Mon – Sat: 09.00-17.00  Cafe: 09.00-16.00
Sun: 10.00-16.00  Cafe: 10.00-15.45
GARDEN CENTRE
OLIVE TREE CAFE

Our History

Oakington Garden Centre originated as a plant nursery in 1981. Philip and Melanie Sadler started the business from the site of a field outside Oakington, growing and selling plants from polytunnels.

The business is still owned and run by the Sadler family with all three of Philip and Melanie’s children involved in the management and operation of the Garden Centre, Plant Nursery and Café.

As Garden Centres grew in popularity through 1980’s the business moved away from growing plants from scratch and more towards a typical Garden Centre selling a whole range of gardening products as well as an amazing range of plants bought in from specialist suppliers, often from as far away as Holland and Italy.

At this time the Plant Area was dominated by an enormous Shrub A-Z, Conifers, Roses and traditional varieties of bedding plant which were in those days popular choices for a generation of gardeners with perhaps more space and time than the customers of today.

In 1988 Melanie and Philip made the decision to live on site so that they could devote the time and energy needed to support their growing business, as they were working seven days a week. They built a house behind the Garden Centre. As children we grew up on site with our garden backing on to greenhouses and polytunnels. It was a magical environment, with a lot of freedom and close contact with the natural world.

Through the 1990’s the area around the Garden Centre began to change quite noticeably as Cambridge grew and our customer base began to include people who worked in the tech industry with larger budgets and a huge enthusiasm and interest for plants. A lot of the old fashioned growers from the area had sold up or retired and sadly, most of the orchards that had surrounded our home had by this point been removed and replaced by arable farmland or housing developments.

In 2010 we realised that it was high time that the Garden Centre had its own café.

This had become something that customers expected to find as visiting a Garden Centre had become a leisure pursuit and an experience in itself rather than just a means to end. It was really important to us that the food served in the café was homemade and where possible made from locally sourced ingredients.

We currently have two professional chefs as well as a pastry chef and use a range of local butchers, bakers and greengrocers to make sure that we stay true to this.

Generations of expertise

Sam was the first member of the second generation to step in to running the café in 2011. In 2018 Philippa Sadler left a successful career as a secondary school history teacher to help Philip manage the shop. Finally in 2023, Patricia Sadler moved on from her role as an Assistant Head Teacher to run the horticultural aspects of the business.

The Sadler family have always been proud to own and run a “proper” Garden Centre, staying true to their horticultural roots despite the pressure to stay competitive in an industry where most businesses have diversified into homeware and hospitality in order to survive.

Oakington Grown

In 2020 we built the polytunnels so that we could start growing our own plants again. The idea behind this was to reduce our carbon footprint so that we were not relying so heavily on buying lorry loads of plants from far flung places. As costs rose for our suppliers, we realised that we could raise our own plants much more cheaply and pass that saving on to our customers at a time when people are feeling the pinch. It has been fantastic to have the choice and control of deciding what varieties to grow. We have been able to raise old favourites not always seen for sale anymore, as well as more unusual or new varieties that we might not otherwise have been able to offer.

We harvest rainwater from the polytunnel roof, which is stored in a tank so that we can irrigate the plants sustainably. Trends in gardening are now much more geared towards conservation, sustainability and managing the effects of climate change. Our customers at the moment may have a much smaller space to work with than in the 1980s. As a result our Shrub A-Z has shrunk, and people are much more interested in flowering perennials to attract pollinators, wildflowers, vegetable gardening and herbs. We are passionate about responding to these interests which are also very close to our hearts.

Family friendly orchard

In 2024 we decided to plant our own orchard on site to replace the ones that had been lost around us for the public to enjoy and we have plans to plant a lavender field and wild flower meadow in 2025. We have started to run a series of family friendly events throughout the year, including a pollination festival for the first time in June 2024. We want to provide a space where our customers can enjoy nature and hopefully be inspired to create more nature friendly and sustainable gardens at home.

The Garden Centre

We care passionately about every garden providing a haven for wildlife.

Our “perfect for pollinators” and wildflower ranges aim to support customers in choosing plants that will attract nature to their gardens. We have also introduced a range of wildflowers.

All our plant collections aim to reflect recent trends in gardening as well as old favourites! Whether you wish to create a cottage garden, a shady retreat or a tropical paradise.

We try where possible to use locally based plant suppliers – the majority of the plants that we sell have been grown in the UK.

We aim to provide a range that includes premium products from the country’s foremost nurseries as well as competitively priced products from small, local growers.

Our shop is packed with everything that you might need for your garden. It is an ever-changing space, responding to the seasons and the demands of the gardening year.

It also features inspirational houseplant displays and a carefully curated gift department.

We can provide a free delivery service to most local destinations.

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