Time for the “Chelsea Chop”

Welcome to my blog; after a gloriously rainy week – a respite from outdoor watering for a while – our plants are all breathing a sigh of relief. Our ponds had dropped noticeably in the last few dry weeks and some plants were beginning to show signs of stress. Marginal plants are of course adapted to periods of drought, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t get some brown or yellow leaves. Moisture loving plants, especially any we have in pots, can droop alarmingly by the end of a hot day, and under those circumstances the best thing you can do for the plant (apart from watering it of course) is to cut off some of the larger leaves. Particularly susceptible are Ligularias, Astilboides and Rodgersias. At this time of year we go through a large percentage of our potted stock and cut them right back, leaving just a few at full height. This means that later in the year, when the latter have all finished flowering and are starting to die back, the ones which we cut back will take over and provide a later show of flowers. Gardeners call this the “Chelsea Chop”, since it generally coincides with the Chelsea flower show, and it works particularly well for plants that produce multiple flowers over a long period, like Persicaria, rather than plants that put all their energy into producing one or a few large flowers like Irises. Naturally we have to cut back more and more when mailing plants as the season progresses, but this helps the plants to establish at your end as well as ensuring that you soon get some fresh new foliage and often flowers rather than browning or yellowing foliage.


Due to good husbandry but poor management we currently have a few plants in excess, do check out the plants showing a Sale sticker that represent even better value than usual! Particularly good at the moment is Acorus calamus variegatus, a rather underused plant in my view, probably because it doesn’t have big showy brightly coloured flowers. It is very reliable and easy though, and if you plant four in a decent sized basket you will get an attractive architectural fan of cleanly variegated and sweet smelling foliage over a long season. It’s particularly good for understated “quiet” planting schemes.

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