When I was a child, garden centres were places where grown ups went which sold plants and perhaps a few seed packets and gardening tools. It was my great delight to be left in the car to read a book while they went in to spend hours poring over boring old plants which grew naturally in the garden anyway didn't they? Why would anyone buy them? A hellishly hot summer slaving in one as a teenager, scarcely able to breathe in the hot greenhouses, let alone work, a tyrannical dragon of a female boss constantly on my back yelling at me by way of training didn't alter my prejudices.
Below is my local garden centre.
Even vaster than it looks with an ample deli and an award-winning organic cafe as well, much of the merchandise is pricier than (and not dissimilar to) Harrods. It has now even diversified into antiques where you can buy barnacle-encrusted pots rescued from 19th century ship wrecks amidst the usual mahogany drop-leaf tables and oil paintings! Gardening has almost become an afterthought. I espied a box of my favourite mint chocolate crisps in the deli. Then I noticed they were £5.50 (twice the price of Waitrose) and promptly resisted, though the 'Traffic Jam' - a jar of jam in three flavours forming the green, orange and red of traffic lights was almost amusing enough to overcome the price tag for. After a few hours marvelling at the seductive uselessness of much of the merchandise on display on a sodden foggy day where we needed somewhere warm and dry to hang out, my friend and I left with a couple of half-price Christmas decorations, having succumbed to hot drinks and slices of exorbitant cake in the cafe.
Sometimes I feel tempted to revisit my teenage workplace to see if it has followed the fashion of putting chaise lounges before Sweet Williams, but I find if I wait long enough, the idea tends to go away again...
However I have got my eye on a rather palatial revolving summerhouse at my local garden centre if ever I win the lottery.