My weekend travels brought me to four very large garden centres. On Saturday we went to Johnstown Garden Centre near Naas now, with the M9, only a little over an hour’s journey from Waterford.  We went to meet with friends who use an Irish internet gardening site, It was a time to press the flesh of those we see for most of the year only in cyberspace, to catch up on news, to chat on gardening matters, to exchange plants and gifts and have a pleasant meal together.  Of course, as Johnstown Garden Centre is the best stocked garden centre that I know, it was also time to purchase a few new plants – something gardeners seem unable to resist and what harm is in that as we enjoy them so much.


However, I had another mission for the day: I wanted a new pair of kneepads. Yes, I had once imagined I wouldn’t be seen dead in the likes but a back which prefers not to bend has me working very often on my knees in the garden and there were several occasions when kneeling on a small pebble led to alarming bruising which ran from my knee to my ankle. Despite my doctor’s reassurance I determined to avoid such in future and have been wearing knee pads in the garden for the past few years and now need a new pair.



Johnstown Garden Centre had two kinds available but both were pads covered in nylon material in aubergine and cerise and I felt this would do little for my manly image which I cling to desperately as the years pass by. I felt it might bring me closer to the vivid pink body-clinging lycra outfits which my friend in New Zealand, Dave Toole, is famous for wearing as he treks the mountains there and while Dave does it with style and aplomb I just don’t have the confidence that I could pull it off. My search for manly kneepads was left for another time and opportunities arose far sooner that I had anticipated.

kneepads 5
No, not my colour!
kneepads 4
No, not for me!

On our return journey to Waterford we stopped in one of the country’s biggest garden centres though I believe their own title, “lifestyle centre”, is more accurate. We browsed the plant displays quickly as we had purchased already and there was nothing which caught our eye and then we went to the enormous indoor sales area where Christmas had not quite finished. There were displays of Christmas decorations and ornaments on sale, pots and pans, delph and cutlery, hats, scarves and coats, boots, shoes and socks, preserves, jams and sweet things and we eventually found the corner, the out of the way and quite small corner, where gardening requisites were displayed.  I don’t imagine the gardening corner took up more than 5% of the ground floor and what was on offer was very little and I found no kneepads. Garden centres have certainly changed and the emphasis has gone far away from gardening. As an aside, we had been impressed by the number of cars filling the carpark and then surprised that the sales area was not as busy as anticipated but realised that the restaurant was doing a busy trade.

More my style! 

Sunday had us in the Cork area to return our son to his college accommodation and it gave us the opportunity to search out the elusive kneepads once again. Our travels brought us to two garden centres, one proclaimed by the notice on the entrance as a Five Star establishment and the other a modern establishment on the outskirts of the city. The restaurants in both were busy; the displays of scented candles, fragrant soaps, bargain Christmas decorations, pots and garden ornaments were stacked almost sky high while the selection of plants was poor – though one had a colourful display of the new Ballerina primulas – and gardening requisites were difficult to find. And, again, I didn’t find my kneepads.

Kneepads 2
Would I look well in these? 

Yes, gardening centres have changed. The gardener is no longer the target market but instead those who wish to eat and adorn their house with ornaments.  I have no doubt but that the demands of running a business profitably determines the manner in which they have developed but I do wish that some more of them, in the manner of Johnstown Garden Centre, could hold on to what gave them existence in the first place – the plants and gardening items – while they continue with their necessary diversification.

kneepads 3
Or these? 

As for the kneepads, I think the local builders’ suppliers may be the place or the local DIY store. I bet there won’t be any aubergine or cerise there! Solid black and functional and not a whiff of scented candle or soap on them!

Paddy Tobin

The images above are all from – where there seems to be an endless range of kneepads and where I may purchase if I don’t find them nearer home. 

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