One of the first things I noticed when I moved to St. Albans was that it was a wonderful mix of city and country life. One minute I could be shopping in the town centre, the next I could be on a country walk breathing in the clean air! I’m getting that feeling now as I walk into Notcutts Garden Centre.  I love to slow down and linger on these outdoor garden spaces, surrounded by blushing pink hydrangeas and the fruit of the crab apple tree.

Celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, it was founded in the 1880s by Roger Crompton Notcutt who started out purely as an amateur gardener; however, by 1914 Notcutts nursery had won its first gold medal for its Azalea garden at Chelsea.

I pick up a basket and see a mass of pink shrubs displayed on a round table. The quiet sun diffuses along the tops of their thick foliage. I step closer, pick one up and take in the aromatic scent of its leaves. The assistant smiles as he sees me analyzing it, then tells me that they’re called “skimmias” are quite hardy and can often even survive when neglected. As I don’t have green fingers, they sound perfect and I put one in my basket!

The gravel crunches at my footsteps as I pass by traditional clay chimeneas and terracotta pots; further along, thick logs are stacked in an attractive pyramid log store alongside kindling wood and sacks of compost piled high.

I step under a pergola arch covered with white climbing roses then wind along a path leading to the water features. The trickling fountain designs are mostly contemporary; my favourites are the geometric spheres and cubes with built in LED lighting. I pause; it feels meditative listening to the cascading waters.

Further along the path I spot Calla lily plants and put one in my basket. Their elegant cone shape, depth of purple colour, and lush green leaves will contrast dramatically beside the pink and white roses on my garden table at home.

I walk on, drifts of brown leaves at my feet, listening to the birdsong cutting through the cool October air; feeling relaxed I head inside to get my hands dirty and pick some loose tulip bulbs for my garden.