When I was young, and my father had itchy green thumbs, he used to bundle us in the car and head to the ‘nursery’. This was his antiquated (even then) name for a Garden Centre.
In suburban Melbourne, these were vast expanses of land, with row upon row of indigenous, young trees that were sold in plastic bags. My father decided to ‘go native’ in our family garden, having seen his previous English garden die through drought and high temperatures. It became so thick we had to fight out way to the front door and it was eventually declared a fire hazard.
Although some residents in Barcelona, including many of my friends, have beautiful, balconies bursting with colour and lushness, balcony pride has never been my thing. But new apartment, new leaf – and a good excuse to visit the Hivernacle Centre de Jardineria, which everybody who lives west of Plaça Catalunya seemed to know about except me
There are some garden centres dotted on the outskirts of Barcelona, but this one is Les Corts, in one of the few miniscule pockets of this central neighbourhood that still retains a whiff of yesteryear. (I can’t decide if Les Corts was one of Barcelona’s most lovely old barris because it was, or because only tiny teasers of the old bits remain.)
A bit like the florist scene in Vertigo that segues from a dark alley to saturated, stylised colour, Hivernacle is like stepping into a much brighter, much more fragrant world. It's located in an old textile factory dating from the late 1800s, suitably decrepit to let full grown banana palms peep through the roof and support creepers over its splendid trusses. The same family has run the business for 18 years - and were very happy to advise me how to compose a low-cost, low-maintenance balcony garden.
Hivernacle also has a little play area for kids, and a non-stop stream of regulars with dogs. In Melbourne or Los Angeles it would also have an organic café, or hold permaculture workshops. But all the owners really want to do is sell plants – and there is no finer place to buy them in Barcelona.
Hivernacle Centre de Jardinería
Carrer de Melcior de Palau, 32-36
Tel. 934 91 21 78