The garden centre! How I love the garden centre!
Mr B huffs and puffs, growls and grumbles - but he knows that he will have no peace until he agrees to accompany me to
our local Haven of Bulbs and Winter Pansies. We set off in fine fettle (whatever that means) and on the way I count off on my fingers the various items I want us to purchase. The purpose of this is to reassure Mr B that our visit will not involve an endless
trail around all the delights which the garden centre has to offer. Rather it will be a military style operation of Precision Purchasing. Though we may need to make a detour into the Costa coffee shop on our way between the bulbs and the birdseed.
Now here's a conundrum. Why is it that, with all the gardening delights set out for our delectation and choice, I always end up purchasing more or less the same things, year in, year out? In the Autumn I buy daffodil,
tulip and snowdrop bulbs plus winter pansies. In the spring I buy trailing petunias and compost for the hanging baskets. Where is all my much vaunted originality? The only time I get to add something spectacular to our gardens, is when it is gifted to me by
lovely family or friends, or when we visit a garden and can't resist buying a plant from the shop, regardless of whether it stands any chance of surviving in our garden.
We once bought an azalea from a beautiful
garden now sadly closed to the public. For years it failed to thrive, while never completely giving up the ghost. Then one year I threatened it with removal and, lo and behold, it had a sudden change of heart and has been flourishing ever since. The moral
of this story being that Tough Love Sometimes Pays Off. Next time I see Prince Charles, who as everyone knows believes in communicating with plants, I shall be sure to share this knowledge with him. Can you have a "next time" when you haven't had a "first
time"? I need to know.
There is a notice at the garden centre entrance asking customers to bear with the disruption while various goods are being moved about. Inside it becomes clear what this is all about
- yes, folks, Christmas is coming! There are black curtains cutting off a whole section of the sales floor but I can see evidence of Christmas 2014 being created behind the curtains, possibly by an army of Santa's Little Helpers. Or, just as likely by Bill
and Ben the Flowerpot Men. This is a garden centre, after all.
Mr B starts worrying about Christmas as soon as he sees what is happening in-store. He reminds me that this year we will need to buy no fewer
than ten Christmas tree decorations for our assorted grandchildren. Ten! Just imagine! I reassure him that it is unlikely that we will empty the shelves of decorations any more than we will buy up every tulip, daffodil and snowdrop bulb this morning. All it
means is that we shall have to pay another visit to the garden centre some other time. Unless, of course, we decide to shop for our decorations elsewhere. Mr B looks panic-stricken at the thought that we might deviate from our chosen path of Christmasses Past.
We load up our trolley with bulbs, birdseed, suet balls and pansies - then find another trolley already loaded up with two bags of compost. We decide to transfer our goods from one to the other to save us struggling
to move bags of compost into our trolley. There are several trolleys similarly laden with two bags of compost so I reckon this could be an example of thoughtfulness on the part of the Flowerpot Men. If so, I appreciate it, even though it doubtless encourages
customers to buy two bags instead of just the one.
With trolley loaded, I persuade my reluctant companion into the coffee shop. This, I explain, transforms a mere shopping trip into an outing. Shopping is
boring, outings are fun. We park our trolley where hopefully it won't be in anyone's way and nab a nearby table. Just a quick coffee stop, but it's good to chat while wrapping our hands around our tall glasses and trying not to eavesdrop on other people's
conversations too obviously.
I could have stayed a bit longer but Mr B is ready for the off. We head for the check-out where a fresh-faced youth named Ben scans in our purchases. Would it be possible, I ask
him, for someone to help us transfer the heavy stuff into our car? No problem, is the prompt reply. We wait for the shortest of short whiles and then along comes Will to help us. Yes, indeed, Will - which is, as you know, just about the nearest you can get
The Flowerpot Men are alive and well in our local garden centre.
Little Weed is nowhere to be seen.