Sunday, 26 May 2013


Lush, strappy and ferny foliage were layered under cover of towering palm trees. Rush roofing gave shade to comfy cane chairs on rough-sawn decking. Between these, gravel crunched underfoot, the sound of drums and incense permeated the air and water splashed down a glistening rock-face. Should all the above have not raised a grain of your interest, I could add African animals, a dusty Land Rover and a bar serving good food and long drinks...

You would be forgiven for thinking the above paragraph refers to a Caribbean resort or African adventure but of course you’d be mistaken. However, if I were to tell you I described above a garden centre in the English Midlands; might it scratch your inquisitive spot?


Akamba is not your average garden centre of course. Situated off a leafy lane in Solihull of all places, it offers a very real departure from the usual garden centre offering of sliding doors, twee gifts and faux stone fountains. A leaflet prominently quotes Akamba to be “The Midlands Best Kept Secret”; and I can say having been a fan for many years; it’s a quote they certainly live up to. I guess people are going to either love or hate it, but it is certainly one of those places that has to be seen to be believed, and the plant stock on offer is good quality and different; very different!


I was firmly hooked from my first visit, and even now I can’t wait to return! The centre offers unusual plants not only for sale but also for hire, and I mean ‘large’ potted plants for hire: Olives, palms and bamboo. Huge containers blend throughout the centre with racks of potted shrubs and perennial plants, and the ingredients combine to create a meandering network of paths that have to be explored so as not to miss anything - I am always like a kid in a sweet shop!


Yes, I find it easy to wax lyrical about Akamba, but it has to be said that I don’t think I’ve ever been inspired to write a post about any other garden centre… It offers the gardener a chance to browse plants that have been arranged informally, and to see many plants in a demonstration garden; something I believe could be adopted more widely by garden centres to show people how plants can be arranged.

My first Akamba purchase was a hardy Banana plant, Musa basjoo, acquired many moons ago. I left that plant behind with great sadness when moving house, but must admit to driving past once and being cheered to see it still growing strong and towering over the garden fence! Despite the theme of this article I have to admit that I have been moving increasingly towards British native planting these days, but Akamba has once again slowed my single track thoughts. As such I’ve purchased yet another baby Musa, and a Canna, and I threw in a frothy Bronze Fennel for good measure!

Of course Akamba offers the pre-requisite cafĂ©, but again this differs from the norm. The ‘Tribe Bar & Caribbean Eatery’ is threaded between plants in beds and for sale, meaning you can relax in a real garden environment – it’s like you’re a thousand miles away as described in my opening section. As you can see; my little one threw himself into the atmosphere by banging on the animal skin drums!

I have to say that my recommendation holds no personal benefit, I'm a customer like many others, I just hope that you may visit and discover an aspect that may appeal to you; live music events, the metal zoo, weddings, an African art and craft shop, or the garden team who take on landscape design commissions. Oh! – Did I mention the ‘Uhuru’ Gallery?

I’ll finish up by saying that should you not be able make it over to Akamba Garden Centre; you’ll be able to catch them (and many other reputable nurseries!) at BBC Gardeners World Live his June. I’ll be visiting as well this year and blogging about my experience – maybe see you there?


For an official introduction to Akamba - Click Here!

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