Alleyn Park Garden Centre

December Newsletter 2018

Happy December, everyone! Hard to believe that another year is almost over. We’re really into the Christmas spirit here at the garden centre already. The place is looking and smelling very festive indeed. On Saturday 8th we’ll be adding the lovely scent of mulled wine to the mix - pop down and join us for a warming cup if you can.

Our first delivery of Christmas trees has arrived, so the site has been transformed into a pine forest again. If you haven’t ordered your tree already, why not come down and pick one out? All our trees come from sustainable stock, and are whittled down at the end of the trunk to fit your stand. You can take it away with you or we can deliver locally for a small charge (as long as it’s 6’ or taller). Of course you can order your tree by phone if you haven’t time to come and pick one out. All our trees are premium grade, so you won’t be disappointed!

Tamsin has returned as our in-house florist for the season, so part of the tool/houseplant shed has once again been transformed into something really rather wonderful … a cornucopia of vibrant berried stems, cut flowers, sparkly twigs, holly and ivy, and hand-made door wreaths.

If you’d like to have a go at making your own door wreath, we have all you need to do so. Choose from a range of base rings, including some that you can use year and year again, and then let your imagination run wild as to what to attach to it. Traditional? Contemporary? Natural foliage? You choose.

As always, Tamsin will be making bespoke cut-flower table or mantle decorations. You can pre-order and specify exactly what you want, ready for collection on your chosen day. Alternatively, what about a simple hand-tied bunch of flowers to put by your guest’s bed, in the bathroom or on the hall table? There will be some ‘ready to go’, but it’s always best to order what you want to avoid disappointment.

If you haven’t already seen our fantastic decorations, come in soon as they are disappearing fast … extraordinary, colourful hand-made felt tree decorations; gorgeous smoked glass baubles; stars to put on the top of your tree; fun and vibrant peacock and circus baubles and huge felt stockings, to name but a few. With prices starting at just 95p, there is something for every budget. We’ve gone to town with twinkling lights, including the fantastic ‘Starburst’ lights. Add even more twinkle to your home with glittering tealight holders.

A customer, Lucy, came in recently and said “We’ve been to Liberty this morning, and I can honestly say that your decorations are much nicer than theirs!”

Most of you know that we have lots of things that make ideal gifts and stocking fillers, ranging from hand carved pencils, to fabulous Felco secateurs (for the serious gardener); from luscious hand and lip balms to exquisite candles – be seduced by the scent of cinnamon and clove, fig, sandalwood and stem ginger. There are made-in-the-UK tools, watering cans and pet food tins, colourful twine and raffia, wonderful ‘Kneelo’ pads, and the extremely popular ‘Chilly’s’ drinks bottles, which keep cold drinks cold for 24 hours, and hot drinks hot for 12. If you’re still not sure what to get that gardener friend for Christmas, what about a voucher, so they can choose for themselves?

Of course, we are still very much a garden centre and there are plenty of plants and shrubs to be had … naked winter stems on the silver birches almost glow at dusk and vibrant Cornus (dogwood) add a splash of colour. For delicious scent there are stunning Mahonia, Lonicera ‘Winter Beauty’ (winter honeysuckle) and Daphne. Hellebore will flower through to spring, along with delicate Cyclamen, winter pansies and violas, and formal looking bay standards and Ilex balls.

If you want something growing inside your house, we have Amaryllis bulbs ready to plant now, in shades from palest cream, through vibrant red, to deepest black. There are also pots and baskets of Hyacinths and Narcissi Paperwhites, to bring their delicious scent into your home.

Of course, we still have a good selection of houseplants too!

And to keep you warm in this chilly weather, we have stocks of olive wood, kiln dried wood and hardwood for the fire. We’ll have a Kadai firepit lit here on colder days … do you have one at home yet? If not, we still have a few available.

All in all, you’ll be spoilt for choice if you visit us this festive season!

We very much hope to see you soon, but in case I miss you, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year.

With warm wishes to you and your family.

Karen and the team

PS December opening hours are:

9.30am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday, 10am – 4pm Sundays.

We will close at lunchtime on Christmas Eve, and reopen at 10am on Friday 4th January.

Garden jobs

So many things compete for our attention in December, but here are some worthwhile jobs to think about if you find time to be in the garden.

General garden maintenance

  • Check fences and trellis and repair as necessary.
  • Protect tender plants from cold temperatures, either by moving them to a sheltered spot or into a greenhouse, or by mulching and fleecing plants which can't be moved.
  • Put away outside furniture, pots, tools etc which you won't be using during the winter months.
  • Make sure climbers are tied in and trees are stable to protect against wind damage.
  • Have a look for pretty seed heads and cones to bring into the house, and holly and ivy for festive decorations. Stand holly in a bucket of water until you're ready to use it.

Frost and snow

  • If snow is forecast, tie up cordylines, conifers and other plants which may be damaged by the weight of snow.
  • When freezing temperatures are forecast, a ball left floating on the pond will leave an air hole. This is especially important if there are fish in the pond.
  • Frosts will improve the structure of previously dug soil, but take care not to walk on or work the soil when it is waterlogged as this will do more damage than good.
  • Frosts and freezing temperatures will help to kill off pests and disease, so enjoy the cold weather knowing it's doing good work outside.

Container gardening

  • It’s not too late to plant containers for winter interest. Skimmia, cyclamen, viola, pansies and trailing ivy will brighten up the view from inside, or welcome visitors to the front door.
  • Put a winter scented shrub such as Sarcococca or Daphne in a container which you walk pass regularly – the sweet scent will lift your spirits.
  • Reduce watering of container plants, but don’t let them dry out completely - remember that the rain won’t penetrate densely planted pots.
  • Move containers to a sheltered, dry spot, grouped together for mutual protection. Stand pots on feet or bricks to prevent water logging. Pots and plants are vulnerable to prolonged freezing temperatures. Wrap pots with bubble wrap, hessian or fleece to protect roots and prevent the pots cracking.
  • Bulbs can be planted in containers if you haven’t got round to it yet – they may flower a little later but they will still work. It’s a quick job!


  • Start to winter prune wisteria, cutting summer side shoots back to 2 or 3 buds.
  • Prune acers and vines where needed; if left longer into the winter months, they will bleed.
  • If ferns are looking a bit tatty, give them a Christmas haircut, close to the crown, just as the new growth is coming through. A drop of liquid fertiliser will give them a boost too.
  • Prune open grown apple and pear trees during the winter months, but not those trained against walls, which should be pruned in summer. Take time to check the pruning methods and needs of the fruit and form you are growing. There’s no hurry - this can be done right through the winter months.
  • Remove large unripe figs from trees, they won’t ripen now. Leave the tiny new fruits to develop next spring.
  • Prune tall bush roses, to reduce wind rock - tall branches catch the wind and can loosen the plant.


  • Plant deciduous trees and shrubs.
  • Think about some winter interest shrubs and plants to brighten up the coming months - the scent of Sarcococca - Christmas Box - is hard to beat, planted near a path or door. Hellebores planted now will soon start producing buds and flowers. Camellias, full of bud, will brighten any garden; brightly coloured dogwoods - Cornus - and other plants with attractive stems make a good addition to the winter garden.
  • Keep an eye on recently planted trees and shrubs to make sure they haven’t moved in the wind. Heel them in again if necessary
  • Finish planting tulips, alliums and other bulbs for colour in the spring.
  • Sow broad beans directly into the ground, but not if it's frozen or waterlogged.


  • Indoor bulbs such as hyacinths, narcissi and amaryllis will last longer if kept in cooler conditions of 13-15C. The same applies to indoor plants such as cyclamen, azalea and poinsettia - they don't appreciate central heating.
  • Once the heating is on houseplants may suffer. Spray foliage plants with a fine mister and think about grouping plants together to create their own microclimate, perhaps sitting them on a tray of gravel which be watered to increase the humidity.


  • Throughout the winter months, avoid walking on waterlogged or frozen grass.


  • Birds need regular supplies of food and water through the winter months, so keep the feeders topped up with high calorie offerings. In cold weather, keep the water supply fresh.
  • Now is a good time to clean out bird baths and feeders.

Gift lists

  • Write yourself a Christmas wish list. A new pair of secateurs or gloves, a special pot, a set of new tools…
  • Plants make lovely gifts - a Camellia, large or small, a deliciously scented Daphne, an Olive tree or shrub, a pot of scented narcissi, or an elegant amaryllis to grow - there are many options. For those without a garden, a houseplant could be the answer.
  • For new gardeners, a trug or flower pot filled with useful bits and pieces such as string, plant labels, a trowel and hand fork. There are lots of garden oriented ideas, which make really useful presents.

I wish you a peaceful Christmas season, and look forward to keeping you busy in 2019!