NOW, I never thought the day would come when I was excited about visiting B&Q, but following lockdown I found myself watching Beechgrove Garden, Love Your Garden, Gardener’s World, Garden Rescue... and decided my neglected garden needed a revamp.

However, adhering to the new shopping restrictions on chit-chat, distance and time in the store, my visit was a very different experience to the one I had had a couple of years ago at a beautiful countryside garden centre.

On arrival I was met at the front doors by what were obviously two new recruits. Both were sporting oversized green overalls with shiny new badges.

One read “Darren” and the other “Dean”. The pair stood upright as though they were changing the guard and seemed eager to assist.

In what was obviously an out-of-character posh voice Darren said: “Good morning. Can I help you?”

“Em, I hope so. I’m looking for a hoe.”

Darren glanced clueless at Dean.

Dean, meanwhile, stared wide-eyed in return as they shrugged their shoulders.

“I want to buy a hoe,” I repeated.

But I might as well have asked for it in Russian.

Dean eventually admitted: “We’ve just started work here, but our boss is an expert.”

The pair then led me through trees and shrubs to a greenhouse where we found an old-timer called Bert. An obvious veteran of gardening, Bert had tidy white hair, a cheery weather-beaten face and a big belly kept partially in place by his belt and braces.

Pinning all hope that Bert the Expert would understand my request, Darren put on his posh voice again and said: “Bert, this lady is looking for a hoe?”

“A hoe, my dear,” replied Bert the Expert.

“Certainly. What kind of hoe were you thinking about?”

It was now my turn to appear clueless.

“I didn’t realise there was more than one kind.”

“More than one kind?” Bert answered. “More than one kind?!”

He shook his head incredulously before continuing: “Let me run through a few different types.”

He then turned to his star pupils: “Right, lads, listen and learn.

“There’s an American hoe, which can be pointed, or a plough hoe.

“Then there’s a grub hoe, which is a hard-working hoe.

“And there is a winged weeder hoe, which is the superhero of hoes.”

Dean was somewhat bemused by this description as Bert continued relentlessly.

“You can also have a gooseneck hoe or a half-moon hoe, which are great for getting into tight spaces.”

Barely stopping for breath, he continued: “Now a swoe hoe is one of the most versatile hoes for weeding.”

Darren put his hand up as if he were still in the classroom: “Bert, what is a weed?”

Quick as a flash Bert replied: “It’s a wild undesirable plant that grows where it’s not wanted.”

“What makes it undesirable then?” the baffled newcomer asked.

“Listen and learn boys. Listen and learn,” said Bert, clearly wanting to showcase his unique knowledge of hoes.

“We also have a putter hoe – and before you ask, no, it’s nothing to do with golf,” he joked. “And also, a push hoe.”

“Is that for when you’re tired of pulling? Haha,” said Darren trying and failing to be funny.

Ignoring him, Bert the Expert went on: “We have a rogue hoe and a scuffle hoe, a Dutch hoe, a circle hoe and an Asian hoe.”

“Bloody hell, I’m going to be here all day!” I attempted to interrupt, but Bert simply took a deep breath and continued...

“Now, hooke’n’crooke hoe is more than just a hoe. It has a versatile six-inch blade and is especially good on rocks and clay.”

Dean was now finding it difficult to stand still on the same spot but continued to listen to his mentor.

“And then you have a fork hoe, which is perfect for moving mulch and cultivating the hard-packed soil.”

The dithery duo obviously had no clue what mulch was but nodded anyway.

“Now,” said Bert. “If you can’t decide if you need a fork or a hoe, you can’t go wrong with a spork hoe.”

Finally noticing my utter bewilderment, Bert assured me: “If you’re in any doubt, you can watch them on YouTube.”

YouTube! The duo beamed as they finally recognised a word from Bert’s mouth.

“Now, we don’t have it in stock, but I can order you a ninja onion hoe, if you would prefer?” Bert was back on a roll.

“A ninja oni...” I stuttered.

“Em, Bert, my garden is pretty small.”


“Well, we have a wide range of hand hoes...” Bert was off again like an express train.

“A Japanese hand hoe, a scuffle hand hoe...”

“Bert. Bert.” I pointed to a familiar-looking item. Ignoring me, the old-timer turned to his two proteges.

“One thing to always remember lads. If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need in life.”

As I studied the two blank faces in front of me, I very much doubted they had either!