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George Barnes

As a nation, we have often been regarded as dog lovers, tea lovers, useless lovers and also garden lovers and today it is the latter that I most want to focus on. We would all like to think that we are as green fingered as the next man, but when we look at the houses and gardens around us, it is quite easy to see that we are more like a village or small hamlet rather than a nation of garden lovers.

This is why I am going to make this claim. We are not a nation of garden lovers; we are a nation of garden CENTRE lovers. That’s it, we are obsessed with spending every un-worked minute, casually browsing the endless displays of pitch forks and gas barbeques, knowing full well that the more time spent planning where the decking will go, the less time spent turning the borders and digging up weeds.

Now, I don’t blame people for choosing this addiction, as I have to admit that I am also an addict and no amount of self denial will change this fact.

I am an addict, I feel liberated for saying that. In fact I might even form a support group so we can talk about petrol hedge trimmers whilst slurping a cup of tea and munching on a sports biscuit. (Biscuit may vary) 

What is it that we adore so profusely about the garden centre?  I found myself trying to answer this question a few weeks ago and I came up with: plants, hanging baskets, tools and country clothing, but then I realised, I had forgotten the most integral part to any self respecting garden mall (sorry, centre) and that is the café. People, old and young, flock to the café to queue for their cup of Earl Grey, homemade soup & a roll or may be a flap jack, which will need a good twenty five minutes to work around the mouth before you can even think about swallowing. 

The garden centre cafe is slowly taking first place in the race to become the hub of the social community. When once it could be said that the local pub filled this role, it is the garden centre that is taking the baton and leading us all to a life of fertilisers and scones. 

Is this a bad thing? Well who am I to judge? All I can say is that, I for one enjoy this craze and I hope that it lasts. Oh and if there are any garden centre managers reading this, please, moisten the flap jacks.


..pitch forks and barbecues are not to my taste, but plants, and a good selection including the more unusual certainly are... I'll pay the price... a cafe is a bonus... but again it needs to look inviting... if I see a scone that looks stale, I shall walk out the door..


And where else can you take a 93 year old mother who can't walk far, can't see much, has dementia and likes bright flowers and a cup of tea.

The potty gardener

Back in Feb I went to a very large garden centre. The carpark was quite full. However we were the only people out looking at the plants- everyone else was looking at designer crockery, clothes, shoes.............. or in the cafe.

Not everyone in a garden centre would even pretend to be a gardener.


Hard work to make a successful gardencentre unfortunately there is a season and in recent years that season has been quite poor weather wise. I don't think its possible to run a garden centre just on that season. I'd hope that having a wide range of different things people visit at all times of the year. It's a very tough time to be trying to keep a gardencentre in the black.

Look at B&Q even thou they have a huge range of products the best prices since they can import direct, they are still in the process of going bankrupt.  The independants have it worse.



Salino wrote (see)

..pitch forks and barbecues are not to my taste, but plants, and a good selection including the more unusual certainly are... I'll pay the price... a cafe is a bonus... but again it needs to look inviting... if I see a scone that looks stale, I shall walk out the door..


George-we've mentioned this before on this forum and I dare say you're in the majority as most of us visit GCs whether we 'approve' of them or not. I expect they vary enormously from place to place, whether it's in the plant or the cake quality. On a cold wet day it's a nice way to spend a couple of hours isn't it? But yes, many GCs are catering to different needs and I suppose they have to in order to survive these days. I use GC and nursery as well as B&Q etc- it's about finding what you want and need. Nut is right about taking elderly relatives out -it's what the coach companies call 'tea and a wee' isn't it!

George -I prefer a nice scone myself...

Woodgreen wonderboy

If designer stuff keeps them going, so be it, but at least it keeps them going with plants alongside for the serious gardeners. Their restaurants are fast becoming the best place to find good wholesome food at affordable prices, to sustain us as we shop for our pansies.


I have two GC's near me.  One is huge and sells anything and everything.  Just opened a brand new restaurant too.  At Christmas, they cleared the plant area and installed an icerink.  Did extremely well. 

I hate it.

Give me my small, family run one any day.  Not too much to mesmerise me making it difficult to decide what to buy, but enough to make the time spent there a pleasure. Staff on hand, not always that knowledgable, but you can always find one to assist. Do sell lovely hand made cards and 'pressies, but not overdone. In fact, anything and everything you want. 

Getting less keen on GC now....truly.
Visiting a little nursery is a joy. Just to see,plants, many unusual and to meet the growers, many slightly eccentric albeit endearingly so, is a lovely experience. That cream tea? Get that on the way back..... A real Cornish cream tea with lashings of cream and strawberry jam on fresh home made scones. Usually cheaper than garden centres too
Gardening Grandma

Have to agree, Verdun. We have a lovely private GC near us and long may it continue. But it does not compare with buying from little nurseries. Visited one recently where the plants were dug up for me as I waited and I could buy varieties bred on the premises by a lady dressed in velvet and wearing an elegantly eccentric hat.

Another enjoyable place to buy plants is any garden open under the NGS.  You get to see a garden that is the beloved creation of dedicated gardeners, carefully chosen and beautifully grown plants and the chance to buy something unusual. Tea cakes as well!

Woodgreen wonderboy

I agree with you all and as far as I can I always go to the small local nurseries first. My favourite also has a small but good restaurant too. I just fear that one day all that will be left will be the large GCs. 

Gardening Grandma

Hope not, WW. I suppose there will always be the enthusiasts breeding plants for the love of it and selling a few to make a bob or two on the side.

Gardening Grandma

BTW, that's a beautifully written essay opening this thread, George!

George Barnes

Many thanks for your compliment Gardening Grandma

The garden centres with aquatic centres attached are good for me as my husband keeps tropical and marine fish, so its nice to go out together and take an interest in each others hobby !!

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