Alleyn Park Garden Centre

October Newsletter 2018

It’s all happened very quickly, hasn’t it? One minute we were basking in endless heat and sunshine, the next we’re wondering if we can justify putting the heating on in the evening! We’re having some glorious late September days, though, and must relish them. The display of rich autumn hues are starting to show, and that makes up for the temperature dropping.

We’re looking forward to having a stall at the Green Rooms Botanical Market this Sunday 30th September, at the Gipsy Hill Brewery, Hamilton Road, SE27. The event kicks off at 11am, and continues until 5pm. There will be workshops, activities for children, art and gifts, as well as live music, food and – of course! – craft beer. It would be lovely to see you there. Pick up a flyer at the till for more details.

Everything is looking lovely at the centre just now. The front tables sing with colour, showing off the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges of the season. The Heuchera in particular are looking absolutely splendid, as are the Hydrangeas, vying for attention alongside plumes of grasses.

There are some lovely shrubs available for winter and spring interest, including beautifully scented Daphne and Sarcococca. Then there is Skimmia ‘Pabella’ with masses of berries and rich dark leaves … ideal for brightening up a shady spot over the winter … and Skimmia Confusa Kew Green full of flower heads. Coming soon will be Cornus Sibirica, whose startling stems shine in the low winter sun. The Pieris, Leucothoe and Photinia are all looking wonderful too. We have a variety of Photinia in stock called Carré Rouge which is compact and much smaller in habit than the better known Red Robin.

If you’re yearning for a tree or shrub with autumn colour it’s not too late to plant one. If you’re at all nervous about what to choose just remember that we’re here to help and advise you and can explain how to plant and stake your new tree to ensure it thrives. There is a lot to choose from but the current stars are Japanese Acers – unmatched for a magnificent autumn display. Nandina domestica is a wonderful evergreen shrub that turns vibrant red and orange in the autumn. If it’s berry colour you’re after, look no further than the Pyracantha.

Looking ahead to early spring, we’re aware that we’ve had several customers asking when we will be getting our bare-rooted wallflowers in.

This year you will need to pre-order your wallflowers, as we are only getting ONE delivery of them this year, in the week commencing 8th October.

The reason for this is that in past years we have often ended up throwing away as many wallflowers as we sell, as they have such a short shelf life. By asking you to pre-order we hope to avoid disappointment and wastage!

To order, please email here or call us stating how many sleeves you want (10 plants in each sleeve) and what colour you’d like. You can choose from Harlequin Mixed (mixed colours, dwarf), Giant Pink, Creamy White, Purple Shades, Cloth of Gold (golden), Scarlet Emperor (scarlet red) or Fire King (orange). Please let us have your order by Friday 5th October to ensure your order is met . The price remains £3.95 per sleeve. Please note that if we don’t get enough orders for any one particular colour, we will not get that colour in.

Cylamen and winter bedding are now in stock. We have pansies, violas, cyclamen (including Hederifolium, for naturalising), bellis and more, all of which create bright spots of colour in your tubs and planters, as well as in your borders.

Spring bulbs are also here aplenty. There’s one for every location – under trees, in your lawn, in flower beds, pots, window boxes – even indoors. Sadly, there are some lines that have sold out with our suppliers already, so to avoid disappointment get yours soon.

If you want a fantastic spring bulb display, why not create a ‘bulb lasagne’? Layering different types of blubs in one pot creates an amazingly full display. Have some fun with it by marrying clashing vibrant colours, or go for something more muted and subtle.

Now is the time to plan ahead for winter and spring colour; we have some gorgeous Camellia in stock, including the stunning Jury’s Yellow. We had them for the first time last year and they were a real hit.

If you don’t have a garden but love to be surrounded by greenery, you’re bound to find a houseplant to suit you. Sourced by Martyna and housed in the Tool Shed the range changes all the time. You can pick up a large high impact plant, or a tiny little succulent, as well as lots in-between the two. You’ll also find composts and fertilisers to suit your new purchase, as well as a really fabulous range of pots, planters and hanging pots for indoors.

With cooler weather on the way we will have firewood back in stock in the coming week. Olive, Hardwood and Kiln Dried are all being delivered so you can light your fire or wood burner again and enjoy the extended warmth these logs produce.

We’ve made a small display near the till of things you might need to help with the great autumn clear up including rakes, leaf sacks, scoops, gloves, soft tie, pruning saws and secateurs. Check in your shed and see if you need anything.

Boot jacks, boot holders, mats for indoors and out, baskets to hold logs … all of the above have started to make an appearance as we prepare for the cooler, wetter weather.

In the shop we’ll we now the ‘winter’ scented True Grace candles, including Fig, Cinnamon and Clove, Jasmine Tea and Sandalwood.

The award winning range of bird and bee houses by Green and Blue are currently being featured near the till. Now is the time to get them installed in your garden if you want to give wildlife a place to eat and feel safe.

Gosh! There is so much more to tell you, but I think it’s time to hand over to Sally and her Garden Jobs.

Hope to see you soon.



Garden jobs

Autumn is a lovely season full of glorious colour, shortening days, storms from the Atlantic interspersed with, hopefully, days of blue skies and sunshine. Take time to clear away debris from the garden and terrace and enjoy time outside when you can.

General garden maintenance

  • Tidy up fallen leaves regularly. Left sitting on the lawn, fallen leaves deprive the grass of light so should be raked up regularly. It's ok to leave some on beds and borders to rot down into the soil, although small plants may be swamped, so remove promptly if this is a risk.
  • Leaves are a good addition to the compost heap but remember that they can take longer to break down than other garden matter - chopping them with the lawn mower is an option. Dispose of diseased leaves in garden waste.
  • Alternatively, you can make leaf mould, to use to improve soil or as a compost when planting. If you don’t have a separate area to compost leaves in this way, special hessian leaf sacks are available. Make sure you moisten the leaves sporadically, and in two years’ time you’ll have rich dark compost.
  • Cover ponds with net to prevent leaves falling in, but leave access for wildlife.
  • Clean and tidy around the garden, fixing, mending and storing away. Check fences and trellis and repair as necessary.
  • Remove and compost summer bedding and annuals once they finish flowering.
  • Cut back perennials which are past their best, but leave those with attractive seed heads for winter interest and silhouette such as Sedum, Echinacea and grasses. As well as looking good, many seed heads are a food source for birds.
  • Summer flowering perennials, which have finished flowering can be lifted and divided. Discard congested stems from the centre and replant the outer divisions.
  • This is a good time to move plants which aren't doing well or aren't growing as you expected them to.

Preparing for stormy weather and cooler temperatures

  • If storms are forecast, make sure outdoor furniture is stored away, pots moved to a sheltered spot and wayward growth on climbers pruned or tied in, especially if they grow on a pergola or trellis which may be damaged in high winds.
  • A good layer of compost or well rotted manure will benefit established trees and shrubs, including fruit trees, roses and wisteria. This will help to produce stronger growth and more flowers in the spring.
  • Mulch around more tender plants to keep their roots warmer. Bark or other materials will help trap the summer warmth in the soil.
  • Check your stock of fleece to protect delicate plants and bubble wrap or hessian to protect pots.
  • Make space in greenhouses and conservatories to bring tender potted plants inside.
  • Stand pots on feet or bricks to prevent water logging.
  • Drain and put away hoses and irrigation equipment to avoid freezing.
  • Clean paths, decking and patio areas.

Container gardening

  • Plant containers with winter pansies, violas, cyclamen or heathers for a splash of colour; ornamental kale and cabbage are fun additions, as are grasses which will give movement. Small evergreen shrubs such as euonymus will give height and structure, and can be planted out in the garden when they outgrow the container. Ivy is a good addition to trail down the sides.
  • Evergreen perennials such as Heuchera, Tiarella and evergreen ferns do well in containers, and will last through the winter, perhaps with an addition of one of the colourful plants above.
  • Underplant winter containers, window boxes and baskets with bulbs such as dwarf narcissi and iris, crocus, or something else which takes your fancy. They will find their way up through winter bedding displays.


  • Prune climbing roses and tie in the stems of these and other climbers to prevent wind damage.
  • Prune late summer-flowering shrubs once they finish flowering. Lavender can be pruned to keep it neat and tidy, cutting within the green stems.


  • Many trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials are better planted in the autumn, into warm soil. Their roots will have time to establish before the winter and be ready to put on top growth in spring. Deciduous trees and shrubs, and flowering perennials will benefit in their first year from autumn planting.
  • Plant a shrub for winter flower and scent, such as Camellia, Sarcococca, Skimmia, Viburnum, or Daphne - something to brighten the darker months.
  • As a general rule, when planting in new or recently cleared ground, dig in some good compost or farmyard manure. London clay soil often needs improvement to allow drainage - plants don’t like to sit in wet soil in the winter, or to be baked in dried out soil in the summer. Breaking down clay with good organic compost and digging in grit will help.

Planting for Spring colour

  • Plant bare root wallflowers as soon as possible after buying them. They may look at bit floppy, but will soon pick up. They work well planted with tulips as they will flower at the same time next year.
  • When planting any bulbs, think about the drainage – if they sit in wet soil, they will rot. Grit mixed in with the compost, or at the bottom of the planting hole, will help. Take the time and effort to plant at the depth suggested on the pack as they will do better and last longer - generally bury at two to three times their own depth.
  • If you can’t work out where to plant snowdrops, they can be planted in pots, with a 50:50 compost and sharp sand or grit mix, and put out in the winter months when you see a gap.
  • Tulips can be planted towards the end of this month. They are more prone to disease than other bulbs hence planting them later.
  • Bulbs in borders should be in groups of six or more for a good display. In containers, plant them close together for more impact.
  • As Karen mentioned, to get real value from a container try a bulb lasagne, a method of layering bulbs to flower at different times which looks great and extends the season. You will need a good size pot, or window box. Try a bottom layer of tulips, 6-8 inches deep, cover with bulb fibre, then a layer of narcissi and hyacinths 5 inches deep then a layer of dwarf Iris 2 inches deep. When they have finished flowering all except the tulips can be planted out in the garden next year, or potted up again in autumn.
  • Indoors: bowls of Hyacinth and indoor Narcissi are easy to do and will fill rooms with scent later in the winter. Plant indoor bulbs 4-6 weeks before you want the flowers.

Fruit and vegetables

  • Clear away any remaining debris from vegetable gardens and containers.
  • Pick any fruit left on apple, pear and other fruit trees.
  • Remove fallen fruit from around trees and shrubs before it rots.
  • If you are storing fruit, choose only ‘perfect’ fruit, with no sign of damage or disease. Pack dry fruits in a single layer in crates, not touching, and with good air circulation.
  • Put grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to deter winter moth damage.

Watering and feeding

  • Continue to water anything which has been planted recently. Until we have considerable rain, the ground remains dry and roots may not have reached down far enough yet. Think in terms of buckets of water a couple of times a week rather than a sprinkle of water every day.


  • Mow the lawn for possibly the last time this year.
  • Continue with autumn lawn care as mentioned last month - scarify, aerate and remove weeds.
  • Renovate tatty lawns or create new grass areas by laying turf, or sowing seed, up to mid October.
  • Use an autumn lawn feed and water it in well, especially if the weather is dry. After the stress of the hot summer, this will strengthen the grass for the winter ahead.
  • If necessary, apply a layer of Lawn Dressing. This can be brushed in after aerating the lawn or applied as a layer on top to toughen the lawn and help repair bare patches.

Pests and disease

  • Generally clean and tidy up: a clean garden is a healthier garden.
  • Make sure you remove weeds which can act as a host for pests and diseases over winter.
  • Squirrels are a problem in London gardens. It's a case of living with them but making their lives as difficult as possible. At this time of year they dig up and eat corms and bulbs, especially crocus and tulip, and perform amazing feats to get at bird food. You can deter them from newly buried bulbs with a wire mesh and use a bird feeder with a robust outer wire cage. Some people say a sprinkling of chilli powder will put them off, it’s worth a try.


  • Clean out nesting boxes for birds, and put up some new ones.
  • When tidying and cleaning in the garden, leave somewhere for wildlife such as hedgehogs, frogs and toads to hibernate as we head towards winter.
  • Birds will keep coming to your garden if you keep the feeders topped up, and leave some water out for them too. They begin to need more calories as the temperature drops, which can be provided by fat balls and suet blocks.


Autumn is a good time to think about what is and isn't working in your outside space, before the memory of the past season fades. Be critical, make notes and make plans!

Enjoy the month, happy gardening!