callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

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Chelsea chopping

It’s only recently that the term ‘Chelsea Chop’ has become common parlance. It means pruning your perennials and late May is a good time to do it, hence ‘Chelsea’. An American gardening writer, Tracy DiSabato-Aust, has even written a book on the subject: The Well Tended Perennial Garden. As with so many gardening fashions this idea has actually been around for years. The first I heard of it was when a nurseryman giving a talk recommended cutting down Sedum spectabile varieties to stop the clumps falling apart in the middle, as they are so prone to do. I had this forced on me last year. One day I noticed that overnight a plant of Sedum ‘Purpureum’ had collapsed in the middle, with the stems lying prone on the ground. Then I spotted the tell-tale heap of very fine soil: ants were the culprits. I blasted the soil with Nippon powder then cut all the stems close to the ground. Later in the season I had a lovely little mound of dark red flowers.

I have a Phlox called ‘Lichtspel’, which I bought from Piet Oudolf’s nursery (boasting). It’s a splendid plant which grows as tall as I am (OK, not very tall) but needs no staking. It also provides offsets so I have put some in my grandly named Cutting Garden (three rows in the veg. patch). I cut down all the front stems by about half, so that when the flowering stems behind are going over, the front ones start flowering. I shall also be attacking other phlox varieties, Heleniums and Shasta Daisies. For more detailed information, see this excellent RHS account here.
Tags: gardens, plants, pruning perennials

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