I went shopping last night, not for plants, seeds or any other garden paraphernalia, I went ‘pretty’ shopping. I went to browse clothes, shiny trinkets and general frippery. I indulged in intoxicating fragrances, sprayed tester scents liberally and wrinkled my nose. As I wafted around I remembered I was running a little low on facial moisturiser, and as I was one of the optimum places for buying skin care products, Boots, I took advantage of this serendipitous moment. I headed to the No7 counter. After browsing the myriad of different moisturising products on offer and feeling thoroughly bamboozled by the range I decided to seek assistance from the nearby No7 lady. Once we had established my skin type as normal, just normal, not normal/dry or normal/oily or even combination, just plain normal, I was guided to the appropriate products. I impressed upon the sales lady my desire for a product with an SPF factor included as I spend the majority of my time either outside or in a greenhouse, and I believe it is essential that us outdoor types look after our skin.
The No7 lady stood me in front of a scary looking display of creams, the perfect and protect range.”What’s so special about these creams?” I ask, wincing at the price “I think I remember reading about them. Have they some wonder anti-wrinkle ingredient maybe?” I have to ask as no one likes to wrinkle. “Oh I don’t know, all this stuff goes over my head” replies the No7 lady gesticulating wildly, flailing her arms over her head. “I haven’t got a clue about it.” What!!!! Who in their right mind would try and sell you over fifty pounds worth of beauty products and tell you they know nothing about them. Madness, but bless, she calls over another assistant to help, this one looks at me coldly. “So you want to know the magic ingredient do you? If I tell you I would have to shoot you.” She stares out. Oh my giddy aunt!!! A No7 sales lady just threatened to kill me in Boots! Turns out she was bluffing. Good job I remembered, it was retinol, which seemed to jog their memories. The thing is I know that retinol is prescription only so any over the counter beauty products claiming to have this cell regenerating product in aren’t quite the real thing, they only have the smallest trace in, rendering them pretty ineffective. Also, skin treated with retinol can become very sensitive to sunlight, so don’t try and sell it to someone who has just told you they spend most of their life working in sunlight!!!
This scenario reminded me of another episode that occurred in L’occitane a few weeks prior. I was browsing fragrance as a potential gift for Mr Broccoli (he nearly got an old piano but that’s for another day). The manageress approached and asked if I would like a cup of herbal tea. Aha now your talking, yes please. Lemon verbena you say, why that’s my favourite, mmm I love that taste of sherbet lemons but how will I shop after such a relaxing tisane. I realise the nice lady has gone pale. “I am really worried about giving you this tea now” she said. The tea was horrible and I couldn’t help wrinkling my nose (I so need that wrinkle cream!) The tea tasted of old grass.”Hmm, not great ” I confessed.The manageress had already worked out that my initial enthusiastic response to lemon verbena tea hadn’t quite matched the response she had had from customers. She then asked if I would try the lemon verbena fragrance and I was delighted to discover the scent really did have that lemony zing so evocative of the herb, and they had an accurate photograph of the plant standing proudly nearby. What I couldn’t understand was why the beautiful packaging was labelled Verveine and Verbena with no mention of lemons. Vervaine is French for verbena but there are several verbenas; verbena bonariensis, trailing verbena, bedding verbena to name a few, but none of these smell as delicious as lemon verbena. L’Occitane, sort it out, you are selling a fragrance, be specific, it’s a scent worth shouting about, it’s gorgeous! Incidentally there is the blue flowered vervain. This is also a herb, doesn’t smell great and is often used to supplement the diet of horses, it is also a tea, this could explain the grassy flavour of the tea initially offered in the shop. A bit of a herbal mix up methinks.
But this got me thinking, retailers should really know their products, and to really know your product you must be passionate about it. Nurserymen, growers, gardeners, plant experts these are passionate people and that’s why plant fairs, shows and individual nurseries are the best places to shop for plants. The enthusiasm and advice so cheerfully given is invaluable. So this year why not support the experts, the passionate ones, the ones in the know and seek out some real garden treasures at the same time. Events for 2014 include Arley Hall in Cheshire who will be hosting a spring plant fair on Easter Sunday 20th April. A spectacular garden festival on Saturday 21st and sunday 22nd of June will be visited by Chris Beardshaw on the Sunday. For more info visit www.arleyhallandgardens.com/events Other fairs include www.flowerpowerfairs.co.uk or why not check out one of my favourite nurseries Lodge lane nurseries run by Sue Beesley www.bluebellcottage.co.uk
For anyone who may be interested I went with my usual facial products Clarins. I can’t resist them. Expensive? Yes, a bit, but sometimes a girl deserves a bit of luxury.