It’s one of many people’s favourite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. Driving to a destination garden centre and whiling away a couple of hours wandering aisles of stunning flowers in an array of colours and states of bloomage. And then driving home with the car full of plants and gardening paraphernalia and making good use of the long summer evenings working in the garden.

What makes a good garden centre? Top of many lists is helpful and friendly staff. You might have a gardening conundrum you want help solving, some direction for how to grow vegetables, or add to your ever-expanding indoor plant collection.

While the variety of plants, seeds and compost on offer is important, it’s the experience that counts too. A lot of centres around the country have added areas to hold workshops, so you can top up on your skills while you’re there, and cafés, so you can rest and shop in intervals.

We’ve applied our checklist of qualities of what makes a great garden centre and rounded up eight of the best.

Beechdale Garden Centre, Wexford

Beechdale Garden Centre, Enniscorthy, Wexford

A perfect example of a garden centre that maximises on your experience while you’re there. A family-run business, it opened originally in 1990, and has evolved since then. The garden centre offers everything you could possibly want for your outdoor and indoor growing needs, plus homeware and gifts. You can buy a barbecue and learn how to use it by attending the Weber BBQ Course while you’re there. Wildflower Café is a popular aspect of the location, offering freshly made food and treats.

Arboretum in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow.

Arboretum, Leighlinbridge, Carlow

Somewhat of a legend among the gardening world, the multi-award-winning Arboretum was set up by Rachel Doyle, who was a speaker at last year’s Women & Agriculture conference. While Carlow is the flagship store, they have two other locations in Kilquade, Co Wicklow and Dublin city centre, inside Chapters Bookstore. What they do so well is offer a complete lifestyle experience for customers, from a kitchen store, garden café, home and gift section, furniture and fashion areas, and a qualified team of plant experts, all under the one roof. There isn’t much you can’t buy in Arboretum.

Fernhill Garden Centre, Athlone.

Fernhill Garden Centre, Mullingar, Westmeath

In the heart of the island, Fernhill Garden Centre is a haven for gardeners and people looking for items to help improve their home. A long-running family business, it was established in 1978 by the Reid Family. Service is as the core of what they offer here and you can not only get friendly, expert advice, but you’ll also get that extra knowledge that comes from professional horticulturalists and landscape contractors. Savoury Fare Restaurant is open seven days a week too and will tempt you to lunch dishes with local, fresh ingredients and desserts.

Ardcarne Garden Centre, Boyle, Roscommon

Located just off the main N4 between Boyle and Carrick-on-Shannon, Ardcarne is an easy destination to get to. But, if you are not able to visit, they offer a nationwide delivery service via their online shop. They often have great special deals on plants so there’s value in dropping in in-person, and their landscape and garden design service will help you achieve your dream garden. Their café is award-winning so don’t forget to stop for a treat.

Keane’s Garden Centre, Kilcolgan, Galway

With five in-house horticulturalists, Keane’s mean business when it comes to customer advice. It also has one of the best selections of bedding plants, perennials, hedging, trees, shrubs, lawn care, soil care, pottery and garden ornaments in the west of Ireland. There’s a real focus on outdoor living essentials and making your garden another room in your house.

Cottage Garden Centre, Clare

“A warm welcome awaits you” is the slogan of Cottage Garden Centre and that warmth definitely echoes throughout what they do here. Owned and run by Lisa and Terry Byrne, this centre has a large array of plants and flowers, plus accessories available to buy. There is also a significant gift shop with items for all occasions. As well as that, they sell memorial items including ornaments and stones.

D&M Garden Centre, Limerick

Located in the village of Croagh, just outside Adare, D&M Garden Centre and Restaurant is a family business, started by Dermot and Mary Giltenane who sold fruit and vegetables door-to-door before developing their garden centre business. Now run by the next generation, brother and sister Thomas and Ursula, they have combined their passion for gardening, food and drink to create a unique offering.

Deelish Garden Centre, Skibbereen, Cork

What makes this centre special is it caters specifically for local growers and gardeners, with a focus on rare and hard to find plants, especially those suited to the maritime climate. You can guarantee to find what you’re looking for to give you success in the garden situated close to the coast. They also sell a selection of plants, and sustainable gardening supplies.

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