"Gardeners" were a small demographic of knowledgeable experts catered to by the trade while it alienated the rest of the garden-owning public. Garden centres set out plants A-Z because customers knew the plant they wanted and needed to know where to find it.
Those gardeners were also savvy about design. The frameworks of their gardens were built from a palette of tried and tested trees and shrubs. To that framework a judicious touch of herbaceous planting added colour through the year, but structure came from those trees and shrubs, even if they didn't dazzle as individuals.
The problem with that golden era - of course, golden eras never really existed - was there just weren't very many of those savvy gardeners. Sometime in the 1980s we discovered that many millions of garden owners were intimidated by their local garden centres pandering to "experts" - all those Latin names - and we took aim at the big numbers.
These days most garden centres are good at retailing. They keep stocks low and turn them fast. With sympathy to the complete novice, they sell on impulse. Planterias are best stocked at times of peak footfall and with plants that do their thing at that time.
That's all well and good, but it means the gardening public plant their gardens with herbaceous plants that look great in March or April but probably don't do much in the height of summer. Shrubs, those plants so vital if a garden is to have structure, are not sold in anything like the volumes of the past.
It appears to make good sense - adjusting sales techniques to attract the big numbers. It is certainly easier than educating a garden owner to become a gardener and I see how it has happened. But I worry that our consumers will be totally satisfied with neither the products they take home nor the gardens they create.
Tim Edwards is chairman of Boningale Nurseries