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Are garden centres inspiring enough?
What do you look for in a good garden centre? I would imagine most people would expect garden centres to offer a great range of plants along with a heavy dose of inspiration and expert advice.
However, many garden centres have been transformed into out-of-town shopping destinations where you can find all manner of gifts, furniture, books and pet products, and probably tuck into lunch and a cream tea to help make a day of it.
However, it’s the gardening that really matters to me, and I often leave garden centres disappointed that so little was on offer to inspire me to part with my money.
As we move through September into October I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ll soon have to pass through Santa’s Grotto before discovering any plants or gardening products at many garden centres. Christmas takes centre stage as baubles and singing Santas replace spring-flowering bulbs, and once again I’ll be left searching in vain for gardening inspiration.
Now, I’m not saying that all these fabulous marketing opportunities don’t have a place in garden centres, and no doubt they are vital for commercial survival. But I do think it’s a shame more emphasis isn’t placed on gardening, to keep the keener gardeners among us active and engaged throughout the year, and to inspire a new generation of gardeners.
And when it comes to inspiration, I’m not convinced only offering plants in A-Z order really does it for many. I’d love to feel as inspired walking into a garden centre as I do when entering a beautiful garden, to be surrounded by creative ideas that I could replicate in my own garden. Of course customers then need to be able to locate the plants they want in an easy way, but let’s introduce them to exciting new plants growing in colourful combinations first.
My comments at a recent conference, as reported in Horticulture Week, weren’t exactly greeted with rapturous applause by some garden centre owners, who felt that I was speaking out of turn by suggesting there’s more to displaying plants than simply placing them in A-Z beds.
Others have come down on my side, like the one garden centre owner, who is quoted as saying: “We agree with Adam Pasco – the majority of garden centres are uninspiring places to visit”.
I hadn’t realised my comments would stir-up a hornets’ nest in the trade. I’m just keen to get more people growing more plants. That’s the Holy Grail of anyone working in the gardening media. Those of us who have discovered the joy of gardening just want to share this with others, and by working together I’m convinced we can do this.
So, what do you think of garden centres, and where do you get your gardening inspiration from?
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