The Dame Judi Dench of garden centres

Tipping Point: Growing old gracefully is an art that many women haven't quite mastered, says Kathleen Harman. But she finds one old lady of Stockholm who has weathered the years with distinction.

One of my favourite pastimes during the summer months is to play the ‘mint sauce’ game. It is a bit bitchy but it’s lots of fun and doesn’t cost a single kronor.

Basically, all you need to do is position yourself next to a woman of a certain age, who is dressed inappropriately, usually in what appears to be her teenage daughter’s, or in some cases, granddaughter’s, clothes, and pretend to cough or clear your throat, whilst actually saying ‘mint sauce’, the traditional British accompaniment to roast lamb, under your breath.

This is a fairly easy game to play here in Stockholm. Whilst most women the world over live in mortal dread of committing the old ‘mutton dressed up as lamb’ faux pas, the more mature ladies of this fair city are cheerfully oblivious of such dress code restrictions, especially during the warmer weather.

Now, I will concede that it may be possible to get away with a mini skirt in one’s forties and onwards, if it is done in a sporty way. But it is fair to say that this is seldom the case – said mini skirt is usually accompanied by a halter neck or boob tube top in a highly flammable manmade fibre, usually exposing slightly more of a sagging crepey cleavage than innocent bystanders really need to see.

There is also the serious matter of the hair, usually an older woman’s crowing glory. However, in almost every instance of a ‘mint sauce’ score point, Stockholm Gran favours cave woman chic, which is the very long and very matted look. And it comes in one of two colours – either Polish blonde, the high peroxide content option, or dish water blonde, which is the Polish blonde option after a few months on a sun bed.

To an outsider’s eyes, these Stockholm doyennes do appear to be the epitome of what is known fairly bluntly as ‘old slappers’. This is a little unkind though, as these ladies are not predatory in the slightest – it’s just that they fail to realise that what might look fun and frisky on an eighteen year looks distinctly dodgy and desperate on a fifty three year old. Or perhaps they do realise and have actively chosen to grow old disgracefully, and if so, well, good luck to them, especially if they see the alternative as a pair of hearing-aid-beige, easy care, slip on slacks and those comfy lattice top shoes.

But if you do get all tired out with all that fake coughing and muttering under your breath, you must take yourself off to Rosendals Trädgård on the Djurgarden, for a lesson in how to age gracefully. Trust me, if Dame Judi Dench were a garden centre with a very nice café attached, she would be this one.

Now I realise that the image of a garden centre to many conjures up a fairly grim picture of uPVC sheds housing aisles of plastic garden gnomes and scary looking hose attachments, frequented by old ladies in those dreaded beige slip on slacks. But no, this establishment is home to gently decaying greenhouses, housing their own organically grown produce and a rather excellent café that serves up the aforementioned produce.

Seating is either in one of the greenhouses or out in the garden area but the whole experience is one of perfection – from the peeling paint to the little fairy lights dotted about, it manages to be a bit decrepit but effortlessly charming and delightful at the same time, a lesson that some of Stockholm’s residents may do well to take onboard.

Rosendals Trädgård, Djurgården

Points for Rosendals Trädgård

Tena Lady Moment 10/10

(a bit too overwhelming)

Kathleen Harman