Gardening Tips

Time for the chop! Grow-how tips for early June


‘Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June’.  A.L. Bernstein had it right – June is a huge compensation for losing all the bright freshness of early spring, with its offering of swags of roses, and carpets of hardy geraniums, daisies or poppies.

But it’s a very busy month for the gardener too, and we need to get down to some chopping down, earthing up, fattening our harvests and thinning our fruits… 

That’s the mayhem of Chelsea Flower Show over for another year! We goggled at the gardens, made notes of dozens of little ideas and added to our lists of Would-Love-to-Have plants in the Great Pavilion. Turning back to our own gardens, how about making your perennials flower for longer this summer?  It’s called the Chelsea Chop, for the obvious reason (I think you can definitely work this one out 🙄) and it’s all a bit brutal-sounding, but take it from me, it really, really works.

There is nothing the slightest bit difficult about giving plants a Chelsea Chop

Dozens of herbaceous perennials are putting on masses of growth now which often causes them to flop once they are laden with flowers, especially in a windy spot. The aim of pruning them at the time of the Chelsea Flower Show is to make the plants flower later, bushier, and a bit lower, lessening the need for staking. 

There is nothing remotely difficult about this. Basically, you just grab the stems with one hand and chop them off with secateurs with the other, down to about half their height. Wallop! The prunings can go on the compost heap, or you can even use the tops of things like sedums (Hyelotelephium) as softwood cuttings to make more plants.

Hyelotelephium (sedum) are great candidates for a Chelsea Chop to prevent them from flopping in the middle.

And here’s another great variation of the ‘Chelsea Chop’ that will give you flowers ALL SUMMER LONG.   Cut back about a third of this season’s shoots by half.  In a fortnight’s time, do the same to another third of the shoots you’d left untouched before.  Leave the last third unpruned – they will flower first.  Then the first lot you cut back will come into flower, a little lower and sturdier.  And then the last lot.  Isn’t that genius thinking!

There is a long list of pretty herbaceous perennials which respond incredibly well to this treatment including Anthemis varieties (chamomile), Nepeta (catmint), Echinacea (aren’t those two species looking fabulous in our feature pic this week!), Coreopsis (tickseed), Rudbeckia (coneflower), Sedum (ice plant), Helenium (sneezeweed), Argyranthemum (marguerite), Solidago (goldenrod), Campanula (bellflower), Eupatorium (Joe Pye weed), Verbena inc. bonariensis, etc – all ideal.

Verbena bonariensis is a good candidate for Chelsea Chopping – and you can use the prunings as cuttings to make more of these lovely plants

A friend bought a large specimen of Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ at the Chelsea sell-off last week.  She won’t be disappointed – I know this is probably Caroline’s favourite plant in her Highland garden, and our columnist wrote a lovely piece about it a while back. Link is at the end.

Rosa ‘Mutabilis’ has beautiful single flowers beloved by bees

This rose has single flowers and it reminded me that our bees and other pollinators much prefer single flowers to double ones generally.  They can get access to pollen and nectar much more easily, from single blooms, even if they are in fact part of composite flower-heads like Echinops (globe thistle) or Eryngium.

Beneficial insects of all kinds love single flowers even if they are composite ones like this Echinops (globe thistle)

Lavender, borage, sunflowers, foxgloves, snapdragons, Echinacea, Cosmos, Verbena, marguerites, and single-flowered dahlias are all brilliant choices for attracting beneficial insects – and of course, so are single roses like my friend’s gorgeous new purchase.

So if you are choosing bedding plants, annuals, perennials or shrubs, just keep in mind that you can help our struggling wildlife as well as filling your garden with beautiful colour by choosing single-flowerers.

  • If you’ve got fruit coming on a grapevine, pinch out the growing tip of the shoot two leaves after the fruit-truss, so the plant puts its energy into the berries, not the leaves. 
Trim vine shoots to two leaves past the fruit cluster
  • There is still time to sow seeds of courgettes, pumpkins, French beans, and Calabrese. And you can also sow perennial flower seeds indoors like lupins, aquilegia or delphiniums to flower next year.
Sow lupin seeds now to flower next year
  • It looks like we are heading for another massive crop of apples and plums this year, so I shall be going round thinning the fruitlets.  With the plum tree, I shall take them off to leave a developing plum every 2-3in. (5-8 cm) or a pair of them every 6 in.(15 cm). I expect I might still have to prop up the branches later on though, as usual!  With the apple trees, I’ll pick off the smallest one or two fruits in each cluster and leave the rest to mature.
A crop like this would break the branches! They need thinning out pronto….
  • The potato plants are shooting up now – keep piling soil round their stems (‘earthing up’) to increase your eventual yield and remember to water them in dry weather (when it eventually comes!)
Keep piling earth around the potato stems
  • Something else that’s growing strongly are the nettles!  If you’ve got a lot, save money on buying fertiliser and make your own: wearing thick gloves (!) cut and chop up nettle (or comfrey leaves) put them in an old bucket and weigh them down with a brick. Fill the bucket with water and leave it in a shady spot for a fortnight. Putting a peg on your nose because it smells vile, pour off the liquid into an old plastic bottle and use it in the ratio of 1:20 with water as a FABULOUS free feed containing nitrogen as well as potassium for all your plants. 
Chop up nettles to make a heady brew for your other plants to enjoy…..

My garden is open for the National Garden Scheme this weekend as part of an Eastbourne Garden Trail (lots of primping and trimming, more tea and cakes…). Laura will also be bringing along all sorts of items from our 3Growbags shop if you fancy a browse while you munch cake. I made a short video last year about what it looks like in early June.

Here is the link to Louise’s piece about Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’.

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

4 replies on “Time for the chop! Grow-how tips for early June”

Ah yes, wallflowers! Another perfect single-flowered plant to grow in support of our precious insect life, Anne. Thank you for reminding us of it. All the best, Elaine

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