Bank Holiday Monday highlights

The dew is just beginning to lift from the Aquilegia and Heuchera this morning.






The plants are well watered after a typical Bank Holiday Easter weekend of weather and we’re all looking forward to the bit of sun we have been promised now.

And in case you’re wondering after yesterday – WE ARE OPEN!

Jacqueline Iddon’s Fabulous Foliage and Fantastic Flowers

Thanks to all those who turned out to listen to Jacqueline Iddon speaking on Wednesday at Avant’s Gardening Club.

Her spectacular knowledge and practical advice was an inspiration to us all to get into our gardens and persevere in order to achieve the same this season.

And don’t forget, if anyone wants to join our club, for a cost of £10 you can receive your discount card for the garden centre*.



*Terms and conditions apply – ask at shop till.

Special Birthday Congrats to Janet (Cafe Gallery)

Our fantastic cook, Janet Fieldsend celebrates a milestone birthday with us today.

But as usual, most of the staff would have been unavailable to join in so we hijacked her Thursday afternoon instead with cake, bubbles and singing.

We just wanted to wish Janet all the best and many happy returns from all the staff, suppliers and customers at Avant!

Avant Gardening Club presents

On Wednesday 12 April, Jacqueline Iddon, known locally for opening her stunningly colourful garden for charity, will be giving a talk on Fabulous Foliage and Fantastic Flowers.

Deep centreJacqueline is well equipped to give the best advice, having won Gold Medals at both Tatton and Southport Flower Shows over the years.

Come along and explore topics sure as plants that can give that “wow” factor to your garden.  Avant Gardening Club meet at 10.30am until 12 noon and light refreshments are provided.

Cost £5 – reserve your place at Avant till.


If you’re in need of some Mother’s Day Inspiration

…then look no further.  Since becoming a Mum, Mother’s Day has been a lot easier to become inspired about.  Perhaps it’s the shortness of spare time or my age (God forbid!) that’s made me more appreciative of this Mum-indulgent time of year, but a pot of daffs, a fashionable gifty trinket or a little whatnot to style my own hygge-influenced nest is enough to keep me happy.

Lovely Louise has been putting her gift wrapping skills to the test giving you more than enough choice of houseplants, spring-flowering shrubs and flowery bedding plants in an array of pretty containers to pick from.

If, like my Mum, anything living in a pot doesn’t for long, then a display of artificial roses, just ideal for that empty spot on the landing window ledge, may be the way ahead.

And if you haven’t looked around our gift area and been inspired for gifts for anyone, let alone your Mum, then I think you must  have been wearing your scarf too high this winter!





As I don’t trust myself to remember to extinguish a lit candle (don’t forget, I’m the time-pushed type of Mum who stands a good chance of reaching work having forgotten to drop the kids at school!), perfumed reed diffusers are my guilty pleasure and thankfully we stock a fragrance for every occasion.

But aside from the pretty, there’s the practical (although the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive).  Our cotton aprons and tea towels are just the ticket for the Mother’s Day  equivalent of a stocking filler – to wrap around that very expensive Royal Doulton tea pot you have bought for her!

And finally I just want to remind you it is the thought that counts in this, the ultimate photo bomb.  We don’t suggest you invest in £1000 worth of lifelike resin cow for your Mum but the stunning gift wrapped Hydrangea in the foreground would definitely go down a treat and certainly doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as a way to show you care.

One of the best gifts for Mother’s Day ever – laughter

On any day of the week, it is not unusual to find our customers huddled around the books on sale at Avant, having a little chuckle together.  Here are a few ideas to spread the mirth with your nearest and dearest on Mother’s Day.

The Ladybird book of How it Works: The Mum is top of our list. Written in the original Ladybird typeface and with illustrations from a bygone era, you could be fooled into thinking this book is one of the original series.  Covering such important aspects of a Mum’s life from the essentials she carries in her handbag (“she worries that the handbag police might caution her for not carrying enough wet wipes or emergency bananas”) to the use of bribery when shopping with children (“Liz tells herself that if she puts the Tangfastics on a plate with enough tomato ketchup, they probably count as a vegetable”), this book is a certainty to get empathetic Mums rolling with laughter.

For new Mums-to-be The Very Hungry Pregnant Lady – a Parody is a lovely little gift sure to raise a knowing smile. Presented in the same (wipeable!) hard back copy as The Hungry Caterpillar, the book has a feel which many parents, grandparents and extended family will be familiar with from the many of hours of reading the original story with younger family members – the only difference here being the subject matter.

And after Sunday 26 March (you did know it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday, didn’t you?!), don’t despair.  If you have forgotten to buy a gift, there’s always Enid Blyton for grown-ups in the form of Five Forget Mother’s Day.  You may get away with buying this as a gift after the event and still evoke a positive reaction.  But be warned, this spoof series reimagines the characters as adults using adult material and phrases throughout so stick with flowers or a pot plant if you’re not sure!

Preparing the Greenhouse for Spring

The greenhouse can be an unappealing place over winter. Most look rather deserted after the last tomatoes have been picked and they cease to be regular port of call in the garden. You might have thought that your greenhouse would be a winter refuge, but in reality most are deserted until the spring clean out ready for the first seeds to be sown in spring. Whenever you tackle it a good winter clean-up is essential and the sooner you get on with it the better. It’s a bit like servicing the lawn mower. It’s much better to do it when you are not using it rather than just when you want to.

A greenhouse is a closed environment designed to protect your plants. However it is also a protected environment for some of the unwanted visitors that pose a threat to your plants next season: overwintering insect pests and fungal spores. A good clean-up is the ideal opportunity to remove them. Never underestimate the importance of good garden hygiene in pest control.

First clear out any plant debris. Most can be composted and any old growing media can be spread on the garden or added to the compost heap. Store any garden chemicals, fertilisers or gardening equipment that is not in use in the shed. The damp, light environment of a greenhouse is no place for packets and bottles. Next wipe down the glass and all surfaces to remove dirt and algae. Vitax Greenhouse Disinfectant (£3.59 500ml*) or Agralan’s Citrox (£7.99 500ml*) ideal to use for this. They contain orange oil which is not only a natural cleaner, but can smell good too. Wash any tools, pots and seed trays with the disinfectant and make sure that you wash down the inside of the greenhouse framework. This is where over wintering pests lurk, or may have deposited their eggs. Dirty pots, trays and tools harbour fungal spores which can cause damping off: death of seedlings soon after germination.

The ready-to use spray Vitax Summer Cloud Greenhouse cleaner is perfect for cleaning the glass. Here too algae and fungal spores will be lurking. Dirt blocks valuable light which will warm your greenhouse in the early months of the year. You can use this handy greenhouse cleaner to remove greenhouse sun shading too. It’s a necessity through summer, but you must remove it ready for valuable sunlight to get through in the early months of the year.

Finally it is a good idea to fumigate. Using a “smoke” pesticide means that every nook and cranny is penetrated and flying and crawling insects are killed. You can use Vitax Greenhouse Fumigator (£4.99*), or the Doff equivalent (£7.99*), whether the greenhouse is empty or you are keeping plants in there over the winter. The smoke is generated from a fumigator that you light on the greenhouse floor. You leave the greenhouse closed up for a couple of hours after use and the job is done!

Of course once your greenhouse is clean and ready for spring you could start a few hardy seeds while the weather is still cold, even if the greenhouse is unheated. Peas, broad beans and sweet peas can be sown and will have time to make excellent root systems before you harden them off and plant them out. Start them off in fibre pots like Vitax Vitapots (£2.49*). They encourage root growth and there is no disturbance when you plant them out because you plant them in the pots which just biodegrade in the soil.

One word of warning: newly sown peas and beans are vulnerable in greenhouses. Mice may also have taken refuge from the cold and your newly planted seeds will be a welcome meal. A pre-baited trap where the bait is protected from wet as well as little people playing with the bait are safest to use all round. Just tuck one in under the staging.

Protecting too against slugs and snails from the outset is a must. Although the greenhouse may start the season free of them, you only need one or two to cause a major problem. As you can shut the door to keep birds and pets out, even the most reluctant slug pellet user can be confident in sprinkling a few pellets around the edge, under the staging or at the base of walls or glass. Any ferric phosphate based pellet such as Bayer Slug Killer 700g (£6.99 or 2 for £12*) or Vitax Slug Rid is nature-friendly pellet approved by organic gardeners. In a greenhouse it is always best to prevent rather than cure, so do not wait until you have a problem before you take action.

*all prices correct at time of writing

Content courtesy of Vitax Garden World

A message from our Gardening Club

Did you know that Avant has its very own Gardening Club?  We meet up on the second Wednesday of every month from 10.30am to 12.00 noon.

The Club tries hard to vary the activities it provides for its members.  We have practical sessions as well as question and answer meetings.  Recently we learnt how to make our own Xmas Wreaths, take plant cuttings and divide plants.The latter involved a lot of hands on activities which we hope will result in lots of new plants for our gardens next year.

A monthly newsletter is also distributed by email to all members.  This usually consists of what the previous meeting involved, with a reminder of any valuable tips or information, dates and speakers for future meetings, outings and other information regarding the Club is also included.

The monthly charge for members is £5.00, with an Annual Membership Fee of £15.00. As part of the Membership Fee, Avant Garden Centre will also issue each paid up member with a card which will entitle them to a 10% discount on plants and gardening materials. Non members will just pay £5.00 per meeting, but won’t be entitled to a discount card.

If you are interested just contact Juliet Taylor or Patricia Woodcock for more details at

Know your onions

As I write this, the onion set display is rapidly depleting! So just a word of advice…

Most keen veg gardeners know to plant onions as soon as the ground can be worked in spring, usually late March or April, keeping a watchful eye out for frost.  But what they don’t plan for is lack of choice of variety because supplies have sold out.

Onions at Avant

Onions at Avant

We have an ample supply of potatoes at the time of writing but even these have been known to sell out before some gardeners have even considered whether they are after a salad harvest or chipping spuds.

We stock a smaller range of onions so once they are gone, they are gone!  And the recent news about shortages of certain veg in the supermarket will not have helped matters.

So get your act together earlier this year.  Plan your veg plot and then aim to get hold of what you need in terms of seed, sets and tubers just as soon as practicably possible.  Stored in a cool dry place protected from mice and the like, they will not come to harm before planting time.

Two new lawn products at Avant

I am almost embarrassed to discuss the first of the latest two lawn products to hit the garden centre – it’s….ARTIFICIAL!

But in the true fashion for “hygge” and artificial fronds in textured vases sitting on natural wooden surfaces surrounded by knitted, linen and home spun materials, maybe there is a place for a real-look fake lawn in our garden??

Luxury artificial turf

I mean, we have sold artificial turf in the past but the handy, pre-cut pieces of very natural looking grass from Kelkay make it both convenient and good value for money at £59.99 or 2 for £100.

Even if you don’t plan to overhaul your lawn at home, for those with holiday homes a few carefully laid pieces could keep maintenance to a minimum  – and holidaying to a max!

The second great new product comes from our compost supplier.  Safe Lawn is a new way of feeding and boosting the grass in your garden whilst killing moss – but you don’t have to exclude animals and children whilst it has time to work.

Safe Lawn contains a micro-organism that kills moss without creating black patches.  It is not an instantaneous effect but works gradually over time, removing thatch, thickening the root layer and developing top growth to form and all round healthy lawn.

Safe Lawn

Safe Lawn

Obviously if you buy the first product you won’t need the second!

I know which I will be trying out this Spring.