Alleyn Park Garden Centre

January Newsletter 2019

I hope you’ve had a good break over Christmas and New Year, and are now ready for the next gardening year! Have any of you stuck to your new year’s resolutions? If one of them is to continue to avoid using plastic wherever possible, I have some good news for you.

Last year I started to use waxed cotton squares instead of clingfilm to wrap and cover food. I quickly fell in love with the idea, but was slightly disappointed by the fact that it didn’t stick as well as clingfilm.

I was therefore delighted to discover a company at a trade show recently who have improved on the wraps I’ve been using by adding a magic ingredient to create that stickiness – pine resin. I took some samples away to try out and, frankly, I can’t praise them enough! Made from organic cotton, UK beeswax, jojoba oil and – importantly - pine resin, these wraps keep food super fresh without leeching chemicals into your food and without damaging the planet. They will last at least a year, are easily cleaned, and can be put on your compost heap when they do finally reach the end of their life. They are made by Carly and Fran, two young women who live in the Cotswolds and are committed to helping us all become plastic free. I’m sure you’ll love them as much as I do, and will soon be saying goodbye to clingfilm for good too.

After the generally mild winter we’ve had so far (at the time of writing we are feeling the first really cold snap, so you may be reading this wondering what on earth I’m on about!) I find myself constantly amazed by the signs of spring that are all about. The fat glossy buds on Camellias and the furry little buds on Magnolias hold much promise. Delicate snow drops are opening, along with many other bulbs too. All these tiny signs reassure us that it won’t be too long before we can fully enjoy our gardens and open spaces again.

Having cleared so much of our plant stock before Christmas, it’s lovely to see the centre filling up again. Some of the highlights are:

BULBS. If you forgot, or didn’t have time, to plant bulbs for early spring colour, you need not fear … we’ve got pots of crocus, narcissi, iris reticulata, snowdrops, scilla, fritillaria, bluebells, tulips and alliums, so you can ‘cheat’ and plant them now. There will be plenty more coming in over the following few weeks.

Some of the bulbs are available in 6 packs, making it easy to quickly add a splash of spring colour anywhere you want to.

PLANTS, SHRUBS, TREES, & CLIMBERS. We have sweet smelling Daphne and Sarcococca, Hamamelis, Cornus, Prunus Kojo-no-mai, Pittosporum, Choisya, Clematis, and Star Jasmin. There are some astounding Hellebores, as well as beautiful Heucheras and ferns. You’ll be amazed at how much is looking really good for the time of year.

With the disappointment many of us have suffered with our box topiary and hedges, we are now stocking Taxus baccata (Yew) as an excellent alternative. In various shapes and sizes, this traditional evergreen is gaining popularity as a simple-to-maintain evergreen backbone. We will still continue to stock Buxus (Box) too.

We have some great 6 packs of mixed small herbaceous perennials, which are colour themed … ‘cool shades’, ‘hot shades’ and ‘pink shades’. This is a great (and very economical) way to plant up a new border or add to an existing one.

Towards the end of February we’ll be getting in much more plant stock, including fruit trees, herbaceous perennials, herbs and shrubs.

SEEDS & GROW-YOUR-OWN ITEMS. We all love it here when the first seeds come in, as nothing quite captures the magic of gardening as they do! A packet of tiny seeds becomes a swathe of glorious flowers (or delicious vegetables) in just a few short months. You’ll see the 3 separate seed stands we have in the shop – one for vegetables, one for flowers and a smaller one for herbs. In order to encourage your little ones to become interested in gardening, why not try one of the packs specifically designed to be easy and give quick results? The ‘Little Gardener’ boxes include seeds, pot and compost, and easy to follow instructions.

We also have propagators, pots (including coir), root trainers (ideal for sweet peas), labels and everything else you need to successfully get started on growing your own.

COMPOST & MULCH. We have a full range of composts in stock to kick the season off, including seed and cutting compost, John Innes, farmyard manure, various sizes of multi-purpose, wool compost, as well as potting grit, Strulch and decorative bark. Digging in plenty of manure, along with grit, is the best way to condition our London clay soil, and well worth doing before you start planting beds or vegetable patches.

PEST CONTROL. There may not be any evidence of pests yet, but you know that the moment the weather warms up we’ll be at war with them again. Be armed and ready this year! Tradition has it that Valentine’s Day is the right time to scatter slug killer for the first time in the year. Do so sparingly, and the emerging slugs and snails will be killed and therefore not reproduce, dramatically reducing the overall population in your garden. After that, we recommend using organic products wherever possible, that won’t contaminate the soil or harm other wildlife. We have a range in the shop that you spray directly onto the leaves of your plants, which is shown to dramatically reduce slug and snail damage, but is totally safe for the environment, wildlife, pets and humans. I’ve been trying to garden as organically as possible for a few years now, and find that good old fashioned beer traps work a treat too (though unfortunately Hostas and lettuces are clearly even more delicious than beer!)

Box caterpillar/moth decimated great tracts of Buxus (Box) plants in our area last year. It was heart-breaking to see how quickly these lovely shrubs were destroyed. The moths will remain dormant until about March/April, but once active again it won’t be long before they cause yet more havoc. A pheromone trap has been developed and patented in collaboration with the INRA institute as part of the ‘Save Buxus’ project, and has been shown to be highly effective. Buxatrap covers an area of 180m3 and is in stock now. As it is a trap rather than a chemical spray, it won’t harm other wildlife … a big plus.

WILDLIFE. The most natural form of pest control is our native birds. You can encourage them into your garden in a variety of ways, and it really does pay dividends to do so. Not only will your slug, snail and caterpillar problem be reduced, but you’ll have the pleasure of watching our feathered friends too. Keep your feeders topped up, ensure there is water available, and you’ll be rewarded. Now is the time the birds are starting to look for somewhere to nest, so if you put a nesting box up you might have the added delight this spring of watching youngsters being fed and then later on taking their first flight. Our range of award winning contemporary feeders and nesting boxes are stunning, and an alternative to the more traditional ranges we continue to stock if you prefer a sleeker look.

Of course there are many beneficial insects and bees that we should encourage into our gardens as well, and you can do so by having an insect ‘house’ in your green space, and by ensuring you incorporate insect- and bee-friendly plants in your garden.

FIREWOOD AND KINDLING. You’ll be pleased to know we still have a plentiful supply of wood, kindling and firelighters.

In the shop:

We have Chilly’s bottles back in stock. Did you know that not only are they brilliant at keeping cold drinks cold, but also at keeping hot drinks (or soup) hot?

The range of fine China mugs brought in at the back end of last year have been popular; particularly those with illustrations of birds.

The houseplant area is starting to fill up again with a lovely range of plants which will continue to increase as the weather warms up.

Finally, another new range will be in stock by the end of February … faux flowers. I have gone from absolutely hating fake flowers to really loving them! This is due to the dramatic improvement in the quality now produced, and also the realisation that adding truly realistic faux flowers to a vase containing real ones can create a stunning display at a fraction of the cost. After all, the faux flowers will last years and years. Come in and see if you can be convinced.

Keep warm, and I hope to see you at the garden centre very soon.

Warm regards


Garden jobs

Winter isn't a time when we’re tempted outside too much, but there are lots of jobs to get on with if you find time on a dry day. I hope that this February is kinder than last year, I’m dreaming of crisp days with blue sky and sunshine – is that unrealistic?!

General garden maintenance

  • A couple of things to remember
  • - Walking on lawns when they are frosted or wet will damage the grass. If you need to access beds and borders to work, lay planks to walk on.
  • - Frosts improve the structure of previously dug soil, but take care not to walk on or work the soil when it is waterlogged - you will do more damage than good.
  • On the subject of lawns, if yours is looking tired and in need of a boost, use a winter lawn product.
  • Weeds start growing before almost anything else - knock them out as soon as you spot them, as it’s much easier to get rid of them before they have a chance to establish. Perennial weeds should be dug out with as much of their roots as possible, or treated with a systemic weed killer as soon new leaves appear.
  • Check protective fleeces and wrappings around plants and pots; ensure stakes, fences and gutters are secure, and that the garden is tidy, with nothing lying around which could be picked up by strong winds and cause damage.
  • Cut back the old foliage from ornamental grasses before growth begins, clipping them to within a few centimetres of the ground, but leaving a protective ‘mound’ at the core if it is a large specimen.
  • If snow is forecast, tie up Cordylines, conifers and other plants which may be damaged by the weight of snow.
  • Protect the developing core of tree ferns with old fronds or straw.
  • Remove old leaves from Hellebores to make the new blooms more visible as they emerge.
  • Spread organic matter, well rotted manure or organic compost, as a surface layer over beds. If you lay it on top as a mulch, the rain and worms will gradually pull the nutrients down into the soil.
  • Clear out the shed or storage cupboard, checking over tools and equipment to make sure they are all clean and in working order. Get rid of any chemicals and fertilisers which have been lying around for a long time. These materials should be taken to your local authority waste site for safe disposal.
  • Deadhead winter bedding plants such as cyclamen and pansies, remove any diseased leaves and remember to water them: lack of watering can cause mildew.

Container gardening

  • Wash empty pots by scrubbing them with hot water and a mild detergent. Rinse them well afterwards.
  • Wrap non-frost proof pots in bubble wrap or hessian to help prevent cracking. Group pots together in a sheltered south facing spot.
  • Protect tender plants either by bringing them into the greenhouse or conservatory when a cold snap is forecast, or by wrapping them in horticultural fleece.
  • Plant up a few pots with spring bulbs and bedding to brighten the view from indoors.
  • When pots of bulbs have finished flowering, deadhead, feed with a foliar feed and plant them out in the garden to enjoy again next year and free up the pot for summer displays.
  • Remember to water planted containers, it’s easy to forget in cold weather.


  • Finish pruning deciduous trees, if needed, to keep them in shape. Be prepared to seal the wood with an appropriate sealant.
  • Give Wisteria its winter prune by cutting back the current seasons growth to within two or three buds of the older wood. See our notes on Wisteria Pruning .
  • Finish pruning apple and pear trees, gooseberries, red and blackcurrants. Prune autumn fruiting raspberries, cutting each cane right down to the ground.
  • Cut back Group 3 Clematis – the late flowering ones which flower on the current year’s growth e.g. Etoile Violette, Jackmanii, Gravetye Beauty – to the lowest pair of strong buds, at about knee height, 30cm above the ground.
  • Prune summer flowering deciduous shrubs such as Buddleja, Caryopteris, hardy fuchsias, Santolina and others. These can generally be pruned very hard, almost to the ground leaving a few buds or shoots on each stem. If you want to increase the size of the shrubs, leave a few stems on and prune these lightly.
  • Hydrangea paniculata can be pruned hard now. Other types of Hydrangea, including common mopheads (Hydrangea macrophylla) should only be pruned lightly in spring to avoid removing the new flower buds.
  • Prune roses to encourage healthy new flowering stems. Cut back to just above a bud and remove any dead or crossing branches.
  • When you have finished pruning, give plants a feed with an organic fertiliser and/or mulch with good organic compost or manure.


  • If you missed planting bulbs in the autumn, or find gaps which could do with some colour, pop in a few pots of spring bulbs. Dwarf Iris, snowdrops and crocus will flower first, then Narcissi, followed by tulips and alliums. Get them in the ground while they’re small and they will provide months of colour.
  • If your garden looks a bit bare and uninteresting, plant a winter flowering shrub such as Hamamelis, Daphne, Sarcococca, or Camellia or perhaps something full of buds for a later show such as Forsythia, Azalea or one of the deciduous Viburnums.
  • Continue planting deciduous trees and shrubs, provided the ground isn't frozen or waterlogged.
  • Introduce evergreen shrubs if your winter garden is lacking structure, or bright coloured winter stems, such as Cornus and Salix.

Seed sowing

  • Sweet Pea seeds can be sown indoors in a propagator on a sunny windowsill, and planted out later on. Those sown in Autumn can be potted on, and kept on a windowsill, in a cold frame or greenhouse.
  • If the weather improves and the soil gets warm, you can start to sow broad beans, peas, cabbage, beetroot and spinach under cloches.

Pests and diseases

  • Keep an eye out for the first signs of herbaceous growth and protect the new leaves from slug attack. An early application of slug pellets will reduce the population later in the year.


  • It’s important to keep bird feeders topped up with a variety of food to support our feathered friends in cold weather. Always supply fresh water for them too.


If it's too cold to go out, spend time planning that new border, or do some research on your favourite plants. There’s always something new to learn. Enjoy the lengthening days - hopefully we’ll have some bright days in the month ahead.

Keep warm