May 26th, 2006


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.

Play up, play up...

This afternoon, England lost their last five wickets for five runs. Come on, girls! Personally I blame the radio commentators, who were tempting fate as usual with their talk of 'England's commanding lead' and useful batsmen still to come. Once Flintoff had gone, that was it.

I see that Eric Bedser, of the famous Bedser twins, has died aged 87. He played for Surrey, my team. This is the way they used to look.

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