Leave Richmond Station in the right direction and the disarmingly quaint high street quickly peels away into a haze of running river and rolling grassland.
Follow a path, negotiate a stile, nod respectfully at a cow or two and you’ll soon arrive at your destination: the alluring green-housed world of Petersham Nurseries…
It really is a ‘destination’ as well, at a time when you can barely move for all the restaurants/shops/spaces longing for such labels. Iconic. World famous. A real London institution. A must-visit destination. Petersham Nurseries is all of these things in the truest sense, and we’re thrilled to announce an exclusive partnership between their brand-new flower shop and Floom.
The original Petersham Nurseries, as we know it today, came to life when it was purchased by Gael and Francesco Boglione in 1997. Gael had always had an eye for drawing out the beauty in the simplest of things, and under her vision, the cobwebbed glass and muddy floors of the forgotten nurseries were transformed into a world-renowned eating establishment, garden centre and (a little later) floristry shop.
The original Petersham Nurseries, as we know it today, came to life when it was purchased by Gael and Francesco Boglione at the turn of the century.
In 2004, after extensive restoration works, it re-opened, completely transformed. Furniture, gifts and antiques can be found amongst the plants which adorn the greenhouses, and in the most elegant wooden teahouse, whole leaf teas and homemade cakes are offered. In one of the glasshouses a charmingly casual yet elegant restaurant, Petersham Nurseries Café can be found decorated with tree palms and brimming with bougainvillea and jasmine. Since its origin, the company has remained true to its roots maintaining a strong ethos of responsible sourcing and sustainability.
Richmond is very much a destination, and one of the great challenges was: how do we capture that Petersham magic in a London townhouse?
After two decades spent cementing its position as a place worth leaving central London for, Petersham has spread its wings. Their second home is a synthesis of nature and elegance that somehow manages to transport the unique spirit of the Richmond location to the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden. “The Boglione family really wanted to take the Petersham experience into central London,” says Thomas Broom-Hughes, their Head of Horticulture, when we meet with him across a rustic wooden table at the original Nurseries. “Richmond is very much a destination, and one of the great challenges was: how do we capture that Petersham magic in a London townhouse?
We filled the grade 2 listed building which we completely renovated with tree palms, like at Richmond, so it really does feel quite different to any other indoor space. In fact, whilst the building work was taking place, we uncovered 3 enormous Victorian atriums, so natural light fills the shop just like at Richmond”. Thomas pauses and looks down at the unrestrained Richmond earth lapping at our shoes. “It doesn’t have the mud of course – Antique wooden floor boards that were bought over from Italy means we can actually wear our nice shoes there!”
There was a time when Petersham’s refusal to completely scrub the wilds of nature from its locale might have seemed startling (particularly if you were one of those first, designer heels-clad West London foodies to make the trek after its restaurant was awarded a Michelin star a few years ago). And yet, the world seems to have caught up in recent times: ‘luxury’ is just as much about a memorable experience as it is a perfect table-setting. People want to see unique craftsmanship and creativity rather than the same old signifiers of wealth, and it’s through the art of floristry that Thomas and his Petersham team are able to express this so wonderfully.
Until relatively recently, you’d find a lot of people wanted flowers to look the same.
“Until relatively recently, you’d find a lot of people wanted flowers to look the same,” says Thomas, whose horn-rimmed spectacles and softly spoken manner belie an uber-dry sense of humour and intense pride in the craft he’s devoted his life to. “Now they’ve started to understand seasonality, they’re willing to be educated. There’s a newfound appreciation and we love telling people about the flowers we’re using.” There’s some umming-and-ahhing between Thomas and his trusted right-hand-person, Amanda Brame who has also joined us. Why exactly do they think people are more open to this than they once were? Ultimately, it’s not an easy question for two people who have loved flowers and nature from the day they were old enough to take their first steps through an English country garden. Thomas shrugs: “I mean, I remember when I lived on my own many years ago… I’d rather have no food than not have flowers on the table. That was me: just go to the market on a Saturday, pick up some beautiful flowers eat toast for dinner.”
Thomas’ youthful love of floristry and horticulture was undimmed by boarding school peers that couldn’t understand why he would rather be tending to the garden than roller-skating. Amanda’s love was nurtured throughout her formative years: “my father was an artist and designer who loved nature, and we’d walk everywhere through fields, through gardens and nature. I took over their garden as soon as I could and I ran it until I left home and got one of my own.”
I probably smuggled a fair few seeds back that I shouldn’t have during those days…
Thomas’ youthful love of floristry and horticulture was undimmed by boarding school peers that couldn’t understand why he would rather be tending to the garden than roller-skating, and a rebellious role in the cabin crew of a ship that didn’t see land for days at a time (“I probably smuggled a fair few seeds back that I shouldn’t have during those days…”). Amanda’s love was nurtured throughout her formative years: “my father was an artist and designer who loved nature, and we’d walk everywhere through fields, through gardens and nature. I took over their garden as soon as I could and I ran it until I left home and got one of my own.”
Along with their shared passion, the pair bring an intensely-cultivated (no pun intended) expertise to the floristry at Petersham Nurseries. The result is a perfect blend of knowledgeable flower-selecting and arranging tied to an instinctive creativity that really celebrates the natural provenance of the blooms.
Particularly with the floristry style we do here, we want it to look almost like it’s just been gathered from the garden or pulled from the hedgerow.
“Nature isn’t squeaky clean, is it? No matter how considered a bouquet or table arrangement is there’s always a little bit of-” Thomas ends the sentence by rubbing his fingers together to symbolize what? Grit? Magic? The perfect combination of both? “Particularly with the floristry style we do here, we want it to look almost like it’s just been gathered from the garden or pulled from the hedgerow.” Were the results not so impressive, such a statement might mask the fact that every stem is meticulously sourced. “95% of our outdoor plants are British-grown and our indoor plants come from good growers who don’t use pesticides or crop spraying. We also only work with organic garden feed. It can be quite challenging but we believe in what we’re doing and the products reflect that.” Amanda elaborates: “We look for something that’s completely different to what everyone else is going to have – something that is not only sustainable and organic but looks sustainable and organic too.”
Bringing the outside in – that’s what we’re really renowned for here.
Everything Thomas and Amanda say is brought thrillingly to life in the arrangements you can now see and send on Floom. As our chat with Thomas and Amanda descends into a decadent lunch of freshly-prepared salads and cordials, Amanda offers one last encapsulation of everything that makes Petersham Nurseries so special: from Richmond to Covent Garden to the bouquets you can now have sent directly to your doorstep. “Bringing the outside in – that’s what we’re really renowned for here.”
Words by James Darton
Photographs by Anton Rodriguez