All Hail Wyevale…and Other Such Garden Centres

How the hell did my life come to this, where a trip to a garden centre on a Saturday afternoon gives me happy feels? Not for the gardening crap, you understand, I barely have time to clean my house let alone fart around with a herbaceous border. And yet…. The lure of the place is strong – the faintly damp smell of terracotta and old ladies, the dish of pot pourri in the toilets, perhaps an errant dog… It’s like being hugged by the Dalai Lama and being told that hey, the world might be going up the shitter, but you’re safe here for an hour. Below are the things that I like very best about the humble garden centre:

1.       Cake
Garden Centre Cake
Couleur / Pixabay

No two ways about it, I always seek out the café first. I make a sweeping judgement about the state of the entire place based on the selection of sweet offerings. The hunkier the chunks, the better. I don’t get out for cake that often so I really like to take the opportunity to the max. £2.25 for a 0.5 inch slither of sponge? No. £4.99 for a cream tea where you only get ONE SCONE? See ya. The worst offence of all – the most heinous of café sins, is the pre-wrapped muffin or flapjack. Shudder. Get the car engine started, we’re not staying.

Conversely though, a café can go TOO far with trying to score brownie points. I get very anxious if the selection includes a top heavy ratio of NEW cake flavours that both tempt and baffle me in equal measure. Because in my heart of hearts I just want to tuck away 500g of Coffee and Walnut, but if you put in front of me a Basil and Blueberry Duffin then I’ma wanna try that, too. Really, you’re best off sticking to the greats. Scones (cherry, cheese, plain); Chocolate Fudge; aforementioned Coffee and Walnut; Vicky Sponge; Lemon Drizzle; Millionaire’s Shortbread; Carrot Cake; Brownies; Wildcard. All traybakes must be generously sliced, all sponges must be three-tiered. All cappuccinos must have Froth Art.

2.       Free Zoo
Garden Centre Fish
condesign / Pixabay

Assuming that all is well in the cake world, the next big hitter to elevate a garden centre to the top of the podium is the inclusion of a franchised pet shop or aquarium. Everything is at a lovely low level so the toddler can peer into cages without needing to be hauled up onto shoulders. All animals are behind glass so no touching, accidental or otherwise, can occur. The notion of commerce hasn’t yet entered the world of the children so there’s no expectation that one day, we might purchase such animals on display – they’re just for looking at.

There’s nothing bad there, no reptiles or trays of crickets or ominously cobwebby tanks. Just nice, safe, fluffy things, and fish. The almost luminous blue hue of the fish tanks have something of a meditative effect. Meaning that the drive home MAY afford us adults a bit of peace and quiet as the children kip in the back. Recently, we visited a garden centre where the adjacent fish emporium was called “Aqua Jardin”. We ate cake, we saw fish, we did FRENCH!

3.       Utterly Pointless Knick-Knacks
Teacup Garden Centre
Couleur / Pixabay

I love an ornamental piece made out of wood. East of India might as well be Slightly North of My Kitchen, for the amount of it I have. Quote plaques and calendar blocks and photo frames and small animals hanging from brown string…. I’m a bugger for all of it. My husband rolls his eyes into next week whenever I receive such glorious treasures as gifts. He calls them “those things” – a bold, sweeping collective of allcomers under the shabby chic narrative. “Great, more of those things you like. Which stationary surface are you going to clutter up now?”

Garden centres are second to none for these lines of ultimately pointless decoration. While they’re overpriced, they’re overpriced in CONTEXT so after you’ve trawled the trinket circuit once, you’ll think nothing of spending £6.99 on a ceramic egg cup that’s shaped like a flower and actually far too small for purpose.

4.       Dirt Cheap Books
Book Garden Centre
MichaelGaida / Pixabay

Never pay £12.99 for a hard-backed spiral-bound slow cooker recipe book, there’s simply no need! Likewise, “Diabetic One Pot Desserts for Christmas” and “100 Microwave Sponge Recipes” can easily be yours for the knock-down price of £3.99, tops. Mums, grandmothers, aunts are all catered for. These are great places to scrabble together a literary gift for a child where you need to look as if you’ve spent at least a tenner. You probably won’t get the greats for cheap spends, sadly – your Julia Donaldson’s and your JK’s will be standard issue RRP so I’d head straight to Amazon on that score. But if it’s a slightly nondescript book of 1000 bedtime stories together with a bumper sticker activity pack, you’ll be spoilt for choice. And if you turn your head towards 3 o’clock you’ll find some lovely cards and gift wrap, too. The last garden centre we visited had no less than seven types of retirement card. Seven!

5.       Christmas Shizz
Garden Centre Christmas
cegoh / Pixabay

This makes me a bit twitchy, as I am not the world’s biggest lover of Christmas. However, there’s something that sparks off the rampant OCD in me when I see bewitching colour coded sections of tat, neatly segregated and orderly, even though we might just have enjoyed the late August Bank Holiday Weekend. That poor-footfall area by the old lady changing room finally has a purpose as it’s converted into a lighting grotto, full of gently nodding reindeer and eerie Santas cocking their leg up a rope ladder. Those miniature villages are actually quite captivating, even if you do have to stand in the same spot for ten minutes waiting for the steam engine to trundle around to your vantage point again. More importantly, everything is now laced with the scent of clove-spiked oranges, which my brain translates into that seasonal beauty: Mulled Wine. Which, if you’re lucky, your local garden centre might just be licensed to serve.

 Introducing Mouse Moo & Me To
Hello! I’m Sam, aka the “Me Too” element of Mouse, Moo & Me Too. I live in Southampton with my husband and my two daughters, Mouse (aged 3) and Moo (aged 5 months). Since having Moo, I’ve found that I’ve got a constant carousel of prattle going around in my brain, little anecdotes and semi-witty musings that I thought people might enjoy reading.
So far, so good – I love my blog and the world that it has opened up although it’s been a whacking great learning curve and I could do with an extra few hours in the day for Blogmin!
We think Sam is a great new addition to the blogging community. She writes funny and relatable posts we think you will love as much as we do! You can follow Sam and her beautiful daughters on Twitter, Pintrest & Instagram – why not pop over and say Hi! Don’t forget to tell her Pudding sent you!

16 thoughts on “Mouse Moo & Me Too: Garden Centre Joy”

  1. This post just popped into my email and I should be #working but I couldn’t resist a quick read. Well you had me in stitches! This is exactly how I feel when I go to a garden centre! I always judge it on it’s cakeage and biscuitry merits! I always trawl the squids around the ‘free’ aquarium franchise pet/fishshop. I love a good thrum through the random book selection and wish oh wish I could afford the £2000 garden whicker effect sofas with matching swinging chair! I also love that dank smell and the feeling of security as well as the clothes concessions- love a quick zip around Cotton traders! A brilliantly funny post! xx
    turningupindevon recently posted…19.Village survival, the Scarecrow Competition!My Profile

  2. Oh god I love a trip to the garden centre too. You are spot on with the free zoo and yummy cake. I love browsing the many pointless nicknaks and to hubby’s dismay always find some tat to bring home too. Not a cook book! Hubby calls me his kitchen princess (ironically) And Christmas in Holland is massive for garden centres they all try and out do each other with massive shows, it’s amazing! #PuddingLove

  3. So chuffed to be featured in this lovely series 😊 Thank you. That cake looks bloody awesome, I’ve not seen the like in many garden centres I tell thee. That Christmas decoration though…I totally have that. #puddinglove

  4. OMG I love a good garden centre. Our local is a standard day out for me and the Child. They’ve recently just done up the cafe too – happy days. I also like the shed displays – the Child will happily play hide and seek in those for hours and I may take a little longer than usual finder her whilst I take a seat on an ornamental pew. I did take the Child to a garden centre once though and all the animals had died and the parrot cage had a big black blanket over it. It was traumatising. #puddinglove
    Suzanne recently posted…My Favourite Things – Challenge Accepted (Part 1)My Profile

  5. Agreed cake is a good reason to go and those wrapped muffins, thats just a rip off. I used to work for a book wholesaler and the true value of books, why the pubblishers but £12.99 on hard back books is beyond me. They sell them off for pence to wholesalers within a few months. I have the urge to go to a garden centre now… #puddinglove

  6. Totally agree with all except that when I go to the wyevale garden centre close to where my inlaws live I always seem to find quite a lot of great kids books for 3.99 and that my friend its a BIG BONUS! Cake is rubbish though and the chips deadly but everything else spot on 🙂 #puddinglove
    whitecamellias recently posted…Living Arrows 29/52My Profile

  7. Oh we have one of these garden centre near by! I love the Christmas Section. Totally overpriced in most things definitely! I only really go around Christmas time tbh, we saw Santa there last year, my youngest loved it! Thank you for linking up to #puddinglove

  8. Ha ha – yes you have summed up the lure of the garden centre perfectly – we were there on Sunday and I came away with books and tat, having looked at the fishes and had a trip to the cafe. no plants or anything remotely gardening related was purchased!!! #puddinglove

  9. I absolutely love a good garden centre. There is a centre near me – actually, it’s a bit of a trek but so worth it – and the do the greatest afternoon tea – ever! It’s £12 for two and the food is to die for. It’s mine and my mum’s favourite meeting spot and there is more than enough food for Little R, my mum and me! Definitely a bargain! And they sell loads of books and pointless knic-knacks, which my house is full of! #puddinglove

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