience and opportunities.
Bob said: "This garden centre has a lovely atmosphere, some say it is Reading's best kept secret. Customers are not rushed and we don't expect people to come here just to buy, but to wander, take photos, browse and enjoy." Quite often film makers use the adjacent Englefield House as a location for blockbusters, including X-Men, Great Expectations and some scenes from the King's Speech, and just occasionally, among the hostas and begonias, there has been spotted a world-famous actor or director, but the real stars at this garden centre are Taffy and friends. Englefield Garden Centre, in the village of Englefield, is 10 miles from the centre of Reading (RG7 5ES), and three miles from Junction 12 of the M4.
Call 0118 9304 898 or visit www.englefieldgardencentre.co.uk
This article appeared in Slough Observer 19 Jul 12