I’d heard that Carpenters garden centre in Sandridge had been renovated recently and wanted to go and see for myself. It’s quiet and peaceful before the weekend rush and that time of year when nature bursts back into life.
The warm steady sunlight shines on the clusters of mauve and pink hydrangeas. The scent of lavender and slow buzz of bees leads me to the Mount Fuji cherry tree, rich with light pink blossom. Blackcurrant and raspberry plants are perfectly cut back and ready to bear fruit. The peachy shades of roses are named Lady Marmalade and the luminous yellow, Golden wishes.
The exquisitely tall and slender Lupin Charlelaine goes straight into my trolley. It’s exotic purple and white colours and small seashell petals tapered into a peak draw me in. It has a beanstalk quality to it and contrasts with the stout thick shiny leaves of the camellia plant in front of it.
I stop at the herb garden. The scent of the dark basil leaves holds childhood memories of watching my mother cooking, snapping off several leaves from one of the fresh plants by the window sill, rinsing then tossing them into a large pot of ragu sauce.
I walk inside to a beautiful central display of indoor plants surrounded by useful things like garden tools compost and charcoaI. I spot an entire wall covered with old family photos and linger; so many memories seem tied in with the business giving customers its spirit and ethos; my favourite is of several children larking about and climbing over a huge tractor.
The farm shop has been refurbished, is more spacious and has a gluten-free section. The produce is freshly picked and not prepackaged or shipped from overseas. Buying produce from local growers is clearly better for the environment and gives shoppers a sense of belonging and community spirit.
I am drawn to the fresh and wholesome breads. Then there are the large slabs of ginger, lemon and orange sponge cakes on offer at 3 for £8, I am seduced and pop them in my basket along with a jar of tomato and chilli chutney and marmite popcorn.
As a city-dweller, looking at some of these organic vegetables in their raw state I frankly wouldn’t even know how to prepare them, like marrow, chard and celeriac!
The assistant tells me that Carpenters was established in 1923 and that over ten acres of land is dedicated to growing vegetables and flowers. He also mentions the ‘tips and recipes’ link on their website, offering advice from how to grow dahlias to listing a choice of healthy and delicious recipes like spicy cauliflower and almond soup.
My next visit will involve a full English breakfast in the brand new restaurant The Potting Shed. I’m told it’s very popular and that I’ll need to book!
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