Ordering online doesn't have the same thrill as a wander through an aisle of violas or pansies – but now the garden centre experience is back, as of Monday, albeit with masks and social distancing. To celebrate back to nursery week we've brought together a list of twenty of the best garden centres to visit in Scotland. Most are opening on April 5, but where they are delaying opening that fact is noted.

Tinnisburn Plants, Canonbie, Dumfries & Galloway

If what you want is tough plants for tough places, then Tinnisburn is where to go. A family-run, award-winning nursery, it’s the creation of Helen Knowles, who has been developing her 1.4 acre garden, situated 600ft above sea level, for the last thirty years. In that time she has gained an extensive knowledge of truly hardy perennials that thrive in many different conditions.

“Visitors,” Knowles says, “can enjoy the garden as well as looking round the nursery. We also have an orchard and wildflower walk that includes ponds that are teeming with life and for the more adventurous there is a nice walk down by Archer Beck.”

The vast majority of plants for sale have been propagated by the nursery, from the diverse mix of plants in the garden. Among them are, she says, “stunning Meconopsis or Himalayan blue poppy... which thrives in the garden here and are surprisingly easy to grow, if you can give them the right conditions”. She also grows a lot of woodland plants including the Spring Pea and the Snowdrop Anemone.

“I am also,” she notes, “a National Collection holder of Scilla (Chionodoxa). Sadly I was unable to hold open weekends this year to allow visitors to view the collection when it was as it's very best (peak flowering time is Mid-late March) but I'm really hoping that's something I can do in 2022.” Tinnisburn will be open from April 9.

HeraldScotland: Himalayan blue poppy at Tinnisburn Garden Centre

The Mill Garden Centre, Armadale

Owned and run by the McIndoe family who have been operating a nursery at this location since 1900, the Mill Garden Centre sells a wide range of plants grown in site – including shrubs, conifers, Acers and annuals. Most other stock comes from other UK nurseries with a similar ethos. “We aim,” the centre says, “to offer a selection which we feel is particularly well suited to our micro-climate which is colder and wetter than either Edinburgh or Glasgow being 600 feet above sea level. Consequently, the soil temperatures in this area in winter and early spring tend to be colder and spring frosts are often more severe thus resulting in really hardy plants”. Specialist areas of interest include dwarf, slow-growing and grafted conifers and Japanese Acers.

Glendoick Garden Centre, Perth

It’s rhododendron season so it’s well worth getting down to Glendoick to see their legendary rhodies – and maybe even buy one. Euan Cox began their woodland garden in the 1920s, following a trip to Burma and many of the unique plants he brought back are still thriving 100 years on. Right now the world-famous rhododendrons and azaleas are flowering, plus the centre has plenty of Scottish grown stock, much of it grown there in the Carse of Gowrie. The revamped foodhall was actually opened to the public in early March – and sells fresh fruit and veg, meat from Scott Brothers in Dundee and a “fridge full of Scottish cheeses”.

Duncraig Nursery, Plockton, Wester Ross

One for those in the far north, and for others in distant areas simply to dream about until restrictions change. The nursery, run by Joanna Fitzpatrick and her partner Alastair Bates, sits in a three-acre site which was originally the walled kitchen garden for Duncraig Castle. You might even spot Muncher the cat who has been photobombing their Facebook posts throughout lockdown. Check their opening as they are not due to open till later next week. While you’re in the neighbourhood, you might also like to take the Rudha Mor Lilias Garden walk along the peninsula. It’s a family run garden and they are constantly developing the walk with new plants and features.

Pentland Plants, Loanhead, Edinburgh 
This family-run garden centre owned by Carolyn Spray has a bedding plant nursery attached that produces over 50 million plants a year – many of which go to other centres across Scotland and northern England. It’s also a destination shop for its homegrown bedding, basket and perennial plants. For this year’s post-lockdown opening it will be a riot of spring colour, including plenty of ranunculus and senetti. Thousands of plants sitting inside their glasshouses are good to go – in fact some have been sitting waiting for some time as there has been nowhere open to sell them. 
Café Panola will be open for takeaways until it can properly reopen for sit-down customers on April 26.

HeraldScotland: Carolyn Spray with ranunculus at Pentland Plants, copyright Gordon Terris

Merryhatton garden centre, East Fortune, North Berwick

An ideal day-trip when combined with a visit to the beach, East Lothian's family garden centre, stocks a wide range of quality plants, shrubs and trees for all types of outside spaces, as well as garden equipment and furniture. Owner Helen Macdonald was behind a petition advocating for the reopening of garden centres which gathered nearly 9000 signatures. She said, "I think we should reopen for a couple of reasons. One, following the last lockdown, the benefit of gardening was massive for people's physical and mental health.”

She also pointed out, “Gardens and gardening keep people at home. Over half the population enjoy and benefit from gardening. In excess of 3 million new gardeners also took up the hobby since lockdown 2020, delighting in growing in their outside space, on window sills & balconies or in living rooms with house plants.”

Bridgend Garden Centre, Fife

Established in 1986 by George McKinlay, Bridgend, in the village of Freuchie, started small but has now grown to occupy a vast site selling a wide range of almost everything garden-related. The McKinlay’s con-tinue to operate as a family business, and they are keen not only to sell plants but also offer expert gar-dening advice. “We are renowned,” they say, “to be one of the biggest stockist of ceramic pots in Scotland. We have a great selection of gardening tools from carbon steel to stainless steel, full shelves of fertilisers and chemicals and everything that you need for the lawns. Tomato plants, veg plants and outside benches are stocked up. There is also a good selection of compost at great prices.”

Cardwell Garden Centre, Gourock

Located near the popular sandy beach of Lunderston Bay, Cardwell’s has been selling plants since 1962. For opening day on April 5, it has already stocked up on of flowering plants, seeds, compost, shrubs, bedding plants, gardening essentials, ceramic plant pots and decorative stoneware – watch out for their chimneas and firepits. Their Facebook page is currently luring customers with photographs of Asiatic lilies and pansies. 60 percent of the plants sold at Cardwell’s are grown at their on-site 16-acre nursery. Afternoon teas are also available for collection.

Rouken Glen Garden Centre, Glasgow

Nestled in the beautiful Rouken Glen Park, and therefore also a good start for a walk up into the woods and taking in the waterfalls, this garden centre has been established for over 35 years. Among the stock on offer that they are highlighting are beautiful flowering cherry shrubs, evergreen Berberis, and a “grow at home” range of vegetable seeds and plants.

Caulders, Mugdock Country Park

Part of the attraction is the romantic setting – right inside the walled garden in Mugdock Country Park. Colin Barrie expressed his delight at being open gain. “It has been a bit of a slog being closed from Christmas Eve. However if that’s our contribution to what it takes to get the virus under control, it will be well worth it. We are really pleased to be able to open again from next Monday – Gardening has got so many positive benefits to peoples mental health and I’m sure a visit to the Garden Centre will make so many people feel better.” The centres plan to open their restaurants on April 26 and will be open for bookings from April 19.

If Mugdock isn’t local to you, perhaps one of their other centres is – at Kirkintilloch, Newton Mearns, Erskine, Cupar, Cumbernauld, Kinross and Loch Lomond.

HeraldScotland:

New Hopetoun Gardens, Broxburn, Edinburgh

The creation of Dougal Philip and Lesley Watson, former Beechgrove Garden presenter, New Hopetoun Gardens became an employee-owned company last year. They have a passion for plants suited for the Scottish climate. “Our whole business at New Hopetoun Gardens,” says Philip told us last year, “is to inspire our customers and help them enjoy their gardens more”. The boast one of the widest ranges of garden plants in Scotland and their demonstration gardens are the biggest – allowing plenty of room for social distancing. The garden centre is re-opening to the public on April 5 and tearoom will follow on April 26. They are also already planning ‘Art in the Garden’, their annual summer event in which they showcase pieces of garden art created by local artists.

Quercus garden plants, West Linton, West Lothian

The place to go for tough plants for Scottish gardens growing at 850ft above sea level, this is the love project of horticulturalist, Rona Dodds, who after 30 years of experience working as head gardener in private gardens, nurseries and garden centres, created her own two-acre garden. It's a site of inspiration, with a herb garden, a wildlife garden, willow "fedge" and a series of sensory experiences. Rona says, “I have a long love of gardening and grew up surrounded by family who gardened. I especially like plants that can be used for cooking and creating.” Quercus opens on April 7 and is open each week from Wednesday to Sunday.

Kinlochaich Garden Centre and Nursery, Fort William

Situated between Fort William and Oban, on the west coast of Scotland, this delightful plant centre is located within an historic, octagonally-shaped, walled garden, built by John Campbell around 1790. Kinlochaich is not just a place to buy plants, of which it stocks a huge selection, including many unusual varieties – you should leave plenty of time to enjoy the woodland walk, spring garden and fruit and vegetable gardens. “The mild temperate climate of the Gulf Stream,” the centre’s website notes, “plus the slightly acidic soil, allows many plants to thrive.” In their kitchen garden is fan-trained fruit, including apple, plum, peach and kiwi growing against the wall, as well as grapes, figs, nectarines and peaches in an unheated polytunnel.

The Plant Market, Dunfermline

An independent garden centre near Dalgety Bay, run by the fittingly named Stan Green, who has always ensured the ethos of The Plant Market is to make gardening “accessible and exciting for everyone” and also that they are a sustainable business. They stock eco-friendly garden pots and watering cans, have eliminated polystyrene packaging and also run their own pot recycling centre. The majority of trees they sell are also planted in peat-free compost.

READ MORE: 10 top gardening trends for 2021

Simpson Garden Centre, Inverness

This destination garden centre has a stash of awards and everything you need, whether you’re greenfingered or just a lover of the outdoor life. It stocks of course, a riot of spring flowers, from violas to pansies, but it also has an extensive range of furniture and even an impressive selection of sheds. “She shed, man cave, outdoor bar or garden office?” asks its Twitter account. “Whatever you’re dreaming of, we have a selection of wooden cabins and summer houses in stock and ready to build now!” Speaking last spring, director Andrew Simpson told us, "Gardening is such an important activity for all ages, and the health and well-being benefits of getting outside are well documented. At a time when everyone will be spending lots more time in their outdoor space, we want to be able to provide the tools to enable our customers to do this."

The Mains of Drum Garden Centre, Banchory A family-owned garden centre situated in the heart of Royal Deeside on the main tourist route to Braemar and Balmoral Castle, this not only stocks beautiful plants and a range of garden equipment but also has an award-winning giftware department. Housed in a beautiful building with landscaped grounds, it’s also an excellent stop off for lunch at the restaurant when restrictions allow.

Garden Wise, Dumfries

Situated just off the Dumfries bypass, Garden Wise was previously Scotland’s largest, family-owned and managed garden centre, but was last year acquired by the Klondyke group. Their Facebook page boasts that everyone who works there is either a fully qualified horticulturalist or seasoned gardener – so can give advice as well as sell things. Just outside is the Dumfries statue of Peter Pan, a reminder that this is where JM Barrie grew up and the birthplace of Peter Pan. Gardening is also its own kind of Neverland, and Garden Wise provides for it, stocking plenty of high-quality shrubs and plants.

Gouldings Garden Centre, Carluke, South Lanarkshire

In Lanarkshire’s beautiful Clyde Valley, is this family-run business offering plants and shrubs, outdoor furniture, gifts and homeware, and also a farm shop. Bedding plants are produced by the centre’s nursery. The Gouldings were former soft fruit farmers, who grew a range of fruit and vegetables supplying Glasgow’s Fruit Market, but started to sell bedding plants direct to the public in 1992.

Smeaton Nursery Garden, East Linton, East Lothian

A nursery that’s a true paradise located near the Smeaton arboretum – which houses a significant tree collection and makes a magical walk when it’s open. Tables of flowers and collections of trees and shrubs are ranged across the yard in the beautiful walled gardens of Smeaton Estate’s old mansion house, which was demolished in the early 1950s. They specialise in rare fruit trees and stock here includes fruit trees, herbaceous perennials, conifers, climbers, seasonable bedding plants, compost, seeds and pots and planters. Smeaton is ready to open, with wall-to-wall plants and none of the stock-supply problems some garden centres have experienced.

Little Dobbies, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

Not strictly a garden centre, rather more of a shop, but still worth a mention because Little Dobbies in Stockbridge was the first of its kind, a small in-town store run by the garden centre chain.Of course, if you want the full big garden centre experience, you could go to the biggest garden centre in Scotland, just off Edinburgh city by-pass, but for those who live near Edinburgh's city centre, this could make for a pleasant jaunt. The new shop offers houseplants, gardening products, indoor and outdoor pots and a selected range of home décor and gifts. Dobbies have 12 branches in Scotland all of which are due to open next week.