Alleyn Park Garden Centre

September Newsletter 2018

Late summer …. a time of real change, as the holidays draw to a close, evenings shorten and the plants, shrubs and trees in our gardens and open spaces are just starting to think about the changing season.

This time last year, I was preparing to move house. I inherited a totally overgrown jungle and have worked and worked on it over the last 11 months or so. I’m delighted to have almost seen it through its full cycle. I’ve taken lots out, chopped things back dramatically, and added new plants which aren’t yet doing the job I want them to do. I keep finding myself saying ‘Next year this will come into its own’, or ‘In a couple of years that will have filled the space beautifully.’ It’s one of the age-old truths about gardening - the true gardener is always thinking ahead and daydreaming about what is to come … next month, next year or 5 years from now. Of course it’s important to do that, but please make sure you also take time to really enjoy what is happening in your garden right now.

This is the ideal time to plant; the ground is still warm, so roots can easily get established, but your new plant, shrub or tree won’t be working on top growth. It will simply get firmly rooted in before the winter, and then be able to burst into growth next year. Generally speaking, plants put into the garden in autumn are stronger, bigger and more robust by the following summer than those planted in spring. So, if you noticed gaps in your garden, or ‘lulls’ when there wasn’t anything in particular to focus on, plant something now to remedy that situation. For example, I realised that I didn’t have anything shouting ‘look at me!’ in the middle of July, so will be planting something this autumn to do just that next year.

The current stars are the grasses and Hydrangeas. We have just taken delivery of a batch of ‘Royal collection’ Hydrangeas, boasting compact form and strong colours - they are well worth looking at. A new batch of standard bays have also just come in, and Valerie has sourced some small Ilex crenata balls as an alternative to Buxus (Box) as the dreaded Box caterpillar has really taken hold in SE London this year, making it more and more difficult to keep Buxus healthy. Feeding your box hedging and topiary to ensure it is strong is the best defence, and keeping a very close eye out for signs that you have these pesky visitors and acting quickly is essential.

We can all be planting bulbs now, of course. It’s simply impossible to have too many! Almost all our bulbs are in stock, and most of them can be planted now. Just hold back with the tulips, which should only go into the ground once it gets a bit colder, generally in late October or November. Best to buy them now, and keep them somewhere cool and dark until it’s time to plant them, as we can’t promise we’ll still be able to get stock later on.

I’m off to a big horticultural show in the north of England this week, and hope to find even more of what you love …. native plants, unusual and exotic plants from further afield, and innovative new ways to help keep our planet safe from further harm. Our intention is always to ensure we offer you the best quality plants and products, at the best possible price, but with ethics at the forefront of our minds. This means that the vast majority of our stock is grown in the UK by small independent growers. Some items simply have to come from Europe, but we aim to only source the best that is out there.

Martyna continues to bring in a wonderful variety of house plants, pots and associated sundries. It’s been such a joy over the last year or so to see this area of the garden centre thrive and develop, so that even those without any outside space can still have lovely plants to brighten their homes.

In the shop you’ll start to see more homeware and gift items appearing over the next few weeks, as the space taken up by chemicals and fertilizers diminishes, giving over space for other things. The Chilly’s flasks have been a huge hit over the hot summer months, as they keep cold liquid cold for 24 hours, but remember they also keep hot liquid hot for 12 hours, so if you haven’t got one yet, don’t miss out. We have smaller versions available for little hands as well, also larger ones that are just the right size for a bottle of wine!

There is much to be doing in the garden in the coming months, and Sally’s Garden Jobs section below itemises a lot of them, but if there is ONE thing I urge you to do it’s to put down a layer of well-rotted manure or homemade compost on all your beds and borders (avoiding plants that prefer acidic soil, such as heathers, camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons). I can’t emphasise enough how much this benefits your soil, and thus your plants.

I’ll sign off now, but very much hope to see you soon. Don’t forget to bring your reward card with you when you come … you probably have some rewards to redeem! Look out for the separate email notifying you how much you’ve earned.

Warm regards


Garden jobs

I’m looking forward to autumn, knowing that we’ve enjoyed such a fabulous summer. The unusually hot temperatures have left gardens quite parched and lawns browned, but hopefully recent rain has helped your outside space. Here are some jobs to be getting on with this month.

General garden maintenance

  • Keep deadheading plants all around the garden to prolong the flowering season.
  • Give evergreen hedges their final trim of the year.
  • Keep Camellias, Azaleas and Rhododendrons watered now as their flower buds continue to develop. If they go without water, the buds may drop in spring or fail to open. These ericaceous (acid-loving) plants should be watered with rainwater but are fine to be watered with tap water if rain water isn’t available. Note that over a long period ericaceous plants watered with hard water will start showing signs of chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves). Help to avoid this by mulching with ericaceous compost.
  • Herbaceous perennials which have got too big in their allotted space, or which look tired, can be divided and replanted before they die down. Water them in well.
  • Apply a good layer of compost or manure as a mulch around established trees and shrubs, including fruit trees, roses and wisteria. The aim of applying a mulch is to trap in moisture, so make sure you have watered dry ground first.
  • Start to clear away garden debris from beds and borders and from around containers.
  • Keep up general maintenance around the garden, removing dead and dying leaves from plants, pulling up weeds and generally cleaning to help prevent pests and diseases overwintering.
  • Sweep fallen leaves from lawns and paths.
  • Cover ponds with net to prevent leaves falling in and affecting water quality. Nets also protect fish from herons and other predators.
  • Get your compost bin ready for the leaves and pruning that you will be collecting over the next couple of months. Vegetable gardens will generate a lot of compostable material too.

Container gardening

  • Summer bedding containers can be prolonged by deadheading and feeding with a high potassium fertiliser such as tomato feed.
  • Containers can be replanted with a range of interesting leafy plants such as grasses, ferns, heuchera and small evergreen shrubs, as well as flowering pansies, viola, cyclamen and others.
  • Pop some dwarf spring bulbs such as iris, crocus or dwarf narcissi under your autumn/winter container plants - it takes no time and will brighten the containers early next year.
  • If replanting into a container which has been planted previously, refresh or replace with fresh compost.
  • For more permanent container planting, consider whether you need to repot, either into a bigger pot, or into the same pot by lifting the plant, pruning the roots and repotting with fresh compost. Know your plant and its requirements before doing this.
  • Think about planting a potful of bulbs - known as a bulb lasagne - to enjoy months of different colour from January right through to April or May. Larger bulbs such as tulips go at the bottom, narcissi or hyacinth at the mid-level and smaller bulbs such as dwarf iris, scilla, chionodoxa or crocus at the top. You can buy bulb combinations in packs, or make up your own mix.
  • Stop feeding shrubs in containers to help prevent new growth which would be susceptible to winter frost.


  • Prune late summer flowering shrubs when the flowers have finished, including climbing and rambling roses.
  • Leave flower heads on macrophylla and lacecap hydrangeas to protect young developing buds below. They are best pruned in early to late spring.
  • Once Lavender flowers have faded, cut the plants back with secateurs, within the green growth, not into brown wood. Doing this each year will maintain neat, compact plants and encourage more side shoots to grow. For guidance, check our notes Looking after Lavender


  • Fill gaps in borders with late flowering perennials such as Sedum, Rudbeckia, Penstemon, Anemone, Salvia, ornamental grasses and much more.
  • Autumn is a perfect time to plant new shrubs, trees and perennials - the ground is warm and the roots have time to get established before getting off to a good start next spring.
  • Start planting spring-flowering bulbs now in beds or containers. Most bulbs can be planted from late summer into the autumn, leaving tulips until later. Bulbs should be planted at the right depth - general rule is a depth equivalent to two to three times their own height. The packs give all the information you need - flowering time, height and colour, and planting distance and depth. Check our Bulb planting notes for a little more guidance.

Watering and feeding

  • Ease up on feeding shrubs and trees with general fertilisers in containers, because soft new growth would be damaged in the winter months.
  • Keep watering plants in dry spells to reduce stress and the risk of disease such as powdery mildew.

Fruit and Vegetables

  • Remove fallen fruit from around trees and shrubs before it rots.
  • Plant vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and more to enjoy through winter and spring.
  • Fix grease bands round the trunks of apple trees to trap the wingless female winter moths as they try to climb the trunk to lay their eggs, which would turn into bud eating caterpillars.
  • Use netting to protect leafy vegetables from pigeons.
  • Root vegetables can be lifted and stored, but leave parsnips and swedes in the ground to be frosted as this improves their flavour.
  • Pinch out the top of cordon tomatoes to concentrate energy into ripening fruits. Remove any yellowing leaves and leaves which are covering the fruit. This will increase air circulation and help to reduce the risk of grey mould.


  • Pot up herbs such as parsley, mint and basil for the kitchen windowsill to enjoy over the winter.


  • Lawns which have browned over the summer will soon show green growth with a few days of rain.
  • As the weather begins to cool, the lawn will benefit from an autumn work over. It's worth spending some time and elbow grease in the next couple of months:

Remove old “thatch” (dead grass) and moss – use a springy rake to clear the congestion that has built up over the growing season.

Aerate – to improve drainage and help protect against a buildup of moss – use an aerator designed specifically for the job, or a fork.

Fertilise – a thin layer of lawn dressing (a combination of top soil, sand and fertilisers) or horticultural sand, should be raked or brushed to fill the holes created by aerating. This will improve drainage and avoid winter waterlogging, especially in heavy clay soils.

  • September is an excellent time to lay a new lawn with turf, or from seed. Take time to prepare the ground beforehand, giving it a good foundation.
  • Use a lawn weed killer to control perennial weeds before the weather cools.

Pests and disease

  • Box caterpillar has reached our corner of London this year, having devastating results. Provado, Bug Clear Ultra or Pyrol Bug & Larvae Killer can be used to kill the caterpillars – don’t mix any two pesticides together. Check the RHS website for more information.
  • Keep a continued vigil against slugs and snails, and make sure you don't leave places where they can settle in for the autumn and winter months.
  • Check for vine weevil in containers. Treat with appropriate chemicals or nematodes.


  • Keep feeders topped up for the birds and leave water out for them too. If we look after bird life with food and water, they'll help us in return by eating unwanted insects in the garden.
  • If thinning out plants in ponds, leave the debris at the side of the pond overnight so that wildlife can find its way back to the water.


Autumn is a lovely time of year with glorious colours and smells. Start to get the garden in shape for winter, but keep enjoying time outside.