Garden centres have changed dramatically since I used to walk down to the plant man in Newmarket. The tiny shop on Broadway seemed quite dimly lit and there were wooden trays of plants which were scooped out into newspaper to carry home. There was a very strong smell of earth. Just as the Newmarket of my childhood is unrecognisable so too are plant shops.

As well as being blessed with some wonderful easy outdoor walks and of course the fabulous Quarry at Te Puna, the North West of Tauranga has the benefit of an award-winning Palmers Garden Centre and Botannix Cafe Located on the Corner of Bethlehem Road and the Tauranga West Road (State Highway 2) Palmers is a botanic garden style destination visit as well as a garden centre. Since moving to Whakamarama I’ve often stopped off at Palmers just to walk around the amazing variety of plants, shrubs, trees and among the beautiful plants and look at the stylish displays of garden settings and plant combinations. At the moment there are mass displays of one of my favourites – cyclamen clustered together like multi-coloured butterflies. These shade loving plants thrive inside and out. The tiny one I repotted and put on my kitchen bench has just started another round of flowers.

I’ve called in just before what must be “closing time” yet there are still people sitting in Botannix and outside in the adjacent patio area and buyers and lookers are meandering among the plants. The main building is large and apart from the usual practical garden stuff there’s a significant area of decorative and gift items. There’s a display of work by the members of AVALON. It’s impressive to see a large commercial venture promoting Avalon’s work and creativity. (I’ve also seen displayed the work of one of my creative neighbours and her contact details – good on you Palmer’s). I’ve seen this indoor retail area when it’s filled with Christmas decorations and outdoor furniture – real New Zealand lifestyle stuff and every year it’s worth a visit to have a look.                      Just along Moffat Road, Bethlehem is the long-established boutique garden centre


There’s a freestanding logburning fire in the middle of the gift shop area of this little haven of plants and pots. In one corner is a display of highly coloured and glazed Morris & James pots – hard reds and oranges defying any lingering winter cold. I’ve always felt there’s an old village charm about this place. It also has a wide variety of plants, trees and shrubs but it’s size gives the impression that someone has given you the privilege of entering their own garden. Adding to this is a lawn area with swings and seating surrounded by flower beds. There are two small aviaries at one side of the centre. I’m there as the birds’ water is being refreshed. I think it’s a Rosella that chirps its way past me ensconced on the shoulder of one of the assistants. There’s also a cafe Eden in this garden centre. Because it’s so late now there’s clanking and clinking as the chairs are being stacked.

Both of these garden centres are natural art galleries. There’s a mix of shape, form and colour wherever you look. There are created garden art displays. If you were looking to refresh your soul visits here would do that!

Rosemary Balu


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