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“More than just a botanical paradise and wunderkammer of eclectic antiques and interior treasures plucked from around Europe, the nursery serves as a meeting place and platform to showcase the family’s ideas about sustainable food and farming.”

The purchase in 1997 saw the young family relocate from South Kensington and begin a painstaking five-year renovation of Petersham House. Built circa 1640, it had been a hunting lodge for the nearby Richmond Park. “It was beautiful even then – those Georgian houses with simple bones. But inside it was a mish-mash. The previous owners thought it would be fabulous to have great swathes of fabric, so you could barely see out the windows. We simplified everything with new plumbing, new electrics.”Six years later the small plant centre at the end of their garden came up for sale. “It was a working nursery, with concrete floors and incredible vegetables growing, but it wasn’t aesthetically beautiful,” she recalls. “Somebody did want to buy it and put in a bungalow, and we were rather nervous about that. Did she have a green thumb? “No, I have the vision of green thumbs,” Gael says. “I love planting, but I’m not a horticulturist.” Her husband was an insurance broker at Lloyds at the time. “When we were about to buy it I said to Francesco, ‘This is a bit mad!’ I was relieved when the previous owners said that they would stay on for a year and oversee it.”