Tell us a little bit about Battersea Flower Station.
We are an independent garden centre and florist in the heart of Battersea, filling an unusually long, tree-lined space that you would never know existed until you entered. Along its length we have a lovely florist's shed, a greenhouse, a garden shop and a pot and window box shop. We sell everything you might imagine: from tiny cacti to large olive trees, from scented jasmine to cooking herbs, from houseplants to compost (by the bag or 'by the scoop if you only want a little), trowels, string, greetings cards, bird food and much more.
When did the centre first begin?
Rather crazily, we opened in the middle of winter, on 1st December 2012 - not the best time of year for a garden centre! It turned out to be an unusually long and cold winter but we reckon we can withstand anything the weather might throw after surviving that.
What do you think makes Battersea Flower Station unique?
If I had to pick a couple of things, it would be the atmosphere and our service. Within a few paces of stepping through the gates on Battersea Park Road, away from the noise and the traffic, you are in a different, quieter world surrounded by trees and plants, bees and birdsong. The contrast is quite striking. One of the reasons we started the garden centre was because we thought garden centres could be quite overwhelming and confusing for most people.
We are small enough to be able to give people individual attention to help them decide what they need and what might do best in their patch. We spend a lot of time with our customers and we carry out a lot of garden and balcony visits, helping people with shady corners, screening off unsightly views, or making the most out of small spaces. We plant up people's window boxes too, and then replant them ready for the summer/winter months. We like to think that we're a really helpful and friendly team!
What do you enjoy most about working there?
I love spending the day outside surrounded by beautiful, interesting plants and talking to people.
We have been given such a warm and friendly welcome and such huge support from local people and from our neighbouring shops and businesses that we quickly felt at home when we first started. Our whole team lives in Wandsworth and local connections are so important to us. We try where we can to make connections with local groups like resident's associations and schools.
Tell us a bit about the services you offer.
We offer free local delivery, and further afield we deliver for just a few pounds. We offer a free window box and pot planting service - you bring us your empty window boxes and buy the plants you want in them and we'll plant them up and deliver them back to you. If you can't get to us with the pots then we'll try and arrange to come to you depending on where you live. We also offer a free garden and balcony advice service. A lot of customers are not sure what to do with their space or what plants will work to give them the look and feel that they want.
Customers bring us pictures of their garden or balcony or we arrange to visit them to give them some ideas of what they could do. We also offer vintage flower bouquets that you can order in our shop or online.
Have you had any particularly memorable requests during your time at Battersea Flower Station?
Well, just about everyone is looking for a stunningly beautiful plant that flowers every day of the year, has a beautiful smell and doesn't need watering! Maybe the most unusual though, was someone who wanted a Christmas tree in the middle of summer. Amazingly, we did actually manage to find him a tree!
At Douglas & Gordon, we love local. Why do you love Battersea?
I love the area because it has a real sense of place and everyone is so proud to say they live in Battersea.
Do you have any favourite spots around Battersea?
We're big fans of the Doodle Bar and we love the food from our neighbours at Park Road Kitchen and Ben's Canteen. Actually, we're big fans of any independents, and support them as much as we can.
Anything else you would like to add?
Most of our customers do not have outside spaces that run to acres and acres - they have small gardens, courtyards and patios, terraces and balconies. We want to help people change their opinion and help them see that size really doesn't matter and that any outside space can be an amazing garden. Many people are frightened of their gardens - and of plants. Nearly everybody we meet says they don't know what they're doing in their gardens, or they don't know where to start. We're here to help people who feel intimidated by gardening, and their own spaces. We have a lot of people who want an instant makeover, and when we help them achieve that, it's a great feeling for us to see them so happy with their transformed space - you don't need green fingers - and you don't need to spend a fortune.
Battersea Flower Station is collaborating with Douglas & Gordon for the love of all things local and is kindly offering a gift voucher for their garden center to the value of £30 to one lucky winner. To enter, all you have to do is visit our Facebook page and tell us your decorating plans for summer. To find out more about Battersea Flower Station, visit their website at www.batterseaflowerstation.co.uk or follow them on Twitter.