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.
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.
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)
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!”