Alleyn Park Garden Centre

Summer Newsletter 2019

It struck me this morning as I walked out of the door that summer is well and truly here. There was something about the heavily scented air, the depth of green in the trees, the stillness of the air, all of which encapsulate what summer means to me. Borders are full and heavy with flower blooms, trees are laden with forming fruit, and grass is soft and springy beneath our bare feet.

For many of us this period in the gardening calendar is all about spending less time doing and more time enjoying. I try to start each morning with a coffee in the garden before leaving for work, and often have supper out there again as the air cools enough to make it comfortable. Kick back and relax! Invite some friends over for a barbeque, add a sprig of fresh mint to your G&T, and some freshly cut tarragon to the marinade for the chicken. Summer is bliss if you allow yourself to slow down.

At the time of writing we have just had a deluge of rain after a long period without any, so I thought I’d start with a reminder on how you can help keep your garden hydrated without increasing your water usage too much.

  • Recycle ‘grey’ water . Sounds obvious, but so many of us forget to do so. Washing-up bowls full of perfectly good water go to waste when they could be carried outside to water thirsty plants. The same applies to bath water.
  • Water in the evening. It’s more beneficial for your garden to have a long drink after the sun goes down, allowing plants the cooler night-time hours to rehydrate. If you water during the day, half of it will evaporate, and leaves can be scorched. Watering in the very early morning is ok, but can cause the damp ground to overheat as the sun hits it and the temperature soars. Evening is definitely best all round.
  • Install a water butt. Collecting rainwater from your gutters and downpipes is THE simplest way to make the most of what the weather provides. And rainwater is so much better for plants than tap, especially those such as camellias, blueberries and other plants that prefer lime free conditions.
  • Feed your plants. Well-fed plants are stronger and more likely to be able to cope with a limited water supply. Use either a granular feed that you apply straight to the beds before watering, or mix a liquid feed in a watering can and direct it at each plant.
  • Mulch. Make sure that your beds and borders have a good layer of mulch covering them. This will retain moisture in the soil below. Just make sure you have watered before applying the mulch. Mulch with bark, Strulch, farmyard manure, or gravel.
  • Don’t water your lawn. I know it can be frustrating to see your beloved lawn turning brown, but it will revert back to lush green as soon as it rains.

Having said all of the above, please make sure you leave water out for your garden’s wildlife. They’ll really appreciate it! Birds and small creatures can struggle to find water during dry summer months, and it’s so simple for us to help them. A tray of water tucked somewhere in the shade will give welcome hydration for birds, hedgehogs and even bees, ladybirds and other beneficial insects.

If you want to add a splash of colour to your borders, the garden centre is an inspiration at the moment - come and see! Swaying grasses, tall willowy plants, (Verbena bonariensis, Echinacea and Coreopsis) alongside vibrant splashes of hot colour from Salvia, Helenium, and Rudbeckia all look amazing. ‘Hot’ colours (red, yellow, orange, vibrant pink) really come into their own as the mercury rises, but we still have plenty of cooling blues, whites and pinks with Scabiosa, Delphinium, Asters and Liriope leading the pack.

There are some fabulous trees here too. Many of you have been stunned by the beauty of the tree ferns we have on the top site, with their extraordinary fronds growing and unfurling at a phenomenal rate. The acers are looking lovely, as are the Malus (crab apple) and many of the other ornamental trees. There are still some fruit trees available, including a couple of espaliers.

The weather conditions we’ve had means that it’s hard to get hold of much in the way of bedding plants now, and the time has gone for stocking young vegetable plants, but we still have basic herbs available, including rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley and mint.

Our stock of David Austin roses is running low, and we probably won’t be able to get any more this summer, so make sure you come soon if you know you want one.

In our gardens, the Hydrangeas are the superstars at this time of year, but may need support as the weight of the blooms can make them top heavy. My favourite way to do this is with the rusty iron plant supports … things of beauty in themselves. We’ve just got a new batch of the brilliant ‘twist easy’ supports in if your blooms need a helping hand to stay upright.

In the shop the heroes this summer have been our range of fabulous ‘Chilly’s’ bottles. Beautifully designed, they are tactile and ergonomic, and keep liquids cold for 24 hours. I’ve tested this out and can confirm that even after leaving my Chilly’s bottle out in the heat of the sun for several hours, the water inside was still deliciously cold. The only dilemma is choosing which of the lovely colours to have!

Last, but certainly not least, have you seen the solar-powered ‘Dandelion’ lights that now sit alongside the ‘Star Burst’ lights? They are simple yet utterly entrancing, and add a twinkle of light to any part of your garden without the need for wires or batteries.

I’ll sign off and pass over to Sally, who’s just returned from a long trip to India. I’m taking an extended summer holiday myself, but will be back refreshed and rejuvenated before the schools reopen, so hope to see you then.


PS Don’t forget that in August we operate reduced opening hours of 10am – 4pm every day

Garden jobs

Summer is well and truly here - it’s good to have some sunshine. Here are some ideas for keeping your outside space looking good, but make sure you take time to enjoy the season too.

General maintenance

  • Weeding: keep weeds down by hoeing the borders. Weeds compete with plants for water and nutrients so try to keep on top of them.
  • Watering: Water during the cooler times of the day, as Karen has mentioned, when there will be less evaporation. Water the compost, not the leaves. If you use a watering can, refill it and leave it outside for next time – some of the chemicals in tap water will dissipate over 24 hours.
  • Feeding: New compost contains nutrients to support plants for 5-6 weeks, thereafter you should use a suitable fertiliser to encourage continued flowering and maintain plant health, especially for plants in containers.
  • Deadheading: most plants will flower for longer if faded flowers are removed. Deadhead roses by cutting back to a bud in a leaf axil lower down the stem. With bedding plants, deadheading stops the plants setting seed, forcing them to produce more flowers. Some plants, such as Petunia and Nemesia, may get straggly and can be cut back hard and fed with a high potash fertiliser to encourage new growth.
  • Camellia and other early spring flowering shrubs set their flowers through the summer. Make sure you water and feed them regularly, especially container grown specimens, for a good show next spring.
  • Remove spent flower spikes on lavender, ahead of cutting the whole plant back when it has finished flowering in the autumn.
  • Cut back straggly and faded perennials to keep borders tidy; feed and water to encourage fresh growth. This will stop tall plants flopping and smothering smaller plants.
  • Ponds: water evaporates very quickly in hot weather so keep a regular eye on ponds and top up water levels if necessary, but only with rainwater. It is harmful for wildlife in the pond to use tap water.

Container gardening

  • You will get to know how often to water large container grown plants, probably 2 or 3 times a week, but smaller containers and baskets need watering once or twice a day in hot temperatures.
  • Feed hanging baskets and window boxes regularly with a high potassium feed to encourage continued flowering.
  • If you still have containers to be planted there are lots of options. Pick ferns and Heuchera or possibly Anemones for a long lasting display in the shade. Geraniums are a trusty splash of colour in the sun or try an ornamental grass. It’s not too late to plant a container or two of herbs to enjoy in the kitchen, or in your cocktails.


  • Summer prune Wisteria by cutting the long wispy shoots back to 5 buds. For guidance on this, look at our Pruning Wisteria notes on our website.
  • Remove unwanted growth from trees. Many trees and shrubs produce a mass of shoots at the base, which need to be removed because they sap energy and strength from the plant.
  • Prune any remaining early summer flowering shrubs such as Philadelphus. Flowered growth should be cut to a strong lower shoot.
  • Remove any shoots with plain leaves on variegated plants such as Euonymus.
  • Trim conifer hedges such as Leylandii to keep under control. Yew hedges and topiary can be cut in August.


  • If a gap appears in the border, or you find a pot which needs filling, there are plenty of options. Introduce some late summer perennials which will flower into the autumn – Sedums, Japanese anemones, Crocosmia, Penstemon - lots of plants will flower until the first frosts, and many provide attractive seed heads through the winter.
  • Do you have room for a splash of autumn colour? Every garden should have a tree or shrub to provide glorious reds and oranges in the autumn.
  • Make sure you plant well with a big hole, good compost, Rootgrow and fertiliser, soak the plants beforehand and then water in well.
  • Seeds – get ready for autumn sowing of sweet peas and biennials such as foxgloves and wallflowers.
  • Bulbs will be available towards the end of August, ready to get in the ground for a spring show.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs

  • Everything in the vegetable garden or allotment will need attention at some stage, whether supporting tall crops, protecting from slug damage, or harvesting.
  • Continue harvesting summer fruiting raspberries and when finished, cut out fruited canes to ground level and tie in new healthy canes.
  • Prune blackcurrant bushes after harvesting fruit by a third, particularly on the older, darker stems.
  • Keep birds and squirrels off berries with netting.
  • Harvest your fruit trees - cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots should be ready. Early varieties of apple trees will be ready towards the end of the month.
  • Trained fruit trees (fanned or espaliered) should be pruned and trained now, while the stems are still flexible. See our guide for more details
  • Blueberries in containers must be kept watered, ideally with rain water or soft water.
  • Remember to feed lemons and other citrus fruit trees throughout summer with a special citrus fertilizer.
  • Apply a high-potash fertiliser such as tomato food once fruits start to form on tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and aubergines.
  • Water runner beans and tomatoes (and many other crops) regularly. Tomatoes should be kept evenly moist: irregular watering can cause fruit to split.
  • Pick out the side shoots of cordon tomatoes, maintaining one main stem. Remove leaves lower down on the plant to help with air circulation and prevent disease.
  • Check tomatoes for signs of fruit splitting and blossom end rot. Remove damaged fruit and ensure consistent watering to limit further damage.
  • When beans reach the top of their supports, pinch out the leading shoot to encourage more side shoots and beans lower down.
  • Pick herbs regularly to encourage fresh shoots. Most herbs will benefit from being trimmed occasionally with garden shears to encourage a flush of new growth.
  • Sow salad seeds - lettuces, rocket and many mixed leaf seeds can be sown for extended harvesting.


  • Continue mowing and adjust the height of the blades when necessary. The general consensus is to raise the blades if the weather is hot, removing less grass.
  • Recently sown or turfed lawns need a good soaking every few days, so that the water gets down to the roots.

Pests and diseases

  • Fungal diseases such as Box Blight and rose black spot thrive in warm wet weather conditions. Take preventative action - healthier plants are more resistant - and apply appropriate treatments as soon as you see signs of disease.
  • Keep an eye out for the next cycle of Box tree caterpillar - there are up to 4 generations a year.You can use a pheromone trap through to the end of October.
  • Warm weather can encourage pests. Greenfly and black fly can multiply really quickly and it can be difficult to keep on top of them. Build up diversity in the garden by planting a variety of plants to attract beneficial insects such as ladybirds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife, improving the balance of pests and predators.
  • Slug and snail populations continue to thrive. Choose your preferred method of control: wool pellets, crushed whelk shells and Strulch all create a barrier which slugs and snails are reluctant to cross; copper tape around pots delivers a sharp shock; anti-slug bait or pellets should be used thinly.
  • Watch out for powdery mildew, on roses and honeysuckle particularly. Remove affected plant debris, water and mulch, and if possible improve air circulation around the plant. If necessary, treat with an appropriate fungicide.


  • Keep supplies of food and water going for the birds. If they are used to finding food in your garden, they will continue to visit. Birds are your ally when it comes to slugs and snails.


  • Before you go away…
  • Cut back bedding plants and give them a feed - hopefully they will be full of flower when you return.
  • Group containers together in a shady spot if possible and ask a friend or neighbour to water them. Return the favour when they go away!
  • If somebody is looking after your veg patch, invite them to enjoy tomatoes, beans and other fruit and vegetables, to help ensure that the supply continues when you return.


Make sure you spend time pottering about and lounging in the garden with a book and a drink, enjoying all your hard work. It’s time for BBQs and al fresco eating!