The first thing you should know about the Burford Garden Company is that it is not a garden centre. I feel I would be misleading you to call it so. It is so much more. An art gallery and a home furnishings shop, a gift shop and a delicatessen, a toy shop, a toiletries shop, a kitchenalia emporium, a fine clothing and hat outlet – all under one roof. Perhaps the term ’emporium’ is best suited to give an idea of the wide array of goods and items you can find at the Burford Garden Company. The feeling of abundance you get by walking around, taking in the wonderful displays – not least in the food section – is bound to enduce euphoria. In a way, I’d say it’s like the Harrods of the Cotswolds, the rural, approachable version of the urban, upmarket, has-everything store.
The second thing to note is that everything you will find here can be guaranteed to be top quality, the best of the best. Sometimes, with a price tag to match. But if your coffers are not overflowing or you are on an austerity drive, this place is still for you. You can still spend a delightful couple of hours here without spending anything. It is a visual delight, a journey of discovery every time we visit this place; beautiful ornaments for your home you are unlikely to find elsewhere, that speak of style and refinement and inspire you to think up a whole new theme for your dwelling. From candles and carpets to sofas and lamps, throws and rugs, in a variety of opulent hues and styles to delight your senses, there is enough here to turn anyone into a wannabe interior designer. Even the basics like greetings cards, stationery and wrapping paper are different and unusual.
My favourite is the food and kitchenalia section though. With its cornucopia of quality ingredients and treats from all over the world and colourful utensils – it inspires me to embark on a new cooking or baking adventure every time. Talk about transporting. Whether it is the range of mediterranean olive oils or the substantial breads – from the sourdough to the focaccias or the middle eastern inspired cakes, it is difficult not to end up salivating at the prospect of such a feast. Beautiful olive wood chopping boards and bright crockery and tableware are there too: a great place to pick up a gift for your cheffy friends!
And we have not event mentioned the garden section: that which gives the place its official and perhaps initial raison d’être. The impressive selection of plants and shrubs and vases and garden ornaments – including garden furniture and paving – mean that all bases are covered, whether you’re merely after a new Cyclamen to sit on the kitchen windowsill or brand new patio complete with shed and conservatory. Me, I love the orchid section: shelves covered with a tumbling display of these plants once considered achingly rare, now so abundant they sit batched together by colour, making you feel like you are in the tropics. And you can pick the best branded wellington boots, gloves and hats, should you wish to look the part while you are communing with nature.
When I was last there, I heard beautiful piano music emanating from the home furnishings section; as I followed it humming to myself, I discovered it came from a real live performance, a lady pianist was delighting us all with her improvisation. What a great initiative! We stopped and chatted for a while, and I dreamt of finding the time to take lessons and learn to play that great instrument. Another one for the retirement list.
When your eyes are full and your legs are tired, you can do worse than to sample the very good food and beverages of the cafe/restaurant there; hot and cold food, roast meat and vegetables, sandwiches and delicious cakes. I do recommend the salads. I had a very tasty quinoa, cauliflower, herbs, fruit and nuts salad. It was both delicious and healthy. My husband and our little girl had roast dinner and the intent silence that descended on the table testified to the satisfaction of all concerned. The cafe is a very nice place to stop and watch the crowds mill around and chat; always lively and looking cheerfully decadent, like the rest of the place.
And as we enter into December and the Christmas season, I am excited to go discover the Christmas section. It is something to behold. The displays are on a grand scale and the range and quality of the decorations are exceptional. Pick your colour theme or your style – red, white, silver, gold, woodland naif or elegant Liberty? The spectacle can’t fail to put you in the mood for singing Christmas carols all the way back home!