They say nostalgia is not what it used to be, but the Burford Garden Centre seems to thrive on it. Over the last 32 years it has become a sort of 15-acre comfort zone, welcoming all the family from grandparents to toddlers.

Managing director Paul Gingell said: “We want people to be reassured by seeing familiar things of solid quality all around them — things built to last.”

We were enjoying a capuccino in the café at the time and I had already noted (to myself) the solid quality of the vaguely Bauhaus-style light oak tables and chairs, and on my way to the cafe I had noticed the old fashioned school desks in the toy department.

Now there was real nostagia for anyone aged over 50 — and also perhaps for children who must often have seen such things pictured in children’s classics (also on sale.) And while discussing the children’s department, Mr Gingell told me it was company policy not to sell any toys that needed batteries or that were in any way ‘virtual’.

Comforting that — only real things here and only things, often made of wood, that look so pleasing to the eye that they never need tidying away out of sight.

“But gardening is still at the core of the business,” said Mr Gingell, adding —without at first seeing the pun — that the business had grown organically since 1979 when father and son team, Eddie and Nigel Johnson, bought the site on the A40.

But the move to selling indoor things came about romantically — when Nigel married Louise, who had a furniture and furnishing shop on Burford High Street called Woodrooms — which was then absorbed into the centre.

Now, the parent firm, the Burford Garden Company, employs 100 people at Burford and another 25 at Tenbury Wells, where it now has another garden centre.

The Burford centre now has a highly developed indoor plant section including a wonderful range of citrus plants, including oranges, which is appropriate enough since Nell Gwynne, the orange seller mistress of Charles II, whose son became the Earl of Burford, was a frequent visitor to the town.

Plant expert Andrew Grantham, 58, who has worked for the company since it started, admitted he was better on English outdoor plants but said: “I am always here to give advice about what to plant out and when.”

Mr Gingell, 42, explained that about half the staff at both centres are full time, with many “high calibre” and extremely loyal.

But he was coy about turnover, saying only that the private limited company was a “multi-million pound” business.

Mr Gingell, who grew up in Oxford, joined the company in 2000 from a retail background, having spent some years commuting to London where he worked at Harrods.

He said: “The whole idea here is to make visiting us a sociable and enjoyable thing to do. I think we were the first garden centre to introduce a café.

“We want everything, outside and inside, to be understated and beautiful. And of course, as with all retail, we realise that keeping prices down leads to steady sales.”

Future plans involve expanding the home furnishings department with a range of fabrics, exclusively for sale in the garden centres, based on garden themes. Then there is a garden design service that has recently come into being, and then of course the website.

Mr Gingell said: “Best seller on the Internet is our apple rack. It is constantly in demand. We don’t sell many plants on the net because we still feel that with living things you need to see them in reality before you choose.”

The sensible policy of achieving continual small profit margins on good quality things, rather than either going for tackier goods to sell more cheaply, or, alternatively, holding out for huge prices (but only achieving occasional sales), seems to have paid off.

Amazingly Mr Gingell told me the Garden Centre had seen no drop in sales throughout the recession so far.

He said: “We simply continually adapt to what are customers want.”

Of course, there are a lot of rich people living around Burford (including a few with City bonuses to spend on beautifying their homes and gardens) as the quantity of expensive cars in the car park testified, but nevertheless no drop at all in sales whatsoever is highly commendable for any business.

Name: Burford Garden Company Established: 1979 Founders: Father and son Eddie and Nigel Johnson.

Managing director: Paul Gingell Staff: 125 (half of whom are part-time) Annual turnover: Confidential

Contact: 01993 823117 Web: