I HAVE never fully subscribed to the Western cultural norm of shopping as recreation, but when it comes to garden centres, I have a strange obsession which cannot be sated.
I find myself deliberately diverting journeys so that we can pop for a shrub fix.
In fact, the garden centre "run" is rapidly becoming the only form of shopping I can tolerate. There's something profoundly relaxing about meandering between rows of plants and leaving with your favourites.
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Gardening is big business now, but I particularly love the little, independent, slightly down-at-heel centres with the apologetic cafes with plastic table-cloths and tired ceiling fans. I'm not alone in my plant fascination. This weekend, the vast Ingliston venue near Edinburgh will be given over to all things gardening and, to coincide, a new mag, Scottish Gardener, has cropped up (geddit), published by our good selves, to address the nation's blooming love (sorry, I'll stop now) for all things horticultural.
Indeed, since moving to a street of pristine gardens after years of sharing communal space, we have felt under increasing pressure to carry out some serious weed warfare. Following last summer's growth spurt, our home has been in danger of disappearing behind a foliage tangle.
Previously, my own approach to gardening could best be described as interior design outside. I'd buy fully formed, blooming specimens, place them in pretty pots and arrange them on the patio. Hard core grafting was something I avoided. However, last weekend, in a bid to pre-empt a neighbourhood petition, we decided to tame our borders. As I rolled up my sleeves for some vigorous weed-pulling, I recalled the only piece of gardening advice I can ever remember: "If in doubt, pull it out".
However, our weed blitz was hijacked by the interventions of Munchkin, who had his own mischief-seeking agenda, and the dog, who viewed the fact we had entered his patch as an open invitation for fun. As the sun set, the weeds enjoyed another stay of execution. Ah well, there's always this weekend. After all, when could watching a toddler gleefully "mow" the grass with a plastic lawn mower and then spend the best part of an hour watching the progress of a ladybird ever be described as time wasted.
I think that must be what is so compelling about gardening. It's not so much what we accomplish in a day. We love gardening because it presents us with the opportunity to lose time.