Working in horticulture for most of my life, I have always felt that because I worked so close with plants, and within the plant kingdom, in a way it made me a guardian of that world. I strongly believe, as do many of my colleagues in the industry that it is our responsibility to do everything we can to support and protect the green world, especially in this modern age of destruction
Yesterday, I paid a visit back to my horticultural past and visited the large garden centre I worked at for the first time in 13 years. It’s a place I feel is a very large part of me and it played such a big role in my life through my 20’s and 30’s.
I must admit I loved the place, and I think it’s for that reason I spent such a long period working there, it certainly holds a very large place in my heart, and one of the reasons I think it’s been such a long time since I have been there, is due to the fact that leaving it was very difficult for me, it is indeed a very special and precious part of my life.
To get the full picture, I should say that it was a small place when I first went there, set at the bottom of a deep valley, in a very beautiful rural setting, it was edged on two sides by a river and the car park broke past the boundaries into a wide open landscape of wild flower meadows of outstanding beauty. I remember well arriving very early in the mornings and listening to the birds all over the place singing, you really could not have asked for a more wonderful welcome to your working day. I always thought that set in the centre of what is a country park, It was the perfect complement and a tribute to the surrounding area.
The centre itself was like a colourful jewel set against the backdrop of lush green from the meadows and the trees, as most of the garden centre was planted like a huge private garden, for any gardener it really was a very magical place, for myself with my ever growing love of the plant kingdom it was paradise, and a place where my own learning took a huge learning curve, as I was given the space to grow anything and everything and work it into the lavishly landscaped surroundings. I loved the place with all my heart and I loved being there, much to the annoyance of my partner at the time, as it was rare I worked less than seventy hours in a week.
I have and always will be deeply proud to be known as a horticulturalist, pride in my work to me is without doubt one of the most important qualities of who I am, and over the years I worked there, I stamped my mark well and truly all over the place, working with some of the most professional colleagues that I have ever had the privilege to work with. We were one of the best working teams in the country priding ourselves on creating the most awe inspiring displays of planted flower beds, which were accompanied by wide paving that had row upon row of the potted plants from each bed available for the customers at the highest quality. I have never been in another place that has beat us at making the garden in Garden centre really carry its truest meaning, it’s what set us apart from the mass designer rows of concrete and craft filled shops and DIY outlets at that time. I loved the fact that when the customers came in, we presented them with a completely different model of how the business should be presented, and because our setup was so unique, it did attract a lot of customers, in my time alone the customer base rose tenfold from when I first started there.
Change for change sake is not a good thing; it is my biggest argument with the world as I age. I deeply believe being unique and original is what makes the world such a wonderful place to live in, it has defined our past as those who chose not to follow the crowd made sweeping advances in every walk of our history, and it does appear to me that as we progress in the future of what is our time of modern man, we are starting to become more and more like clones of each other in the way we build the world. I have always shied away from the current trends, I see the world with truly inspirational leaders who are rare, who are followed by those who want to be like them, I think that is quite an accurate portrayal of many, and a great deal of my love of nature is precisely because even though it replicates itself, no two places are ever the same, it is the greatest wonder of the natural world.
Yesterday as I walked through the place that was once the most inspiring jewel of my working life, I think my heart broke a little. What was once a lavish, colourful and magical tribute to nature and the plant kingdom, is now a concrete replica of any other garden centre anywhere else in this country. It has become a clone like all the other followers of the trend and as the manager told me. “You cannot stop progress Rob.” I question very much whether what I saw was indeed progress?
The magnificent mature Cedar’s and weeping Larch are no more, the flowering cherries that grew at over two feet at the base and towered in the air like giant candy floss, shedding their blossom in every shade of pink and white in a gentle rain on me as I worked, have been bulldozed away, and there is exactly one 6×6 foot flower bed. Nothing is grown on site, and everything is bought in adding to the same bland choice of plants dictated by the growers in Holland, it truly was heart wrenching to see something so uniquely beautiful destroyed with such a massive lack of respect, and for what reason?
It is the age old reason of man, Money. Am I only one who does not understand why we must worship money so much? I am realistic, I know in these modern days we all need it to live, but must we be so careless and destructive to acquire it. I feel today like one of the most important times in my life has been completely erased for nothing more than if it looks big people will come and spend money, and the foolish thing I felt walking round, was how on such a gloriously hot sunny day in May how quiet the place was. Back in my day the staff on days like that would have been working full tilt to keep everything stocked up, and the place would have been buzzing with gardeners who were delighted at the row upon row of differing varieties of high quality plants. I very much doubt there was one quarter of what was once stocked there yesterday.
It’s so sad, and yet another reminder of the arrogance and greed of Mason Knox, and I always thought I was writing fantasy…. I wonder now if I am.
(Out of respect I have not included pictures or the name of the centre)