roses in a jar

Amber’s Adventures in the Magic Garden Centre

On Good Friday, we went to the local garden centre.

Not quite what you were expecting this post to be about, huh? It’s not what I was expecting it to be about either, to be honest: I mean, I freaking HATE gardening. Seriously, I wake up every Saturday morning, which is the day designated for trying to tame the wilderness that is our “garden”, and I think, “Yay! It’s the weekend!” And then I think, “Damn, I have to mow the lawn today!” And then I wish I’d died in my sleep.

Even although we are very, very old, then, a garden centre is the very last place Terry and I would normally choose to spend Good Friday. Or any other Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday… you can fill in the rest yourself. But this garden centre. This one was said to be different. It is a new garden “supercentre” which opened in our town a few weeks ago. My in-laws have been 1,287 times since it opened (117 of those times were on the opening weekend) and reported it to be a place so full of wonder that even we, garden haterz that we are, would be transported into fits at joy at the very sight of it.

“Have you been?” asked my mother-in-law eagerly, a couple of days after the House of Fun opened its doors.
“No,” I answered. “We hate gardening, remember? I’d rather eat my own head than go to a garden centre.”
“Oh, you should go,” she insisted. “They have EVERYTHING there. Everything you could possibly imagine.”
“Do they have Christian Louboutin shoes?” I asked, suspiciously.
“Well, no,” admitted my mother-in-law. “They don’t have shoes. But they have everything else you can imagine! They even have… ” she paused to wrack her brains. “THEY EVEN HAVE BREAD!” she finished, triumphantly.

Well, Terry and I just couldn’t believe there was a place in the world selling BREAD, so we reported this unlikely piece of information back to my own parents, who, being complete and utter shopaholics (They done raised me good.) had obviously already been to the Pleasure Garden(Centre). They make it their business to visit every new store that opens within a fifty mile radius. It’s like their hobby.

“Oh yes,” confirmed my dad, when we asked him about this place. “It’s actually the best place in the word, ever. A bit like the Magic Kingdom, only better. When you walk through the doors, there is a choir of cherubs playing harps to greet you!”
“A magic unicorn takes your jacket and brings you the elixir of youth!” my mum interrupted, excitedly.
“THEY EVEN SELL BREAD!” they chorused together.

“We’re never going to that place,” Terry told me as we drove home that night. I don’t care if they have the philosopher’s stone, Lord Lucan and Shergar inside it. We’re never going because it makes people crazy.”

So, this Friday, we got dressed and went straight to the garden centre.

Well, you see, it’s been a rough couple of weeks. While Terry and I have been dealing with the MAD STRESS, Rubin has had to be very, very patient. And I should point out here, before you all up and report me to the RSPCA, we have been feeding him, walking him, and otherwise fulfilling our duty of care to our wolf. But we have been very distracted, and although Rubin HAS been repaying us for this by barking at 3am every night without fail, and not stopping until I allow him to sleep on my stomach, he has been a Good Boy about it.

“Let’s go to the pet store and buy Rubin some treats,” said Terry on Friday. “Like a really smelly pig’s ear, or one of those horrible cheese bones that he leaves lying around the house for weeks.”

“OK,” I said, “But rather than getting the treats from the pet store, let’s get them from The Best Garden Centre in the World Ever.”

And then Terry jumped out of the upstairs window and ran away from me as fast as he could. He is still running to this day.

No, I jest. He did take a bit of persuading, though.

“Not you too!” he said in dismay when I presented him with my Garden Centre O’Doom plan. “You’ve been infected by the madness! It’s spreading! AM I THE ONLY SANE ONE LEFT?!”

Then he calmed down and drove us to the garden centre.

We pulled into the car park in a state of excitement (me) and complete and utter cynicism (Terry). The car park was so busy it was like Disney on the fourth of July. Everywhere we looked, people milled around clutching cameras, full of the excitement of a trip to the GARDEN CENTRE! There were even some tour groups, all wearing t-shirts with “GARDEN CENTRE 2011!” printed on the front, and a group leader with a flag to help keep everyone together.

“This better be %^&$*&^ good,” Terry muttered under his breath.

The doors opened. We expected a choir of angels to burst into the Hallelujah Chorus as we stepped over that hallowed threshold.

They didn’t, though.

Because it was just a garden centre.

Full of … gardening stuff.

And don’t get me wrong: it’s a NICE garden centre, as garden centres go. Their trowels and spades and… other gardening stuff… all looked very nice and shiny. And there’s some other stuff too: amazing patio furniture, designed for millionaires who don’t live anywhere near this country or its weather, for instance. Tropical fish! A restaurant full of lovely, over-priced food!

Terry had only one thing on his mind, though.

“Bread…” he muttered. “Bread… I need to see this freaking BREAD I’ve heard so much about…”

I actually didn’t give a crap about the bread, so I set off to look for the live chickens I’d been told the Garden Centre sells, and which I’ve been trying to persuade my in-laws to buy ever since, so I can gather eggs and pretend to be a farm girl when I go to visit them. (I was thinking a gingham dress, maybe? And an apron?) I couldn’t find them, so I headed back to Terry and found him standing next to the bread display, looking a bit like Dr. Bruce Banner in the seconds before he turns into the Incredible Hulk.

“Look. At. The. Prices.” he said, incredulously. “The bread… it’s SO EXPENSIVE!” And it was. And so was everything else in that food hall. I know, because Terry made me look at every single item of food they were selling, whilst speculating on how much he thought the same item would cost at the supermarket.

“Our families are being duped into buying overpriced bread!” he said, furious. “They must put something into the food in the restaurant. Something that makes people come back here again and again, and buy food at vastly inflated prices!”

So incensed was Terry by this, that I never did find those chickens, and Rubin didn’t get his dog treats, either. In fact, we had to drive straight from there to the supermarket, so Terry could calm himself down by looking at the prices of everything he’d seen in the garden centre and reassuring himself that HE WAS RIGHT and they were all cheaper in the supermarket.

And he was right.

They were all cheaper in the supermarket.

But it was a very nice garden centre…

P.S. I write a weekly diary which goes out every Friday to my subscribers. Sign up below to get on the list...

books by Amber Eve
  • Haha, this is so funny 🙂 I love reading your adventures, Amber!

    And totally agree on garden centres: no idea where all the fuss is about! I mean, spades? Flower bulbs? Even wheelbarrows? Not really impressed…

    Love your outfit!

    April 25, 2011
  • Urgh, I can’t stand gardening or the gardening centres that come with it. But for some reason that boy of mine likes plants! So sometimes we end up at the garden centre, and he buys a new pot or some plant nutrient food or some random thing like that.

    But then when we get to the counter the attendants turn to ME and ask if I’d like it in a bag! And I damn well tell them I’ve got NOTHING to do with these plants and there’s no way I’m going to be making sure they have nutrients! I guess it’s payback for when ladies go to hardware stores and people assume they should speak to the husband.

    April 25, 2011
  • I am in love with your skirt and your heels!
    Monique xx

    April 25, 2011
  • LOVE your outfit! Also, while I do enjoy gardening (but not mowing the lawn), I am perplexed at the garden centre. I mean, if it was a dedicated garden centre and all, why would it bother with selling food (that wasn’t already growing on plants)?

    I look forward to more of your adventures!

    April 25, 2011
  • Sandy


    The last few times I’ve been to our garden centre it was to get strawberry bon bons (the best ones apparently according to hubby) and my fave sloe wine…as it’s the only place that sells it.

    Fortunately too it has a Hobbycraft next door so what with wine and crafts I’m fine!

    We paved our garden and have one olive tree…(hardy devil for when we forget to water…I mean the droughts!) so the only garden tool I find I need is a large flat headed screwdriver to scrape out the moss from the flags every so often!! 🙂

    April 25, 2011
  • lila


    Ha Ha Ha, that is hilarious Amber..I was going to say I just go for the bread but really I just go for the scones, I freeze them, they are overpriced, but huge..I can just see Terry in shock at the prices!

    April 25, 2011
  • Rachel


    Dear Amber, this is the best example I could give of why you should keep on blogging this page!

    Without it I worry that we will forever lose the daily installments of life in the frozen North. The everyday story of a man, a dog, a woman, an awful lot of shoes (and occasionally visting extras such as neighbours, parcel companies and those who live in the loft).

    Be strong and have faith Amber – I am sure you will survive this current problem and one day look back and laugh at these futile attempts at McNaughtyness.


    April 25, 2011
    • Panthera


      Perfectly put! I second this post!

      April 26, 2011
  • You always make me laugh when reading your posts! You have such an amazing sense of humour! No matter what you’re writing about!
    And your outfit is perfect! I loved the first photo of the shoes!!!♥
    Lovely pictures!

    April 25, 2011
  • maz aka MallyMon


    What a lovely tale and outfit! But could I just mention that it is quite incorrect to equate ageing with a love of gardening and/or gardening centres. I am (a leetle bit) older than you and I have never wanted anything to do with gardening. I have at least three friends my age who make it their business to bore me senseless with tales of their exploits in not just their gardens but in their allotments as well!! (Two friends actually have their own gardens with greenhouses and an allotment too. Besides being greedy, it’s just totally unnecessary.) As to my own garden – least said soonest mended. ‘Get a man in’ is always my recommendation. Gardening centres are there simply as a social convenience in that I can meet up with friends and have a snack in the cafe. There’s no other reason for me to pay them a visit. The end.

    April 25, 2011
  • This had me wiping tears of mirth off my face. The image of Terry gazing mournfully at the overpriced bread was especially funny – maybe because this is just what I would do in the same situation! In fact, it’s kind of what I do in the food hall in Selfridge’s – £11 for a jar of marshmallow fluff? They sell that in Sainsbury’s! Hell, they sell it in TK Maxx!

    April 25, 2011
    • £3 for a loaf of bread! 🙂

      April 25, 2011
      • Panthera


        You would NOT like the bread prices here in Norway.. ;P ^ that is the normal price for a bread in one of our cheap local stores.
        I usually buy fresh baked bread from the more up scale supermarket for around 3.5£, while I’d have to pay around 4.5£ if I went to a bakery..

        (But then, a new console game in Norway costs 60£ and films cost 20£, while take-out pizza costs 25£ not counting soda or driving charge. High salaries means expensive goods..)

        April 26, 2011
    • They sell marshmallow fluff in your Sainsbury’s?!?! and your TK Maxx too?!?!

      April 26, 2011
        • They’ve never had it in my TK Maxx, don’t check that often, but I’ll have to start now! But Sainsbury’s definitely doesn’t. I just have to gorge every few years while in the US, never brought myself to buy the outrageous Selfridges prices. Ah, yes, of course! Does sound like a really good shopping basket actually.

          April 26, 2011
          • Alex, I’ve seen it by the till in TK Maxx in Coventry and also in Birmingham so have a look there. Also our local Sainsbury’s is a superstore so that might be why they have it, it’s certainly better than the prices in Selfridges! Terry, was that £3 loaf made of unicorn’s horn or something?!

            April 27, 2011
  • Hilarious! This post brings back all sort of memories. We used to go hang out at those when we had an allotment and buy all sorts of expensive non-gardening things. Now we have children garden centres are no fun to trail around. Possibly they weren’t much fun then either but I suppose they are the grown up version of Toys R Us.

    A shop full of floral pumps, dresses and accessorieswould be much more entertaining. There’s an idea for your home town!

    April 25, 2011
  • Panthera


    Oooh, so pretty! Now I want to go out and buy an A-shaped skirt with pockets!

    I love reading your stories, I love the way you write, and I could probably read a whole post where you describe poo, and still find it interesting and funny 😉

    I really hope you do find something to post about here from time to time, personally I’d love hearing more about how it was when you worked as a journalist or what you thought about the latest tv-series.. Really I just want you to write ;P

    Totally agree with you about the gardening stuff though. I want to some day buy an apartment to live in, because I don’t want to have to hassle with a garden (or more probably, pay someone to hassle with my garden). I don’t have an ounce of handiness in me..

    I would probably have bought a bread though, as I’m rather posh and quality-minded about food, preferring to shop at up-scale supermarkets and get expensive brands. Which, since I’m a student, is not good for our food budget..

    April 26, 2011
  • LOL! Oh, the little pleasures of life ^^

    April 26, 2011
  • diTaykan


    There’s a bit more to it than just this, but… mulch the whole thing, get a few nice, semi-hardy plants (preferably native to your climate so they’ll attract native butterflies and bees and such), maybe a few decorative pavestones and seats. Low-maintenance and it looks really nice.

    Granted, I’m in the midwestern US and can’t say for certain this would transfer to Scotland well.

    April 26, 2011
  • Haha, I loved reading this post! <3 Your outfit is absolutely beautiful.


    April 26, 2011
  • Amber,

    Your outfits inspire me, your articles make me laugh and your photos take my breath away.

    I am usually a silent admirer of your work, and this being my first comment on you blog I feel it comes late.

    Today I am here just to say that we will be always here for you, reading what you have to say in spite of an URL. Please never stop to write as we are not ready to let you go.

    If someday you have to open a new website named SoapWoman or Soupper-Woman and talk about soup or soap I bet almost every single person here still will be there for you.

    Love your blog, the good, the bad and all the things in between…


    April 26, 2011
  • Thank you, Amber, for making my first day back at work after a five day weekend, a little bit happier. For this made me laugh a WHOLE LOT!

    April 26, 2011
  • the shoes, the skirt, the top, your HAAAIIIRRRR! I want everythinnnnnngggg! 😛
    I love your style of writing Amber, it reads so easily, and is so funny. Please don’t neglect the wolf too much, as he will surely find a way to make you pay 😉 Mine did the other day (yes I have a wolf too, a 5 kilo one :P) as he decided to make confetti out of the Vogue magazine I had just treated myself to… and that I obviously never got to read. Leave the little beast for 5 minutes to buy some milk and he decides to “be creative” ….

    April 28, 2011
  • I was at my local garden centre yesterday and kept thinking “I have to let Amber know” because mine now even has features beyond bread and overpriced restaurant food, I was duly impressed:

    1) You can buy (ugly) handbags there
    2) You can buy paintings by the owner!
    3) They offer garden holidays to Mallorca and Madeira!
    4) and most impressive: YOU CAN GET MARRIED THERE!

    Now I’ve seen everything! I got a bad migraine when we got back, it was probably all a bit much for me …

    May 8, 2011
  • wow. you have amazing clothes. 🙂 LOVE this outfit!

    House of Shoes

    May 12, 2011