Alleyn Park Garden Centre

April Newsletter 2019

At the time of writing the weather is switching between balmy and blue skied or chilly and grey. At least it seems the storm force winds have finally left us. Phew! We hate that sort of wind here at the garden centre. It’s as drying as scorching sun, and tries to flatten the whole site.

With that in mind, it is definitely worth thoroughly checking your fences and trellis for damage. They may look ok now, but once they have the weight of growing plants against and up them, will they collapse? Time spent now on repairs will ensure you don’t have a horrible mess later in the season.

As you go around the perimeters, it’s worth ensuring that plant supports are in place where needed. We have a full range of our rusty supports in stock. These are attractive additions to the border before they disappear amongst new growth, and are brilliant to use with all sorts of perennials and shrubs. For instance, I use short ones to support my Sedums, tall ones for the Eryngium, and mid-sized ones to support the glorious Munstead Wood roses that tend to droop with the weight of the flowers. New in are some lovely black powder-coated metal trellis panels, obelisks and very clever downpipe trellis .

There are a couple of things I’d like to draw to your attention this month …

The first is peat free compost. While peat has been a main ingredient of garden compost for decades, there are concerns over the environmental impact of harvesting it. Peat bogs are home to important wildlife as well as being valuable carbon stores. We have started to replace all the compost we offer with peat free alternatives; a move we hope you will support.

Fortunately a lot of research has been done within the industry and there are now excellent peat free products available, such as Bathgate Champions Blend Peat Free, Dalefoot Wool Compost and Lakeland Gold, all of which are also now certified as organic by the Soil Association, and all of which we stock. If you haven’t tried them, please do; we’re confident you’ll love them as much as we do. Our intention is to phase out compost containing peat by the end of the year.

The second thing to mention also concerns environmental welfare – this time recyclable plastic. We’re delighted that our main supplier of bedding plants is making the transition to totally recyclable plastic pots and 6 pack trays. They are phasing out the polystyrene packs and black plastic (which can’t be ‘seen’ by recycling machinery) and replacing them with grey plastic made from Post Industrial Waste (PIW). These are kerbside recyclable where councils allow. It’s a major step in the right direction, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now … back to the plants ….

Have you noticed any gaps around the garden? We are filling the centre with lots of new stock, some from new suppliers which we are very excited about. Here are some highlights:

  • Flowering cherry trees – we have a range of ornamental cherries, with flower colours from white to deep pink, some with stunning bark and most with gorgeous autumn colour.
  • David Austin roses – The range of roses is as good as ever, with smaller and larger shrub roses, climbers and ramblers to bring colour and scent to your garden. Look out for the labels saying ‘suitable for shade’ if you can’t provide a really sunny position.
  • Herbaceous perennials - There’s a great range of perennials in stock, with more arriving every week. Of note are our 3 for £10 range of lupins, hollyhocks, poppies and foxgloves – get them in the ground soon to enjoy later in the year.
  • Bulbs – We still have a range of potted bulbs - use Alliums to bring height and drama, tulips to bring colour and elegance, Narcissi and Muscari for a hint of spring. (As an aside, I’ve just planted up a bed with Taxus (Yew) balls and Alliums. I can’t wait to see what it looks like once the yew has its new bright green growth and the alliums are in flower!)
  • Climbers - The range of colourful clematis in stock is excellent and we also have jasmines, honeysuckles, climbing hydrangeas, Solanum and more. There’s a climber to suit any position in your garden.
  • Bedding Pansies, Violas, Aubretia, Antirrhinum, Geranium, Petunia and even Lobelia are in now. Get those window boxes and hanging baskets planted up soon!
  • Herbs – The range is increasing every week. We have young plants in 9cm pots, priced at only £1.95, perfect for the kitchen windowsill or starting in a mixed container, as well as a range in 1ltr pots too. As the season continues we hope to get some larger specimens in.
  • Fruit trees and soft fruit – We’ve stocked a range of fruit to suit any garden, from cherry, plum, pear and apple trees to raspberries, blackberries and blueberries . If you only have space for fruit in pots, check for the patio size plants. Why not try some blueberries? We have a trio of varieties in a pack to prolong the fruiting season. There’s a good range of espaliers and fans: apples, pears, cherries and plums. These are so useful in a smaller garden, along the fence or wall, to give privacy around a terrace or as a divider half way down the garden.
  • Vegetables – We have trays of young vegetables ready to go, though we advise keeping a weather eye out in case of a late cold snap. Tomatoes are also slowly coming into stock, with the number of varieties increasing weekly.

Martyna is keeping the houseplant area well stocked with everything from tiny cacti to large cheese plants alongside a full range of pots, feeds and composts. She’s been busy making some lovely terrariums ready to go, or you can make your own with the help of her handy ‘how to’ sheet.

We have a fantastic range of pots and containers for both outside and in (including some fabulous hand-thrown old terracotta pots) and continue to carry some lovely items for your home including the faux flowers we mentioned last month, which are proving incredibly popular.

This is a busy time in the gardening calendar (as you’ll see from Sally’s Garden Jobs following). In the shop, tool area and brick sheds, you’ll find everything you need from spades and forks to pots, fertilisers, pest controls and watering cans.

It’s seed sowing time, and whether it’s vegetables or flowers you’re growing, we have propagators, seed trays, dibbers and seed compost to start them off, along with essentials for potting them on. New in is ‘Root Riot’, a nifty way of starting seeds or cuttings off and allowing you to plant them on with no root disturbance at all. Look out for fibre pots, wooden labels, as well as extra small trowels and forks to help when working with tiny seedlings. The range of vegetable seeds from Franchi allows you to try something different, Sarah Raven flower seeds are always colourful and Jekka’s herbs are a tasty range to try.

If your lawn is anything like mine, it will be in dire need of attention. A bag of Lawn Gold Classic will go a long way to restoring vitality and health, and if you need to re-seed any patches, we have several types of lawn seed, including ‘Mow Saver’ – a mix that requires less mowing, and is drought tolerant too. If all else fails, you can always order rolls of turf from us! Delivered direct to you, our suppliers cut the turf the day before delivery, ensuring you have the freshest possible grass to lay your new lawn.

I’ve avoided mentioning it until now, but you knew I’d have to say something before the end of this missive, didn’t you?! So … Brexit … how will it affect us as a garden centre?

On a recent visit to the garden centre, our representative from APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) advised that a no-deal Brexit would lead to two rather than one passport being required for plants we bring in from Italy or Spain - typically Olives, big shrubs, large herbs and mature trees. This would potentially add time, administration and cost to the process.

Wherever possible, as you know, we strive to buy as much UK grown stock as possible, so we hope the impact won’t be great.

We look forward to seeing you here at the garden centre soon.

Warm regards

Karen and the rest of the team

Garden jobs

Spring is such an uplifting season with gardens bursting into life as new leaves unfurl, sweet smelling blossom fills the air and borders are a riot of spring colour. I hope that you find some useful tips following which will help get your outside space into shape for the season ahead.

General garden maintenance

  • Although it feels unlikely, beware of late frosts which could damage young plants — have some horticultural fleece ready to cover up.
  • Tidy up beds and borders. As a minimum, get rid of weeds which take moisture and nutrients needed by your plants. Dig out perennial weeds, and hoe away young annual weeds before they have a chance to get going.
  • Tie in climbing and rambling roses and other climbers with string, ties or wire that won’t damage the growing stems. With climbing roses, tie the long stems as horizontally as possible which will encourage the plant to produce flowers all along the stem.
  • Feed roses and other shrubs with proprietary or general fertiliser. If necessary, start treating against blackspot and mildew with an appropriate spray such as Roseclear.
  • If you haven’t already, apply a good layer of organic mulch such as well-rotted manure or organic compost. This will help to retain moisture around plants, and the nutrients will gradually be pulled down to the roots by worms and other bugs. You can also use a straw or bark chipping mulch which will help to deter slugs and snails. Before applying any form of mulch, ensure the area is weed free and that the soil isn’t dry.
  • Place plant supports over and around tall perennials before they need them, for the plants to grow through.
  • Deadhead daffodils and other spring bulbs when the flowers have gone over, but let the leaves die down naturally. This will replenish the bulb’s energy to form next year’s flower. To help further, give the leaves a dousing of liquid fertiliser.

Container gardening

  • Top dress - Scrape the top layer of compost off containers and replace with fresh compost. If necessary, repot container plants, pruning roots and replanting in new compost.
  • Keep containers watered: wind and sun dry out compost quickly. Bigger containers retain water for longer so consider using a few larger pots rather than lots of little ones on your balcony or terrace.
  • Be imaginative. You can grow a wide range of plants in a container but it pays to be realistic. You will need to provide all the water and nutrients that the plants need and be prepared to re-pot them every few years. Why not try a pair of yew cones in matching pots, a beautiful alpine collection in a gritty well drained compost, a shady corner container with ferns, heuchera and begonia. Or a shorter lived seasonal mixed container of Euphorbia, viola, narcissi and cowslips - containers allow you to group plants which wouldn’t normally grow together, but will work in a container for a couple of months, after which you can plant them into the garden.


  • Prune early flowering Forsythia and Chaenomeles once they have finished flowering. Forsythia should have flowered stems cut back to a strong new sideshoot and a few of the oldest stems removed from the base.
  • Prune late flowering deciduous shrubs such as Hydrangeas and Buddleia if you haven’t done so already — prune hard back to a leaf shoot or stem.
  • Clip evergreen shrubs and hedges of Photinia, Prunus lusitanica, Hebes, Fatsia, Choisya and Mahonia, always to a point of well-placed lower growth.
  • Camellias can be tidied up once the flowers have finished or pruned quite hard if some renovation is needed.
  • Cut perennials such as Penstemons, Verbena bonariensis, Gaura and other summer flowerers to new shoots on last year's growth.
  • Trim lavender, especially if you didn’t in the autumn, cutting out old flower shoots, and shorten new shoots by 2cm.
  • This is a good time to divide established bamboo, if necessary.


  • ’Right plant, right place’ is good gardening advice. In general, this refers to light levels, soil type and moisture levels. There are very few plants which will perform in permanent shade and some which tolerate dry soil and sun all day, but many more are happy in sun or part-shade. Always read the label on a plant to check whether it will be happy in the space you plan to plant it.
  • Plant a tree — there’s something suitable for every garden, balcony, and terrace.
  • Mediterranean type plants such as Hebe, Ceanothus, Cistus, olive and lavender can be planted as the soil begins to warm up.
  • Plant out autumn sown sweet pea plants, or direct sow seeds outside.
  • Plant your new plants well — have a look at our Planting guide

Growing from seed

  • April is normally the month to begin seed sowing outside, but only once the temperatures have begun to rise. Carrots, beetroot, peas, broad beans, lettuce and spinach can all be sown directly into prepared drills. Always read the instructions on the seed packet.
  • With tender vegetables, the smaller the seed, the earlier it needs to be sown, so start off aubergines, chilli peppers and tomatoes as soon as you can — in seed trays in a greenhouse or on a windowsill.
  • Towards the end of the month and into May, larger seeds such as sweet corn, courgettes, squash, pumpkins and runner beans can be sown directly outside.
  • All tender vegetable seedlings should be hardened off before planting out and not put outside until the risk of frost has passed. A cold frame is invaluable for hardening off, if you have space.
  • Direct sow sunflowers, poppies, pot marigolds and other annual flowers.
  • Seeds will germinate more easily in a warm soil so it may be worth warming the soil before sowing or planting, with cloches, sheets of plastic or old carpet.

Fruit & Vegetables

  • Whatever size your vegetable plot is, it pays to plan. Use techniques of crop rotation (moving crops you grow each year from one area to another), successional growing (growing quick cropping plants such as lettuce or pea shoots at regular intervals) and intercropping (for example growing quick radishes or lettuce in between rows of sweetcorn or potatoes before they grow and block the light)
  • Sow quick maturing leaf crops at two week intervals to have a steady supply of cut and come again salad. Try lettuce, chard, beetroot, spinach, and any other favourites. Rows of seeds can be a centimetre apart, in a seed bed or in a grow bag or container.
  • When tomato seedlings have their first pair of true leaves, pot on into individual pots. Grow on in a bright spot and plant into their final growing positions once the first flowers turn yellow.
  • Thin carrot seedlings in the evening when there are fewer carrot flies around.
  • Feed soft fruit bushes and strawberries with a general fertilizer to encourage bumper crops.
  • Fruit bushes and trees can be planted, but pinch out flowers and small developing fruit in the first year so that the plant’s energy goes into building a strong root system.
  • Blueberries are a popular fruit to grow. Use ericaceous compost and ideally plant 2 or 3 plants, the same or different varieties, to maximise pollination and fruit.
  • Protect young brassicas and carrots from pests by covering crops with horticultural fleece.


  • Sow and plant new herbs to have a continued supply through the year ahead. Rocket, basil, coriander and dill and others can be sown at 2/3 week intervals.
  • If mint has been in the same container for more than a couple of years, empty it out, cut it into quarters and replant two quarters back-to-back in fresh soil/compost.


  • Work on the lawn now, to get it ready for the summer months. Spike compacted areas with an aerator, or a garden fork, and apply a fertiliser or top dressing.
  • Mow the lawn on dry days with the blades set high for the first few cuts.
  • Repair bumps and hollows in lawns by peeling back turf and adding or removing soil.
  • Spring lawn feed products contain moss killer, weed killer and fertiliser — follow the pack instructions for rate of application. It can be useful to divide the lawn and the fertiliser into two or four to make sure you don’t use too much in the first section.
  • After applying moss killer, rake out blackened moss and thatch 2 weeks later. Don’t worry — it will look worse before it gets better!
  • Sow lawn seed on bare patches, and water during dry spells.


  • Start feeding house plants as they start putting on new growth.
  • Repot houseplants which are outgrowing their current container.

Pests and diseases

  • Check emerging growth in the garden and guard against slugs which will happily feast on young and tender leaves and shoots.
  • Watch out for early insect attacks. Small infestations of aphids can be squashed by hand if you aren’t too squeamish. Watch out for Lily beetle, vine weevils and other infestations; remove and dispose of any you see, and treat with an appropriate insecticide.
  • If using an insecticide, use it wisely to avoid killing beneficial insects. Don’t use sprays if there is even a whisper of a breeze, because the insecticide will be carried. Ideally spray early morning or late evening when fewer flying insects are around.
  • Look out for blackspot on rose leaves and pick off affected leaves — early removal and control may eliminate the need for fungicide treatment.
  • Slugs dislike strong smelling plants, so try planting a selection of mint, chives, garlic, geraniums, foxgloves, lavender and fennel around the edge of your garden to deter them.


  • Keep bird feeders topped up. Position feeders where you can see them from the house, and ideally out of reach of neighbourhood cats.
  • Water is important for birds and other wildlife in the garden, so provide a saucer or bird bath which you top up daily, or think about a small pond.
  • Ensure birds are not nesting before pruning evergreen shrubs and hedges.
  • Sow or plant a wildflower area to help encourage beneficial insects to the garden.


The clocks have sprung forward and I’m already enjoying the lighter evenings. I hope you have an enjoyable month in your outside space.