A guide to duff garden centres

If it sells gnomes, hamsters or potpourri, don't go there

How can you tell a good garden centre from a duffer? When comsumer watchdog Which? Gardening asked members to rate their garden centre experiences, the chains and the DIY sheds came out worst and the independents best. But certain scenarios have me running from a garden centre – before I get embroiled in the carpeted one-way system, policed by automatic doors.

First, if it has strayed too far from its original remit. Garden centres must all have started off selling plants, then pots, compost, gardening books, tools and perhaps the odd gnome. All fair enough (apart from the gnome). It is when I spot fishing tackle that I start to back nervously towards the door. Or crystalware. Or potpourri. Or dwarf Russian hamsters. Focus has been lost. Something has gone awry.

Then there are the centres where there are no staff in the outside plant area. If all the staff are in the meeting room getting excited about the new range of ladies' wear, or next Christmas's bauble theme, they are not looking after the plants. So often, plant areas resemble a scene in a western – deserted and silent, the odd empty plastic pot tumbling past – but without the dramatic tension. You should be able to walk up to a member of staff (preferably while they are weeding or watering) and ask about a plant without getting a blank stare and being told that Carol probably knows, but she's off on lunch. A well-staffed outside area shows the management understands the importance of plants, and has employed people with the confidence to send plants back to the supplier if they are not rooted enough, or are wrongly labelled or covered in weeds. Lots of staff equals good plants.

But the clincher is if the cafe doesn't sell homemade cakes. We must maintain some standards.


Lia Leendertz

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Why are my tulips so short and stumpy?

Gardeners have been complaining this spring that their blooms lack height

Jane Perrone

18, Apr, 2012 @7:00 PM

Article image
Don't let the heat get to your garden

Jane Perrone: Six tips to ensure your garden stays in good condition

Jane Perrone

15, Jul, 2013 @6:19 PM

Article image
The rules of back-garden etiquette

Should you tell your neighbours if you are planning a barbecue?

Paula Cocozza

25, Aug, 2009 @11:05 PM

Article image
Inside the Downing Street garden
It has become a TV star in its own right in recent years. But what is it really like?

Michael White

06, Jun, 2010 @7:00 PM

Article image
Know shrubs: an idiot’s guide to recognising plants
Half of British adults cannot name a single garden shrub, and four in 10 can’t name a household plant, according to the Royal Horticultural Society. Start growing your garden knowledge here …

Jane Perrone

22, May, 2017 @12:50 PM

Article image
‘Grow three herbs and build up’ – the millennial’s guide to gardening
Horticultural skills are going to pot among people in their 20s and 30s, says the head of the RHS. Here’s a quick guide to getting started for this ‘lost generation’

Emine Saner

23, May, 2016 @5:41 PM

Article image
Andrea Wulf: Politics in spades: why the Obama veg patch matters

Andrea Wulf: Michelle Obama's decision to plant a vegetable garden on the White House lawn is an important political and symbolic statement

Andrea Wulf

24, Mar, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
Ten things you didn't know about the Chelsea flower show

From the Lily Allen lily to fridges full of Fosters, Tim Lusher reveals 10 surprising facts about this year's Chelsea flower show

Tim Lusher

25, May, 2010 @4:15 PM

Article image
A shed to make any man spit with envy

Leo Hickman reveals the results of the all-important Shed of the Year competition

Leo Hickman

08, Jul, 2009 @11:01 PM

Article image
Why all the excitement about a 'blue' rose?

It has been called the agricultural holy grail, but should we be impressed?

Jane Perrone

21, Oct, 2009 @11:05 PM