I remember as a boy going off with my dad to buy some plants if he wanted some veg we would go to the local market gardener. He would get his spade go to one of his nursery beds and dig a bunch of what ever we where after it would be wrapped in newspaper and we would be on our way. If we wanted some flowers we would go off to a nursery get what we wanted and back home. Not a cup of tea, barcode or the contents of a department store in site then came the Garden Centre.
At first most garden centre's grew the majority of there plants and bought in compost, fertilizers etc to compliment the plants. But the whole affair was purely garden related with the plants being the headline act but not now. Most Garden Centre's are more like an out of town department store clothes, suit case's, shoes, toys, butches, bakers and i even went to one once that had a candle stick maker. Don't forget the 200 seat restaurant where you can get anything from a cup of tea to a three course lunch. Once you have worked your way through all this right at the back of the shop you will find the plants where once they used to be the star of the show they are now tucked away more as a side line.
Now don't get me wrong Garden centre's are very popular and i do enjoy going to one myself at the weekend it's just they are not what they used to be. Gardening is not the main purpose of a visit to a Garden Centre any more they have become a destination for a day out some Centre's even have coach company's booking with them. You get a good day out at a Garden Centre it's all very well done clean, tidy and very good quality products on sale but now i feel one Garden Centre chain has gone a step too far with there offerings. The Garden Centre Group are set to open up W H Smith Newsagent out lets at some of there Centre's they already have one outlet at there Bicester branch and are set to expand out to other Garden Centre's. The same group is also bringing in Costa coffee outlets into some of there stores a lot of visitors go to the garden centre for the independent coffee shop and the nice home made cake but you wont get that from Costa. Will our Garden Centre's slowly turn into out of town shopping some of them are nearly there already introduce a few more multinational outlets to there centre's and they will be. Of course lets face facts they would never get planning permission for most of these stores if they where labeled out of town shopping centre's. But give them the title Garden Centre and it's a different story but no matter what i think the modern Garden Centre is hear to stay.
What do you think have garden centre's lost there way and become more like out of town shopping centre's or do you like the new look big shinny Garden Centre's that they have become ?.