The Inexorable Rise of the Lemon Drizzle Cake

Garden centres became Lifestyle Centres and quickly moved to become Food Centres. Bloom became a food festival and garden club outings occasions for tea and scones.

Thankfully, I have a healthy appetite and enjoy a sweet cake occasionally but I don’t like food to have dominant position in my gardening. I recently read an event in a local garden club, a day out, where there were four feeding stops and one garden (one was at a garden/lifestyle centre which, I think, was meant to keep the gardening side of the day out somewhat alive). My balance for such a day out would be four gardens and one feeding stop – and a sandwich and a cup of coffee from a flask at a picnic site, even a carpark, would do me just fine.

June Blake's Garden (30)

I can understand why garden centres develop these other income streams. Sales from plants can be all but non-existent over the winter period while people eat all year round and fancy goods make convenient presents for people who don’t merit any great thought in our lives – the Yankee candle covers a multitude of occasions. However, I am disappointed that in most establishments – there are a few, a very few, notable exceptions – these diversifications in sales have been paralleled by a decline in quality and range of plants on offer.

June Blake's Garden (10)

The Bay (46)

The lack of good garden plants in garden/lifestyle/feeding centres has left a gap in the market which, thankfully, has been filled very effectively, and to the relief of the keen gardener, by the smaller nurseries and organised plant fairs around the country. It is quite telling that these are always well attended and well supported and that gardeners come away delighted with something new and interesting for the garden. (and, generally with no additional calories)

The Bay (44)

These are the people who deserve the support of the keen gardener and we can leave the lemon drizzle cakes to – well to those who if they were asked to comment on their visit to Giverny would remark, “Oh, lovely cup of tea there!”

Isoplexis canariensis



13 thoughts on “The Inexorable Rise of the Lemon Drizzle Cake

  1. I sense your frustration here, Paddy! But I think it has to be a ‘both/and’. I’ve attended the specialist plant sales at Angela Jupe’s lovely Bellefield garden (Co Offaly) AND enjoyed lovely refreshments as well! And some of these ‘lifestyle’ centres (agree with everything you say) do offer a good range of plants, and I commend Johnston Garden Centre here – I often make the 11/2 hour drive to meet up with a friend for lunch there, have a wander round and usually end up purchasing something. Yes, people buy plants that are in full bloom, but I don’t see what’s wrong with that. For inexperienced gardeners there’s nothing like seeing the plant ‘as is’ – photos just don’t really offer that experience. For myself I use a variety of ways to add to the garden, including mail order from Future Forests and (a big thing with me) purchasing from the Hospital Trolleys of stressed-out plants that most of these places have. Not annuals, but perennials can ‘come round’ very successfully, and then they can be divided.


    1. We agree on Johnstown Garden Centre – it is one of the very few which has diversified hugely yet maintained a very interesting plant range – and have diversified to offer mail order and online sales also. My knowledge of garden centres is weighted to the south-east so it would not be fair of me to make a sweeping statement but, with the above in mind, Johnstown Garden Centre exemplifies the very best approach in my opinion. As you say, “both/and” – we still have our excellent selection of plants there and can have a bite to eat also.


  2. Brilliant Paddy. I’ve been actually making the effort to write to some not-really-garden-centres-any-more to explain why I’m not going to be visiting them again – sadly this includes several that used to be really good plant sources. Not one of those I’ve written to has been courteous enough to reply. And I didn’t bother to go to Bloom this year either after I looked at the exhibitor list. Thankfully the number of specialist fairs, specialist nurseries, and open gardens that sell their spare plants seems to be on the increase. If I want lemon drizzle I can make it better and cheaper at home


    1. Plant sales alone will probably not sustain a business but diversification which then seem to completely neglect the plants is a frightful mistake and, certainly, a loss to gardeners.


  3. Perfectly put, Paddy!!! I have even known these places to masquerade as “gardens” … plant sales and friends are the best sources of plants. People, in general, shy away from specialist nurseries for fear of expensive plants but they are knowledgeable and reasonably priced and one can always return for further advice or willing replacement. Keep flying the flag for Real Gardening!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand the need for any business to diversify so as to attract more business and plant sales are always very poor to non-existent during the winter and people must live and must do what they can in their business to do this. What disappoints me is that many who diversify then proceed to neglect what what was the core of their business – plant sales – but, perhaps, the core has simple changed and food is now at the core and the best income source. We must simply realise that these businesses are not the places to go to if looking for good plants.


  4. So true. We are organising a garden outing for Hillsborough on 25th August. One garden in the morning in Crumlin and then lunch in Whitehead Golf Club. Afternoon a visit to Cherry Townsend’s garden in Islandmagee.. We will probably have coffee in the first garden and then in the afternoon but plenty of plants and lovely gardens to see. We had been recently to Mahon’s garden centre in Lurgan. Wonderful selection of plants and some I didn’t have. No café. I think Hilary and William Mc Kelvey go there quite a lot. Also our local garden centre and farm shop down the road. Great selection of plants.


  5. You are so right Paddy – I’m just back from 3 days at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, and although there is a very large Floral Marquee, there used to also be lots of smaller marquees as well, but I noticed these have all been replaced with many more ‘dining experience’ marquees. Also the amount of non-plant stuff there is unbelievable. All part of the general dumbing down of horticulture – sadly! Thank goodness for small plant fairs, long may they flourish.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A thoughtful and considered appraised of growing trends..A cake is gone in a flash where easy flowers can last indeterminately. We’ll observed Paddy. A bas le gateaux!

    Liked by 1 person

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