Tales from the Walled Garden

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Doing the Chelsea Chop

Now that the evenings are lighter for longer, there’s even more time to be pottering about in the garden to try and get the most from your borders and displays.

As gardeners, we are always looking at methods to increase and enhance the floral delights across the gardens. There is a technique used on late-flowering perennials, bedding plants and herbaceous plants as they begin to flower called the Chelsea Chop.

It isn’t a form of sun dance but a pruning method that has historically taken place at the end of May coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The theory is that you delay flowering, create bushier and more compact perennials and in some cases, plants that can become a little leggy and wildly will need less staking.

At Houghton Lodge Gardens, this technique has been applied to sedum and phlox over the last couple of weeks. It is fantastic for sedum as they are generally very top heavy causing them to be unable to support their own weight and simply flop from the middle out. With the Chelsea Chop, because they don’t grow so big  they become self-supporting and much more appealing to the eye.  With phlox you can either cut it all back or stagger it; for example, cutting back every other plant which allows you to extend the flowering season and interest.

How to perform the Chelsea Chop

When chopping back perennials, cut a third to a half of the new growth off to create bushier plants such as echinacea, sedum and rudbeckia all which usually flower later on in the season.

On bedding plants and annuals, as soon as flowers begin to fade, be sure to deadhead and chop them off – this will cause a change or interruption to the plants natural cycle and encourage new flowers to grow.

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