The School of Garden Inspiration: A Series of Summer Workshops From a Pioneering Urban Garden Center

In 2000, Francesco and Gael Boglione purchased Petersham Nurseries on the outskirts of Richmond in south-west London. They spent the next four years gradually transforming an unremarkable cluster of outbuildings into a destination well worth the day trip …

Photography courtesy of Petersham Nurseries.

Above: A rustic set-up at Petersham Nurseries, which is reached via Petersham Meadows on the banks of the River Thames.

First, they hired the chef, Skye Gyngell, who created a Michelin-starred restaurant in what is essentially a posh shed (Gyngell left in 2012). Then they swiftly perfected the shopping on offer—a combination of garden essentials, homeware ,and antiques. In 2017, they opened a Covent Garden outpost, a miniature version of their far-flung flagship. And, at the end of last year, they commissioned an exclusive collection of hand-crafted, plant-inspired craft pieces, including basketry, glassware, and ceramics.

Above: Petersham Nurseries’ director of horticulture, Thomas Broom-Hughes.

This month, they’ve launched The School of Garden Inspiration, a series of hands-on classes and workshops devised by their director of horticulture, Thomas Broom-Hughes. The courses are intended to offer advice for veteran and novice gardeners, inspiring creativity and promoting a sustainable approach to gardening and floristry. We asked Thomas to share what’s on the syllabus …

Stylish Summer Containers

Using perennial plants as well as annuals for smaller containers, participants will learn how to recreate Petersham’s “wistfully wild and romantic” planting style. “Salvias are great perennials for containers,” says Thomas. “They add drama and height and are great because they are a good source of food for beneficial insects. One favorite variety to use is Amistad, which will flower from June to November. We also love to use Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican daisy) in containers as this will flower for the whole season and come back the following year after a little winter tidy-up.” Participants will be encouraged to mix edibles and herbs in the containers. “This has become a signature planting scheme for Petersham,” says Thomas. “One of our favorite combinations is Mint and Wild Strawberries planted together.” (24th May, £75)

Above: The “wistfully wild and romantic” style Petersham Nurseries is now known for.

Garden Gathered – A Celebration of British Flowers

This workshop is devised to coincide with British Flowers Week. Attendees will be given the opportunity to create their own bouquet using British flowers from selected local growers as well as stems and foliage grown on-site, including delphiniums, foxgloves, scabious, roses, and seasonal herbs and foliage. “Always make sure that the flowers and foliage that are used are representative of the time and place in the season,” says Thomas. “And if gathering from you own garden, cut early in the morning or in the evening directly into a bucket of fresh, cool water.” (7th June, £120)

Above: A densely packed, seasonal display of Petersham-grown stems and foliage.

An Introduction to Slow Gardening

A day-long workshop centered around Petersham Nurseries’ ethical approach to the natural world. “Slow Gardening is a philosophical approach to gardening that offers huge growth opportunities—and not just for the plants on your patch,” Thomas explains. “Gardening, when done slowly and in respect of the seasons, is a particularly mindful activity. You can reconnect with your surroundings, notice the form and colors of plants and visiting wildlife and respect the biodiversity that gardening offers.” The day is split into stages: soil, seed, nurture, and harvest. “We’ll discuss the ways in which healthy soil can benefit the climate; how to make homemade compost and plant feeds to provide your patch with vital nutrients and microbes. And, importantly, how to enjoy and share the produce you harvest.” After a light lunch, guests will use borage, calendula, rocket flowers and flowering herbs to create an edible bouquet. “An edible bouquet is a perfect gift,” says Thomas. “It can be created as a sheaf or posy (tussie mussie). Harvest your produce in the early morning in to a bucket of fresh cool water. To create a sheaf, layer you materials onto a flat surface and build up a profiled design finished with natural twine or raffia. For a posy, construct the design in your hand, adding stems and as rotate the design clockwise. Finish with a collar of herbs or edible leaves.” (20th June, £250)

Above: Replanting Muscari in one of the many potting sheds at Petersham.

More courses are scheduled throughout the year, including A Celebration of Dahlias September 19); The Last Floral Fling – Stylish Autumn Containers (September 27) and Creating Impact with Houseplants (October 24). All are bookable via their website.

For more on Petersham Nurseries, see:

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