Alleyn Park Garden Centre

December Newsletter 2019

Wow, hasn’t this year flown by; it’s Christmas time already! To both new and existing customers, now is the time to come and enjoy a great experience at the garden centre.

We’d love it if you could join us to celebrate our 16th Christmas in business with a cup of mulled wine and a mince pie on Saturday 7th December, from noon onwards. It would be great to see you.

The site has been transformed into a forest with our first deliveries of Christmas trees – if you haven’t pre-ordered your tree, we can help you pick out a beautiful one; come down and have a look. All our trees come from sustainable stock, with trunks whittled down to fit your stand. Of course you can order your tree by phone if you haven’t time to come into the garden centre. All our trees are premium grade, so you won’t be disappointed.

We also have a lovely range of pot-grown trees in different sizes which are British grown and will last from year to year with a bit care, as long as they are kept inside for only a short amount of time.

Tamsin is here again as our in-house florist, transforming part of the houseplant shed with a lovely display of flowers, berries, holly, ivy, greenery, sparkly stems and more. Choose a bunch of stems to make your own arrangement or ask Tamsin to make one for you. If you want something specific, it’s a good idea to get an order in early so that she can ensure the right items are in stock. She can make formal arrangements or simple hand tied bunches. As mentioned in November’s newsletter, she is moving away from using ‘oasis’ (as it is single use plastic), and will instead be offering simple, elegant options. Tamsin can give you more details about this when you come in.

A selection of delightful hand-made door wreaths will be on display or you can order one specially in a style to suit you. If you’d rather make your own, you will find all you need from base rings of various types, to dried fruits, berries, ribbons and other ideas to create a traditional, modern or simple wreath. We have a small selection of artificial wreaths too, which will last you from one year to the next.

Come in soon to see our fabulous range of Christmas decorations. We have dramatic huge dark and silver baubles on long black velvet ribbons as well as extraordinary, colourful hand-made felt tree decorations, with new characters this year, also colourful glitzy peacock and circus glass baubles. We have stars to hang as well as a lovely range of baubles to choose from. We are again stocking very pretty strings of lights from local designer Melanie Porter, along with a new range of twinkling stars.

Most of you know that we have lots of things that make ideal gifts and stocking fillers, ranging from hand carved pencils which make ideal stocking fillers, to exquisite True Grace candles – be seduced by the scent of cinnamon and clove, fig, sandalwood and stem ginger.

We have colourful twine and raffia, wonderful ‘Kneelo’ pads, simple porcelain coffee cups and a big range of the extremely popular ‘Chilly’s’ drinks bottles, which keep cold drinks cold for 24 hours, and hot drinks hot for 12.

A new addition to our range, which we’re really delighted with, is Bramley hand and body care. Made in the UK and using only the purest botanicals and essential oils, the products themselves are really lovely, but just as importantly, the packaging is 100% recycled, recyclable or biodegradable. The bottles that feel like plastic are, in fact, made from sugar cane, so when empty are compostable. There are also glass bottles available.

For the serious gardener we have a fabulous range of Japanese pruning tools from Niwaki and Okatsune, to which we have added Bonsai scissors and topiary clippers. We have Haws watering can gift sets, hand crafted in the UK for 130 years. 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. Hellebores will flower through to spring, along with delicate Cyclamen, winter pansies and violas, and more formal bay and camellia standards and Ilex and Yew 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 great selection of houseplants and indoor pots, including dramatic black or gold Buddha heads.

To keep you warm in this chilly weather, we have stocks of olive wood, kiln dried wood and hardwood. 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!

One important point to mention is that in our continued quest to reduce plastic use we are phasing out our degradable plastic bags and single use smaller plastic bags. From spring 2020 we will no longer offer plastic bags in any form. But of course, we will have options …

We already sell basic jute, as well as string bags. We’ll soon have jute bags of similar proportions to our much-loved large branded degradable bag. It has taken ages to find a jute bag with the right credentials, but we’re delighted to have done so, and will be selling these soon.

We trust that you will support us in this move, and encourage you to always bring your own bags with you.

We very much hope to see you soon, and would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy Christmas and New Year.

With warm wishes

Robby, Karen and the team

PS December opening hours:

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

We will close at lunchtime on Christmas Eve, and reopen at 10am on Friday 3rd January.

January opening hours: 10am – 4pm every day.

Garden jobs

This isn’t a month when we plan much time in the garden but it’s good to get out there when the opportunity arises. Here are some jobs which might need doing.

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.
  • Sweep and wash patios and paths to create clean bright surfaces.
  • 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

  • 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.
  • If snow is forecast, tie up cordylines, phormiums, 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.

Container gardening

  • Have you got an empty pot, begging to be filled? It doesn’t take much time and effort to plant something to brighten the view from inside, or the approach to the front door to welcome seasonal visitors.
  • Choose an evergreen shrub such as Skimmia and under-plant with Cyclamen, Viola or Pansies. Winter flowering heather will give a splash of colour over the months ahead and provide nectar for pollinators when food is scarce, or try a Hellebore to give months of colour and leaf interest.
  • 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 waterlogging. 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 work. It’s a quick job and well worth a little effort.


  • Start to winter prune Wisteria, cutting summer side shoots back to 2 or 3 buds. Check our notes for guidance: Wisteria pruning
  • Prune Acers, birches (Betula) and vines where needed; if left longer into the winter months, they will bleed from the pruning cut.
  • 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.
  • Plant Hellebores which are raring to go with bud and flower in a wide range of colours; Camellias, full of bud, will brighten any garden; the scent of Sarcococca - Christmas Box - is hard to beat when planted near a path or door; brightly coloured dogwoods - Cornus - and other plants with attractive stems make a good addition to the winter garden. There are many winter interest shrubs and plants to brighten the cold months ahead.
  • For height in borders or containers try a Camellia standard, a berry laden holly or a classic bay tree.
  • 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.


  • 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 and Azalea - they don't appreciate central heating. Poinsettia hate draughts and cold rooms, and should be watered only when the compost feels dry, allowing it to drain before returning to a saucer or pot.
  • 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 can 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 (I love the Niwaki range) or gloves (the leather gauntlets are fantastic!), a special pot (the range of indoor pots is irresistible), hand cream and bubble bath (Bramley products are gorgeous) - I know what’s on my list!
  • 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 flower pot filled with useful bits and pieces such as string, plant labels, a trowel and hand fork can make a lovely gift. 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 2020!