Alleyn Park Garden Centre

Summer Newsletter 2018

Holy moly! What an absolutely extraordinary summer it has been so far. At the time of writing we are still sweltering in 30C heat, and haven’t seen more than a spit of rain in weeks and weeks. I know it doesn’t suit everyone, but we really deserve a good summer after the endless long cold winter and spring. Plants, babies and animals are all finding it tough to cope with, though.

I’ve certainly noticed how our parks and open spaces are struggling – even some of the really tough shrubs, such as Philadelphus and Hebe are feeling the strain and our poor trees are desperate for a drink. We often get annoyed when we hear that there is a water shortage and a hosepipe ban is possible (I am witness to an absolute deluge of water running down Westwood Hill from a burst pipe that still hasn’t been stopped or fixed after 12 days!) but, even so, we should all try to do our bit to conserve water wherever possible. Here are a few tips to help you keep your garden hydrated whilst reducing your water consumption …

  • Recycle ‘grey’ water .Sounds obvious, but so many of us forget to do so. Washing-up bowls full of perfectly good water go down the plug hole 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 cool 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.
  • Feed your plants. Well-fed plants are stronger and more likely to be able to cope with the 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, horse 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. If all of us avoid watering our lawns, the amount of water saved could be immense.

Make sure you leave water out for your garden’s wildlife. Many birds and small creatures are really struggling to find water 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 more. Or you could buy the clever ‘Hydration Station’ we have in stock to hang up for the birds.

The heat and sun means that many gardens are well ahead of where they’d normally be at this time, and in need of an injection of colour. Luckily, we continue to bring in some glorious plants to do just that for you.

The garden centre is an inspiration at the moment - come and see! Swaying grasses are placed alongside tall willowy plants, such as Verbena bonariensis and Coreopsis, injected with vibrant splashes of hot colour from Salvia, Canna, Campsis and Rudbeckia. ‘Hot’ colours (red, yellow, orange, vibrant pink) really come into their own as the mercury rises.

The Hydrangeas are the superstars at this time of year, particularly the paniculata with their simple and elegant white or cream flowers. Some have dark stems, and most varieties have flowers that fade to pink or green. Don’t forget they 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.

The David Austin roses are simply glorious. Come and grab one while you can as the stock supplies at David Austin are running low and we probably won’t be able to get any more this summer.

There are still some bedding plants to be had such as Marigold, trailing Verbena and New Guinea Impatiens.

Of course, the range of edibles available is diminishing rapidly now, but we still have basic herbs in stock including rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley and mint. The remaining soft fruit is on sale at 25% off, and includes black and white currants (lots of fruit showing!), and raspberries along with the odd gooseberry too.

If you’re itching to plant something now from seed,it’s not too late to sow simple cut-and-come-again leaves or leafy herbs, such as Mizuna or Parsley. In a month or so you could start your sweet peas off for next year (they’re always best sown in the autumn and put in a cold frame over winter). At the end of August we’ll be receiving our first batch of Spring flowering bulbs ….

For many of us, though, this period in the gardening calendar is all about spending less time doing and more time enjoying. I’m just loving having coffee in the garden before leaving for work, and then having supper out there again as the air temperature finally cools enough to make it comfortable. Kick back and relax a bit while you can! Invite some friends over for a barbeque. We have plenty of catering-grade lump-wood charcoal and briquettes and, if you don’t already have a barbeque, we have Kadai fire bowls in 60, 70 and 80cm diameter, as well as the incredibly cute new ‘table’ Kadai. Oh, and alongside the ever popular ‘Bistro’ table and chair sets, we now have some ‘Hampstead’ benches in stock, made from all-weather bamboo, and with a generous deep seat, if you need new garden furniture.

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 cold 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. All members of staff at the garden centre now own one … the only dilemma is choosing which of the lovely colours to have!

Last, but certainly not least, have you seen the solar-powered ‘Star Burst’ lights we have in stock? 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. A customer who recently bought two came back 2 days later and bought another 5, saying they ‘brought the garden to life from dusk until dawn’.

I’ll sign off and pass over to Sally, with her ‘Garden Tasks’, but very much hope to see you at the centre soon.


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

PPS We have plenty of plants, shrubs and trees on sale, with 50% off marked prices. These plants are either past their best for this year or have suffered a little damage (sun scorched leaves, broken stems) but if planted now they will be fabulous next year.

Garden jobs

Well, it’s been a lovely hot summer so far, and seems set to last for a while. Typically, hot weather is interspersed with heavy downpours during August, so be prepared. Rain would be welcome, gardens and all outside spaces are desperate for it. Although gardens have been struggling in the heat, it’s worth investing time in some jobs to be keep things healthy and looking good.

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. Water from the kitchen is perfectly good for plants so keep the water you used to wash the lettuce and potatoes…
  • 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 check ponds regularly 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 these hot temperatures.
  • Feed hanging baskets and window boxes with a high potassium feed to encourage continued flowering of your summer displays.
  • There are lots of permanent planting options for containers too: for shade, try evergreen Heuchera, ferns and Liriope; for a sunny spot, silver leaved Convulvulus and Lavender, bright Salvia or perhaps 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 fall.
  • Make sure you plant well with a big hole, good compost (such as our Soil Association Certified Peat Free Organic Champions Blend), 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.

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.
  • 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 and Strulch 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.

Agapanthus problems

I’ve been asked recently about non-flowering agapanthus plants and I have exactly the same problem – one of my plants has 4 flowers, the other none.

Research suggests a few possible explanations:

  • a) drought conditions after flowering the previous year;
  • b) whilst agapanthus like to be cosy in their pots, they flower poorly when excessively pot-bound and also if over-potted or over-divided.

A few possible solutions:

  • a) repotting, plus watering and feeding in spring.
  • b) Feed weekly or fortnightly with a balanced liquid feed during the growing season until flowers begin to show colour.
  • c) Water agapanthus plants regularly during the growing season, but only sparingly in winter.

Finally: Enjoy time in the garden: potter about, deadheading, weeding and keeping an eye out for any problems… and then sit and enjoy the surroundings, spotting a new plant combination from a different angle, or admiring a particularly lovely plant, just doing its thing.

Happy gardening