Masterplanner urges garden centres to focus on plants

Garden centres must move plants to the fore and not be replicas of John Lewis stores, says masterplanner Malcolm Scott.

Scott said he was trying to create a 21st century garden centre as opposed to borrowing from stores such as John Lewis or Ikea.

If centres do not bring plants forward, he added: "We are going to lose customer base and the wonderful uniqueness of gardening and plants' seasonality."

Scott said: "For years we've been trying to create a 21st century style for garden centres. Thirty years ago Hurrans and Hillier built glasshouses with glass roofs that let in light and rain and were not too deep, so you were never far from plants. Twenty years ago we moved to garden structures that don't let light in and were deeper, with solid roofs."

Now plush carpets rather than supermarket shopfittings at new stores such as Dobbies, Van Hage and Webbs are producing horticultural environments with a "feeling less to do with gardening".

He added: "It's a really important concept the larger garden centres need to understand and embrace if they are to survive and thrive.

"The smaller garden centres and retail nurseries - which already have a plant and garden dominance by a function of their business orientation - are okay. The big threat comes to the large garden centres, which continuously build larger and larger extensions to their covered heated sales environment with the result that the plants get pushed farther and farther from the entrance."

Scott explained that his new Eden Project-style "Live Nature" geodesic dome at Hayes Garden World in Ambleside, Cumbria, was a "halfway house" towards the new type of centre.

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