We rather try to keep away from the garden centre these days, it's too easy to get beguiled into spending lots of money on unnecessary and often unsuitable new plants, when really looking after and propagating the one's we've already got is more important and less expensive. And there's the danger of depression arising from the inevitable disconnect between the glossy, brilliant, larger-and-more-colourful-than-life nursery and greenhouse raised specimens they dangle before you and the scruffy, demanding and often problematic reality of actual gardening here. However, since Tom has done heroic work ridding the azalea bed of creeping buttercup, couch grass, chickweed and the like, if his labours were not to be in vain we really did need some more bark mulch, so off to La Domaine des Fleurs we went.
And it is a seductive and enjoyable experience, as you walk in, channelled past the orchids and other exotica, into vast the perspex roofed area where all the bedding plants are. It is open on one side to the air, but on a nice day warm from the sun, and there is always a balmy mist rising from the brick floor and the constant watering. And they always cannily put the most fragrant plants right by the entrance, at this time of year these are the stargazer lilies.
We were a total and rapid pushover, and as well as our bark mulch, some modest French marigolds and a couple of small rosemary plants - we'd grown fed up with the coarse, woody old rosemary bush bullying everything around it and chopped it down, but I grieved at Easter when there was none for the roast lamb, and I won't be doing with dried - we carried home a couple of pots of the big maroon-pink orientals.
In fact they didn't cost us any more than a single bouquet of them cut from the florists, will last considerably longer, even if they only do one season, and they have more than sung for their supper already, since Tom planted them in the big terrace tubs ting them to the tree peonies, which are only just emerging into leaf, as supports (and with a few of the marigolds round the bottom - we don't care about clashes, and love red and pink and orange together, so there!)
Instant height and colour, and the most opulent, almost pungent perfume ever, that envelopes us every time we cross the terrace. They need plenty of room for this; in fact I'm not a great fan of them as cut flowers since in a confined space it can be too much. I once ate in a pub restaurant where there was a bunch of them on the windowsill behind me and truly they quite put me off my food, but in the garden just now, between the complementary notes of the remaining berberis hedge and the wallflowers, they are pure pleasure.
They also seem to change colour with the time of day, from quite pink in the height of the day to wine to purple when the sun is lower, though the camera has trouble conveying this. Like everything else on that side of the house, they look best in the early morning.
Well worth the trip and the money, and that was only half the fun I had on Sunday.