We visited a garden centre today, one we’ve visited occasionally for quite a few years. It is situated out in the Derbyshire countryside and once upon a time it was mostly a place to buy plants, shrubs and trees. Bit by bit the plants seem to have taken second place to the cafe, garden furniture, shabby chic decorations, farm shop and barbecue kit.
Today we discovered that the pace of change has accelerated. The garden centre has received a substantial makeover. Gone is the piece of apparently derelict land which once served as a car park. Now it has organised parking in rows so we couldn’t just leave the car anywhere and mooch off the entrance.
Not only that but the entrance has moved too. The new one has automatic doors and once inside a brand new layout guides folk through all the indoor goodies before they have a chance of finding the outdoor area. The cafe is much bigger, that was immediately obvious, but it wasn’t at all obvious where the plants might be.
Fortunately we have a general idea of the layout so we were able to use our sense of direction and wend our way from the pervasive aroma of coffee to the outside world where things turned out to be much the same as always. Apart from the car park, no money had been spent outside as far as one could tell. In other words the place has become a copy of all the big garden centres hereabouts, if still a little smaller.
Had I been asked, which was vanishingly unlikely, I would have supposed that copying the big boys in the garden centre business would destroy any advantage to having one in the Derbyshire countryside set in picturesque surroundings. Apparently this isn’t the case as the car park was absolutely packed. People were even waiting for vacated spaces when we left. Never seen that before.
It was a bank holiday of course, but dull, overcast and chilly after early rain. Even taking the bank holiday into account, the makeover seems to have worked a treat, so this is what people must want from a garden centre. Coffee, cake, a bit of shopping and maybe a plant in a pot if there’s still time.