Visit Country Elegance, one of the Hunter's leading rural Garden Centres
There’s nothing like taking the time to wander and enjoy your surroundings, and for plant lovers, this little nursery is the perfect oasis. Country Elegance Gardens and Gifts is located in Dungog NSW, just 1hr 15mins north of Newcastle, so it makes for a great inclusion if you’re planning a day trip or weekend away to the region.
We caught up with Janice, owner of Country Elegance and plant whisperer extraordinaire, who told us all about how a love for gardening seems to be contagious. Janice has been in the industry for 39 years and her current garden centre has been brightening the Dungog plant scene for a huge 22 years.
But she initially caught her love of plants from her husband, Steve, who owns a gardening wholesale business. And it doesn’t stop there, despite dragging their reluctant daughter to many a garden centre in her childhood, their daughter Amanda caught the plant fever. She now runs a plant business here in Newcastle - The Green Altar, a name I am sure many are familiar with. It seems a love of plants is in this family's blood.
The family first moved to Dungog from Sydney after a camping trip and, like many stories we hear around the Dungog region, they fell in love with the area and moved up here to start their businesses.
Janice’s beautiful character and warm nurturing nature found her fitting in well with this small community-focused town. And indeed saw her quickly build up the business to the successful one it is today.
We grabbed a hot beverage at the coffee cart in the gift shop and explored Janice’s special gardening wonderland.
As you arrive, you are greeted by the staff at the gift shop - something I love about coming to smaller garden centres. Wandering around we spy a beautiful array of unique pots, cushions, candles, and gardening accessories among other nick nacks. You can also pick up bunches of flowers here if you are looking to make someone feel extra special.
Through into the nursery, I feel like this is a great size garden centre - big enough to offer great variety but small enough that you can always find someone to help - or keep an eye on those little ones who might be running around enjoying this new backyard as much as you.
Country Elegance seems to have a different variety of plants than what you see in the larger nurseries, such as mature plants (some 5 years old). But there are also a large variety of indoor plants which have grown hugely in popularity over the years - see the love of plants is spreading!
When we asked Janice for some general advice for people who may be struggling to keep their new indoor plant pet alive, her top notes were:
“Don’t over water. Everyone tends to overwater their indoor plants - it’s too much love! And feed them some natural light - such as near a window but out of direct sun.”
If you want to chat to the team about some specific advice, they recommend bringing your plant in so they can see firsthand what is going on and help find a solution. For customers within 40mins of the nursery - they offer an in-home walk and talk service.
This goes for an hour and is 1:1 with one of the garden specialists who can chat with you about what you are after, any challenges you might be having with particular plants, and work with you to build your perfect garden - indoor or out.
The venue’s range of plants includes a whole section dedicated to bird and butterfly attracting natives, and even some hard-to-find varieties. You’ll also be able to explore their range of hard-to-find, unusual edible fruits, and other edible plants.
The garden centre has some lovely little nooks such as the sheltered fernery, a rotunda near all the native plants that the bees were loving, and another pergola out the front surrounded by roses and hedges. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself lost in the moment here, sipping on your coffee, breathing in the country air, and admiring all the greenery.
With the combination of a very passionate owner, the beautiful friendly staff, and their award-winning nursery (NSW and ACT Small Garden Centre Award Recipients), I feel like we are in good hands for plant advice!