The never-ending delights of British garden centres

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It is now early July, and that mad garden centre dash and rush appears to be over. Perhaps you are like my family and have bought nearly every new, fun, exciting plant possible, and you have also sunflowers-garden-centresfinally found a spot for everything somewhere in the garden. (As the great Carol Klein recently said on BBC Gardener’s World Live, “Don’t worry, you’ll always find space.”) Now it is time for a well-deserved rest on your laurels, under the laurel tree, and a break from garden centre visits. Except-t that this is not quite how it should be.

Dear readers, you know by now that I am one to poke and prod, and I enjoy telling you how best to live your life based on my extensive life experiences. I recently spoke with a friend (and an avid gardener) who lives in Calgary in the province of Alberta in Canada. After our conversation, I realised how lucky we are with our garden centres. You are possibly puzzled by this statement –allow me to explain.

First, I was informed that Calgary (a rather large city) and the surrounding area do not have the number of garden centres as we do in the UK, nor do they have such a variety. Second, garden centres are selling off their plants and not receiving much new stock (except for maybe some autumn plants for containers). Apparently, going to one of the few garden centres in Calgary is currently a dismal event for some gardeners. How sad is that? I will answer that it is sad indeed.

homemade cakesAfter our conversation, I sat by my laurel hedge to ponder things over. I thought of how, in cold, dismal January, I can go to a garden centre and I can see (and buy!) pansies, hellebores, and primroses. There is inevitably a café or restaurant where one can enjoy a light lunch (oftentimes made with seasonal produce) or an afternoon tea. If one does do not have time for lunch, many garden centres carry an assortment of delightful edible treats such as lovely biscuits, jams and jellies, crackers, chutneys, cheeses…the list could go on. Should one not feel food inclined, then there are gifts and cards to peruse. (I recently bought a set of two small cups and a little melamine tray with a William Morris design, which made a wonderful gift for a friend to enjoy coffee for two. My Canadian friend loves all the cards with pictures by local artists; she buys so many when she visits that her husband had to give her a rather stern talking to.) If none of these strike your fancy, then how about taking the children/grandchildren to pick out a bug or insect house? And, finally, amidst all these choices, remember that garden centres still do sell plants, and the choice is spectacular.


Now, while a gin and tonic and a bit of a rest is certainly in order, do still find a bit of time to visit some garden centres…it is not too late to perhaps plant one more pot.

If I may be so bold as to offer one more recommendation, here is one for some summer reading: The Gardener’s Year by Karel Čapek. I am a long-time fan of this Czech author, who wrote plays, novels, short stories, and essays. The Gardener’s Year is an amusing 12-month chronicle of gardeners and their garden follies and glories; it is also a thoughtful account of human nature. One of

my favourite parts is at the end of the chapter “Preparations”, and you shall have to read the book since I will not divulge more here. Josef Čapek, the author’s brother, provided the charming illustrations.

Millbrook garden centre use photo cutouts
Millbrook engage customers with a Photo Cutout board

As for all you garden centres, whom I have praised so highly (and well-deservedly so), here at Photo Cutouts we think one of our custom-made photo cutout boards could be a great marketing prop, adding even more interactive fun to your business. Check out these 5 Ways Garden Centres Use Photo Cutouts for inspiration.

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Tel: 08450 570 321
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Disclaimer: Aside from the rather appalling choice of garden centres and what is available, Calgary is a lovely city and a wonderful place to visit. And, to be fair, the growing season is rather different and much shorter than ours.

From The Garden Centre Association, here is a list of their top 10 garden centres for 2019:

This is an article from 2016 with some intriguing recommendations:

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