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Hi Phil - Just a note about the quote from my item on AtWaG.
I can't claim credit for being the first to use it, in fact I first heard it at a conference from the mouth of one of the trainers. He was trying to stimulate debate about the issues that Nurseries have in getting their plants merchandised effectively on the Garden Centre sales benches with a view to increased sales and less wastage.
That was at least 10 years ago - I've never forgotten the line because I do believe it encapsulates the problems that exist in plant retailing in Garden Centres and even more so in the 'Sheds'
I don't want to appear anti Garden Centre, although I am pro Nursery and pro customer. It's important that when the public buy plants they understand what goes on behind the scenes. It's all a bit like the debate in the UK about Farmers returns from supermarkets where the retailer seems to have an unfair advantage.
I look forward to hearing more views.....

Garden Centres can not be written off so quickly, but as the owner of a private garden open daily to the public (which has a rich and informative website as Philip knows), it is no surprise to me that visitor numbers are falling. Since it has been many years since I sourced a plant from a garden centre and the reasons for this are straightforward.
Garden centres have rather lost the plot over the years and the variety of plants offered is no better than some DIY shops which have more buying power.
When I want a plant or gardening equipment I don't wish to wade through crowded areas of glassware, pets corner, clothing, home-made crafts, fishing tackle, restaurant and coffee shop, conservatory furniture, fudge counters and the like before I can even reach a disappointing range of plants!
I tend to agree with Philip that GC's need to get back to basics, as otherwise they are the author's of their own demise. They certainly don't need longer opening.

I agree with Mike Gilmore. As someone with only a few years of gardening under her belt, I hadn't until recently realised the difference between garden centres and nurseries.

I have watched a popular, thriving local nursery turn into a popular, thriving garden centre, meaning a huge expansion in all the items that Mike mentions, and I hate the fact that, as you walk through the door, you're greeted, not by the smell of plants, but the intense synthetic aroma arising from gift soaps and the like.

I don't want soap. I want a wider variety of plants.

But, that apart, only since actually thinking about the quality of the plants I've bought - the lack of figs, the death of a cherry tree - have I twigged that all might not be well with the garden centre.

The result has been that when I needed a bramley this year I turned, for the first time, to a specialised nursery and now have a tree that, even without leaves, seems to be oozing vitality.

I used to look forward to a trip to the garden centre. Now it seems like a waste of time. And that extra hour or so on Sunday just isn't going to make the difference, to me or the merchandise.

Some great points made above by Richard, Mike and Helen and the consensus seems to be - give us a better choice of plants of the finest quality.

Helen describes a familiar scenario. The hot spots for the best selling products in the garden centre are the point of entry and the desire lines.

Just as a supermarket would put sweets at child height at the checkouts so that stressed out mums, would capitulate and buy a packet of sweets to pacify her child as she waits in line, garden centres are putting the sweet smelling oils and soaps in prime spots and leaving the plants deep inside the outside areas which are less inviting and glitzy.

Maybe, just maybe, garden centres are run by shop keepers now and they have little or no knowledge of the business in which they are in?

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