Walking in the sunlight past the gates of Carpenters garden centre, I feel as if I’ve discovered one of St Albans best kept secrets. The small scale makes it feel private and a pleasure to explore. There’s an inherent sense of order; rows upon rows of shrubbery, bedding plants, perennials, rose bushes, and mini olive trees frame the outer perimeter. Each section is neatly labelled and displayed.

 I continue along the path and look up at the hanging baskets arranged along the bungalow shop at the perfect height for customers to have a good look. They’re packed with pansies in full bloom, bathed in the warm light of this mid-summer afternoon and awash with rich colours.

 At the centre is a working greenhouse. Customers aren’t allowed in so I peer curiously into the murky window. Inside, it is in disarray filled with upturned pots, trowels, watering cans and little plants all over the place. I like that, it feels real and makes you want to go in and get your hands dirty.

 I make my way towards the vegetable section and marvel at the at the huge aubergine plants; it’s amazing to see how things grow and I linger to look at the dark veins running through their leaves. Beside them are some chilli plants, each bright red chilli is still small and has it’s own unique shape.

 Curious to see more, I step inside the shop; the shelves are tidy and carefully displayed; there are umbrellas, doormats, garden gloves and wellies. Further in are organic vegetable soaps, hand creams and aromatherapy candles, I love the minimal packaging and close my eyes as I take in their natural scent.

 It feels like a family business, old fashioned and spacious and the shelves aren’t crammed with products to maximise sales; there are barely any sales assistants around and as a customer, I feel free to explore my surroundings.

Over to the side is a mini grocery store divided into two areas. Huge ripe organic vegetables are stacked and displayed neatly. It feels as if the dark colours have been amplified in their freshness and vitality. The fruit is displayed with precision, just looking at the bright oranges, lemons and limes feels energizing.  Supermarket fruit and veg seem drab and lack-lustre by comparison. I buy a thick bundle of greens crisp and deep in colour, along with some organic beef tomatoes and a bunch of dark orange carrots, then head home to make a magnificent vegetable soup!