Action plan: CIAR BYRNE’s essential jobs for your garden this week
- UK-based garden expert Ciar Byrne says now is the time for a ‘Chelsea Chop’
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LET’S ALL DO THE CHELSEA CHOP
Gardens enjoy a growth spurt in May, when we traditionally give plants a good haircut, called the ‘Chelsea Chop’ because it coincides with the flower show.
This method of pruning may seem counterintuitive, but reducing the size of perennials now prevents them from becoming too tall and leggy and promotes bushier growth.
Without their topshoots, flowering is delayed until later in the summer, but the plants will then produce more blooms. It also reduces the need for staking the stems.
Choose plants that are well established, not those you’ve recently put in the ground. Using a pair of shears or secateurs, cut back by a third to a half. If you have more than one of the same variety, chop one and leave the other to compare results.
Plants that respond well to the Chelsea Chop include golden marguerites, purple coneflower (pictured), sneezeweed, perennial phlox, sedums, and goldenrod. Stock image used
Plants that respond well to the Chelsea Chop include golden marguerites (Anthemis tinctoria), purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), sneezeweed (Helenium), perennial phlox, sedums, and goldenrod (Solidago).
Some gardeners choose to cut just half the stems at the front of a plant, extending the flowering season without risking the plant.
Be warned though, some varieties don’t respond well to being cut back at this time, and you may lose flowers for this year.
IT’S ALL GO ON THE VEG PATCH
If you grow your own, it’s lively in the vegetable patch or allotment this month. Stake broad beans which should be starting to flower.
Sow summer salad crops such as spinach and mizuna. Make second sowings of carrots and beetroots.
Plant out courgettes and squash seedlings, cutting plastic bottles to make a guard against slugs and snails.
Create a bed for outdoor tomatoes with a rich peat-free compost in a sheltered sunny spot.
If you grow your own, it’s lively in the vegetable patch or allotment this month. Stake broad beans which should be starting to flower. Stock image used
Plant it up with two or three summer bedding plants, such as begonias, petunias, lobelias, and fuchsias. Stock image used
PLANT A SUMMER HANGING BASKET
Line your basket with moss or green polythene, then fill it with peat-free compost. Plant it up with two or three summer bedding plants, such as begonias, petunias, lobelias, and fuchsias. Combine trailing plants with uprights such as diascias, osteospermums and pelargoniums.
I’ve decided to get rid of my box hedge. What alternatives can you suggest?
Sarah Croft, Wakefield.
The twin threats of box tree caterpillar and box blight have led many gardeners to look for alternative hedging and topiary plants. Ilex crenata, the Japanese Holly, is perfect for low growing hedges and it can be easily clipped into shape in early spring. Yew (Taxus baccata) is another good option and can withstand being cut back hard.
Osmanthus delavayi is an evergreen shrub which produces white jasmine-like flowers in spring, and the bees love it. Euonymus japonicus has glossy dark green leaves and is good for hedging in exposed and coastal gardens. Pittosporum is drought tolerant but needs regular cutting back.
Plant of the week: Papaver somniferum ‘Lauren’s Grape’ (Opium poppy ‘Lauren’s Grape’)
This lovely poppy has rich purple silken petals on bowl-shaped flowers and is much prized by garden designers. The leaves and stem are a pale silverish green contrasting with the jewel-like blooms.
It grows to about 90cm tall and likes sun or dappled shade and moist but well drained neutral or alkaline soil. Sow seeds in spring for flowers from late May through to August, making sure to protect seedlings from slugs and snails.
Once it has flowered, leave the seedheads, which rattle in the breeze and can be used in winter flower arrangements. It is toxic to humans and pets.
This lovely poppy has rich purple silken petals on bowl-shaped flowers and is much prized by garden designers. Stock image used
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