A garden centre boss described how customers opened up to staff about how gardening helped their mental health under lockdown.

Burston Garden Centre in St Albans has won the Love Local Retailer Awards, voted for by readers of the Watford Observer.

The centre, in North Orbital Road, sells products for indoor and outdoor living as well as hosting events for the community.

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Its operations director Steve Puddefoot said it was lovely to be recognised by readers.  

He said: “Staff are passionate about what they do.

“They all love to give great service and enjoy coming to work. I think customers see that.”

Mr Puddefoot explained how after the initial Covid lockdown in 2020, garden centres were allowed to remain open as it was felt people would benefit from being able to use their gardens.

Watford Observer: Steve Puddefoot, operations director. Picture: Jill WharfeSteve Puddefoot, operations director. Picture: Jill Wharfe

Mr Puddefoot said: “The Horticultural Trade Association had lots of conversation with the Government about people’s mental health and how gardening can help, therefore garden centres should remain open.

He added: “After the initial lockdown, staff said they noticed customers opening up about how gardening helped them through the lockdowns we had.

“Staff love plants and to see that being taken on by other people gives them a buzz.

“They feel privileged to be in a position that is helping people.”

He added that the centre, which has been a family-owned business since 1978, has seen a new wave of customers since the pandemic.

Mr Puddefoot said: “A lot of new customers are excited about their gardens and want to learn.

“People in their 20s and 30s are starting to grow vegetables at home and we have had lots of customers coming in asking for advice.”

The centre also plays an active role in the community. It hosts knitting, crocheting and sewing workshops and sketchbook groups.

Bricket Wood Art Club will also hold its annual art exhibition at the centre from Saturday August 13 to Sunday August 28, 2022.

Mr Puddefoot said: “It’s great that people can come together and talk about what they are making.”

Before lockdown the centre used to hold children’s events, which is something they are reintroducing.

The centre will be holding children’s events for Halloween and any money raised will be donated to the Brain Tumour Research charity.

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