The Eclectic Nature Gift and Garden Center in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood is one of those special places that simply makes you happy.
Perennials, annuals and garden accessories fill the side and back yard while the adjoining house – with every room painted a different color – is chock-a-block with gift items and unique home furnishings.
It has an Alice in Wonderland appeal coupled with great design and whimsy.
Opened 5 years ago by Christy Beal, the Eclectic Nature and Gift Center is a true reflection of both her extensive background in landscape design and her inherent artistic nature.
The one time head landscaper at the Bellhaven Country Club was doing just fine with her own design company but “got bored” and wanted a larger outlet for her imagination and talent.
When I asked, why Del Ray, the answer was familiar. She had had a client in Del Ray and fell in love with the neighborhood. (Who doesn’t?) The next step was locating space that could contain both a garden and a gift shop. Located at 1503 Mt. Vernon Avenue, the Eclectic Nature and Gift Center is next door to the wildly popular Fireflies and two doors down from our favorite Potomac West Antiques.
It’s hard to miss Eclectic Nature – the side wall of the nursery area is covered in a brightly painted mural that declares “Design – Create – Imagine” while roses, blackeyed susans, grasses and liatris spill down the front embankment onto the sidewalk.
A wide driveway invites even the most casual visitor as does the piece de resistance – a 6ft. tall urn overflowing with water.
And keep an eye out for Max, the store mascot and honorary greeter. A full time summer fixture, Max goes home with Christy in the winter and shares space with her 9 year old daughter, 2 dogs and 2 “other” cats.
The nursery was a bit bare when we visited on Saturday (it is August) but fall plants will soon start rolling in as well as items for Halloween and Christmas.
In fact, Christy tells us that Halloween and Christmas are as important to the bottom line as spring planting. She also gave us a few hints as to what we can expect from her Christmas shop and we can’t wait. It sounds spectacular and we will be going back for another round of pictures.
Christy admitted that Eclectic Nature has struggled a bit and finding the right mix of items for the neighborhood has been a challenge. For instance, early in her tenure she brought in shrubs and trees but with lots of postage size yards, folks were more interested in quart size containers of showy perennials or annuals.
Pricing is also a challenge. Christy can’t compete with the big box stores like Lowes or Home Depot (who can?) but works to be competitive with other local outlets like Apple House.
Personally, the idea of being able to roll my wagon a few blocks down the street, grab a cup of coffee and do my plant shopping without ever getting in my car or fighting the crowds is both time and money saved!
Purses and jewelry are favorite items but you’ll also find just the thing for a baby shower, a hostess gift or even that chandelier you didn’t know you needed. A perfect recipe for shopping!
We really like Eclectic Nature Gift and Garden and we think you will too. Stop in and see for yourself, you’ll be glad you did.