THERE was a time when it was all about stocking up on hardy annuals, heaving home terracotta planters, and yearning over fancy looking sheds big enough to house a small family.
But through the introduction of an 11,000 square feet “retail village” with high-end shopping, pond-side picnicking, a children’s playground and an alfresco dining area, a once run-of-the-mill trip to the garden centre has turned into something of an adventure.
Or at least that is what the management at Dobbies Garden World is hoping when it officially launches a £1.5 million extension to its Lasswade store next week, offering up a shopping experience which it hopes will draw in not only keen gardeners but families in their droves.
“We see this very much as a full-day experience,” says Andrew Gold, the store’s horticultural manager. “I suppose all we need now is some sunshine.”
Work on the development – which has created 50 jobs – began last October and took 16 weeks to complete, creating space for seven sizeable retail units now home to the likes of Lakeland, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Shuropody foot health.
Lakeland – taking up an impressive 5000sq ft – is the largest store on site, offering shoppers a huge selection of household goods the brand has become recognised for at its existing George Street shop.
The company is joined at the retail village by bike expert Criterium Cycles, window specialist Almondvale, outdoor clothing company Tog 24 and bedding retailer The Wool Room, as well as the six existing concession stores already housed at the garden centre.
“With the countdown now officially on to our grand opening, it’s hard to believe that Dobbies Edinburgh started out as a humble nursery in Lasswade over 75 years ago. We’ve undoubtedly come a long way in 80 years,” says company chief executive James Barnes.
“Over one million visitors cross our doors per year and we expect a significant increase with our enhanced new offering.
“Our aim is to create an exceptional home and garden shopping experience in a family-friendly, relaxed environment.
“We have therefore taken a great deal of care with our planning and investment to ensure we get it right, so that people from all over Edinburgh and the Lothians can have a great day out.”
Housed in sustainable Austrian timber, the retail village looks out across an expansive covered courtyard containing a wide selection of plants and gardening accessories, as well as sheds and aquatic equipment.
“Having the roof is such a bonus for us,” says Mr Gold. “Not only can we better protect a lot of the plants from the weather, but we can use the space differently depending on the season.”
Also making themselves at home at the new development are some ducks who have taken up residence at a purpose-built pond, an attraction the Dobbies team hope will appeal to families who may choose to picnic on its nearby grass, or indeed enjoy an outdoor lunch in the developed grounds of the centre’s existing restaurant.
To mark the opening of the redevelopment a number of events are scheduled to take place:
• Friday, April 19, 11am: The centre officially flings open its doors with free planting demonstrations on sensory gardens.
• Saturday, April 20: Music from a brass band and learn how to make kites.
• Sunday, April 21: Join in the opening celebrations with a live jazz band. The fun continues for children with a meet and greet with their favourite childhood characters and a special Little Seedlings Club.
SHOP TILL YOU DROP
COMPANIES who have set up home at the £1.5 million “retail village” at Dobbies Garden World in Lasswade are:
Lakeland, Shuropody, Criterium Cycles, The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Almondvale, The Wool Room and Tog 24.
They join six existing concession stores at the centre: Arran Aromatics, Handy Andy, Shaw’s Fine Meats, Cotton Traders, Direct Gardens and Garden Building Centres.