Green Fingers

A week or two ago, I found myself visiting a garden centre. Like you do. Except… I’ve never been in a garden centre quite like this one before. And unless your name’s either Percy Jackson or you’re a Winchester, there’s a good chance you haven’t either.

I’ll grant you that the very tail end of January isn’t the best time to visit a garden centre with its own nurseries. There were obviously lots of green things hidden behind screens, gearing up for the spring – but that wasn’t really the focus.

No. The focus was…

P rocking horse

… all the scary rocking horses.

Oh, and a frankly terrifying table:

P bear table

Seriously. Look at that table.


And that just about set the tone.

Well, that and the tangled heap of wheelchairs and pushchairs just inside the entrance to that particular shed. Were they there for visitors, I wondered… or were they all that remained of unwitting victims who’d met a sticky end while on the hunt for some begonias and a slice of cake in the cafe?

Speaking of which…

P snack booth

Uh-huh. Honestly, that’s one of the tables for the cafe. In there.


While you eat, you can listen to the slightly sinister bird-song piped through the whole garden centre (don’t ask me how it manages to be sinister. It just does, somehow. It’s a bit like the mist in the middle of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS) and you can gaze out at what can only be referred to as “PyroRhino”: an almost life-size bronze of a rhino, complete with gas can accessory.

Pyro Rhino

Or perhaps you’d prefer to take a moment to venture into one of the smaller sheds, where you’ll find a giant eagle swooping down on an alien band. Because REASONS.

P eagle and aliens

There was also a miniature Romany caravan, and a selection of reclining women with… shall we say “inadequate” clothing, as well as more animals and several temples.

I can’t even. I just can’t.

And in the middle of it all was an enormous, vaguely Wild West cactus garden:

P Cactus

I say “vaguely” because I’m not sure the two eight-foot tall bronze lions flanking it, nor the several life-size concrete dogs were really part of the whole Gold Rush. Nor was the twisty old olive tree, which must have been ancient, stuffed into a giant pot just out of shot.

The photos really don’t come close to doing it justice. Between the fact it was almost deserted, the creepy birdsong and the general air of… unease to the whole place, I was decidedly freaked out. But in a good way. Once you take a few minutes to adjust, you sort of sink into the crazy and go with it.

At the very back of the largest shed, there’s a heaped-up corner of sand and some benches (and a rusty speedboat in a tree. An actual speedboat. I was too startled to take a photo. And don’t even get me started on the rickshaw…) which is obviously used as a sandpit for visitors’ children.

As I passed, two women sitting on the bench (the only other people I’d seen so far, I should add) stopped talking, looked up and said: “Welcome to paradise.”

I didn’t run… but only just.


The Pumpkin Posse

Remember my pumpkins? Oh, stop smirking. These ones, which I was wittering on about a while back. Yes. Those ones.

Halloween’s been and gone, and you’ll be pleased to know that yes, those brave little pumpkins fulfilled their Halloween destiny. Meet the pumpkin posse:

Muscling in on the action, we have Jack. He’s big, he’s mean and boy, is he angry. (He came from Tesco. You can’t blame him, really)

Next up, Pinhead. He’s got an attitude that could only be described as spiky, and you don’t want to ask him what’s in the box.

And finally, there’s Mr Ouch. Poor Mr Ouch. He had a bit of a run-in with one of the kitchen knives and it’s not looking good for him. Or maybe he’s so sad because Small Boy has christened him “Dot”, for no apparent reason?

So there you go. Pumpkins: nutritious and evil. Round here, at least.

Who says Halloween’s just for the kids?

Cinderella’s Mechanic

… took a deep breath.

“Well, you see, it’s going to be a big job: yer front sprocket’s all blatted, and the wrank-splitter’s completely gone. Not to mention… well, it’s a pumpkin, innit? You’re not exactly giving me much to work with.”

I’ve been known to do the odd bit of gardening. When we moved in, our garden hadn’t been touched for years. I’m not exaggerating: there were tangles of thorns in there that would have sent even Prince Charming packing. It took most of a winter to dig out the borders (and we went through two saws and three garden forks in the process) but that was nothing–and I mean nothing–compared to my ongoing battle with the massed hordes of darkness.


The first year, I optimistically planted courgette seedlings in one of the borders, in groups between the shrubs. Gone in one night. Same happened with the broccoli and the brussels sprouts. I learned the error of my ways, and shifted to growing vegetables in pots, which I’ve done for three years now. Last year, we were inundated by cherry tomatoes and courgettes. Couldn’t move for them.

This year, the tomatoes have been surprisingly slow to get away, and the courgettes… well, the less said about them the better. The fig tree obviously approved of the weather, because it’s gone from giving us a combined harvest of 3 fruit over the last three years to somewhere near twenty this year. But the surprise of the summer has been the pumpkins, which have romped away (considering they’re in quite small containers).

Even if they’re a bit of an odd shape.

Not so much a glass coach as a Robin Reliant, is it? Still, it’ll look extra authentic with a candle in it come Halloween….