What to do if you haven’t much time
- Apply and renew mulches
- Water plants thoroughly through hot spells
- Hoe or hand-pull annual weeds
- Fill any gaps in borders with bedding or perennial plants
- Deadhead plants
Trees, Shrubs & Hedges
- Watch out for greenfly and leaf-rolling on roses
- Prune mature deciduous shrubs that finish flowering
- Continue taking softwood cutting
- Keep on top of training climbing and rambling roses
- Propagate climbers by layering
- Remove old leaves and flower stems of hellebores
- Cut back oriental poppies – they’ll look terrible right now but new leaves will grow in a month or two. They’ll flower again next year.
- Deadhead Euphorbia robbiae and E. characias
- Continue to stake tall-growing perennials
- Deadhead lupins and delphiniums
- Take cutting from pinks
- Cut down the foliage of bulbs that have been naturalised in grass
- Plant out cannas
- Lift and divide bulbs that have finished flowering
- Plant anemones to flower in autumn
Fruit & Veg
- Continue to harvest all crops as they mature
- Water and feed plants regularly
- Plant celery in trenches prepared during winter or spring
- Plant out celeriac raised earlier
- Plant out runner beans
- Sow radicchio (red chicory), Chinese cabbage, peas, salad vegetables, turnips
- Plant out sweetcorn, tomatoes, marrows, courgettes pumpkins and ridge cucumbers
- Plant out all winter brassicas
- Plant herbs in containers
- Remove cloches from strawberries
- Control grey mould on strawberries
- Put up pheromone traps
- Continue pruning and pinching out shoots on wall-trained fruit
- Gooseberries can also be thinned for larger fruits
- Don’t thin apples and pears
- Continue tying in new canes of blackberries and hybrid berries
- Mow lawn regularly
- Don’t forget edging
- Feed lawn with liquid fertilisers
Containers and bedding
- Plant out summer bedding plants
- Sow polyanthus and winter pansies
- Plant up a hanging basket
- Water and feed all plants regularly
- Plant up half-hardy annuals and tender perennials in containers outdoors
- Damp down regularly
- Water and feed all plants regularly
- Shade the greenhouse
- Pot on all young plants and seedlings that are ready
Until the end of June, we are offering every newsletter customer a 10% discount off their first order.
Please enter new10 at the checkout. Enjoy your shopping.
What is the “Chelsea Chop”, and why bother?
The “Chelsea Chop” is a QUICK and EASY technique you can copy from professional nurseries to make sure you get more summer and autumn flowers in your garden over a longer period. It is quicker and easier than “deadheading” and costs nothing but a few minutes of your time.
How does it work?
By cutting back some of your summer and autumn flowering “herbaceous perennials“ (cottage garden plants) in late spring, you can make them produce more flowers that will bloom later.
If you “chop” HALF of your flowering perennial plants and leave half alone, the flowering period could easily be doubled in length, and you will get more flowers in total. If you only have one clump of a plant, cut down the front half, leaving the back half untouched. The back will flower first, and the front will flower a little later, and a little shorter in height. If you have several clumps you could cut down some but not others.
A variant of the method is to reduce ALL of certain types of plant in height by half or more, to make them flower more compactly. This works with the taller kinds of sedums and reduces the chance of them flopping. e.g. Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ (‘Autumn Joy’) and Sedum telephium varieties. It will also work on taller phloxes, heleniums etc – they’ll flower later and lower, and need less (or no) staking.
How to do ‘The Chelsea Chop’
Cut back appropriate plants by one third to one half, cutting just above a strong-looking buds (or pair of buds). Use sharp secateurs or scissors, shears, or a sharp thumbnail if you have one!
Although not a key part of the “Chelsea Chop” process, this is also a good time to give the plants a bit of TLC if you haven’t already:
- Check for disease and damage done by slugs, snails and insects
- Scatter some slow release fertiliser and lightly hoe it in
- If the soil is dry, give it one good watering
- Cover the soil surface with composted bark or homemade compost (not peat which goes dusty, has little nutrient value and is not environmentally friendly). This will keep in moisture and improve soil.
Late May, around the time of Chelsea Flower Show, hence “Chelsea Chop”. But if you’re too busy watching Chelsea on TV, a week before or after is fine too.
Do you know how much difference “deadheading” (cutting off old flowers) makes? Some plants can flower for three months instead of one, giving you three times the value! Give it a try – take out some secateurs with your drink on a nice summer evening. Last year my helenium sunflowers were still colourful at Christmas!
What plants respond best to the Chelsea Chop (and to deadheading)?
Summer and autumn flowering perennials like Astrantia, Campanula (Bell flower), catmint (Nepeta), Coreopsis, Day Lilies, daisy type flowers like Echinacea, Helenium, Rudbeckia and Shasta daisies, Gaillardia, Geranium, Lychnis, Monarda (bergamot), Border Phlox.
If in doubt, try it on part of a plant and see what happens!
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is coming up and we’re Going for Gold (well, hopefully…!)
Alec has designed a very contemporary style of display as part of a special RHS scheme to encourage new, original types of display. No ‘pretend’ gardens, old logs, moss and shabby chic props for us. Just timeless elegance.
Find us in The Grand Pavilion at GPD/150, or read the article in Bedford Today
A Riot of Colour is Everywhere
What to Do in Your Garden in May
Whatever the weather, higher light levels will mean that the garden is growing fast now. Enjoy all the colour, and think ahead to how your garden will develop over the coming months. If you plan (and plant) ahead you can have colour right through to the frosts.
If you haven’t much time
- Hoe on a warm day to keep annual weeds under control.
- Watch out for forecast frosts and cover tender plants with horticultural fleece, removing the fleece as soon as weather warms up.
- Ventilate greenhouses and cloches as much as possible on sunny days
Trees, Shrubs & Hedges
- Prune spring flowering shrubs once their flowers have finished. Do it now because next year’s flowers will form on the new stems that grow this season.
- Prune off any frost damaged shoots.
- Carry on tying in shoots of climbers.
- Last chance to put in place supports – plastic coated wire mesh supports, canes, twigs etc. Tie in shoots is using canes.
Fruit & Veg
- Indoors, sow tender vegetables like courgettes, cucumbers, runner beans, French beans and sweetcorn early this month, for planting out in early June.
- Plant tomatoes and leeks sown earlier in modules or pots.
- Continue successional sowing of salads.
- Earth up early potatoes so that the crop doesn’t get light on them and go green.
- Put straw under strawberries to keep them off the ground and prevent rotting.
- Remove sideshoots from cordon tomatoes (see photo).
- Feed and weed lawns if not already done.
- Last chance for sowing new lawns or bare patches.
Containers and bedding
- Buy summer bedding and basket plants and harden them off by taking them outside during the day, gradually increasing the length of time they stay outdoors.
- When planting, add to the compost some controlled release fertiliser with a high potash content (‘K’) to maximise flowering and minimise work. Avoid fertilisers high in nitrogen such as Growmore and some MiracleGro, as they will encourage leaf production at the expense of flowers.
- Plant out bedding later this month if the weather seems warm enough
- Plant out sweet pea plants, from the beginning of this month.
Copyright 2016 Alexia Ballance
Why Plant Intersectional Hybrid Peonies (Itoh Peonies)?
Intersectional or Itoh hybrid peonies are crosses between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies, and offer the best characteristics of both.
They have glorious flowers like those of Japanese tree peonies. They are relatively compact in growth like herbaceous peonies but, unlike them, the mound of foliage stays looking good. They bloom for longer than either. Blowsy and colourful, easy to grow and excellent as cut flowers, they are the perfect colourful plant even in small gardens.
The flowers of intersectional peonies are similar to those of Japanese tree peonies.
Colours available include flame colours like yellow and apricot, as well as pink. Most of them bear lightly scented, semi double flowers around June and all have beautiful long, yellow stamens. The flowers close up at night to protect themselves, and so they last longer than other types of peony. Each flower lasts up to five days, and the total bloom period is up to four weeks. That’s twice as long as others. They are followed by attractive, furry seedpods (which are unfortunately empty).
Compact Growth habit
They look like herbaceous peonies, but a little more upright. The woody stems hold the flowers up well so they don’t need staking. The leaves can be shiny or matt and are deeply divided. After blooming has finished, the leaves continue to look great until they turn brilliant red and then fall. Most varieties grow 2-3’ high (60-90cm). This combination of attractive habit and lovely flowers makes them very useful in the garden.
Easy to Plant and Care for
Plant them with their crown and buds about 1” (2-3cm) below soil level. Planting too deep is one of the most common reasons why peonies sometimes don’t flower. Water well at planting time, then occasionally but thoroughly as the foliage grows. All our peonies are containerised in big 5.5L pots so they can be planted at any time of year.
If planting bare root specimens, plant in winter or early spring, first cutting back any damaged roots. When you plant, make sure you jiggle some soil between the roots. Water lightly.
In autumn or winter cut down the woody stems to the base, just as you would with herbaceous peonies. Once they’ve got to a good size, they can be divided by digging up the clump, chopping it in pieces and replanting to the right depth. Being woody, it’s hard work though!
They are highly resistant to peony wilt.
It’s all in the name
The name “Itoh hybrid peonies” is a fitting tribute to horticulturist Toichi Itoh from Tokyo. In the 1940s, he used pollen from the yellow tree peony “Alice Harding” to fertilize the herbaceous P. lactiflora “Katoden”. This resulted in a new category of peonies, the Itoh or intersectional cultivars.
The peony genus, Paeonia, is named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of his pupil. Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower. According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peony
Buy Intersectional Peonies
To view or buy some of our favourites, please click on these images. All of them are containerised in large 5.5L pots.
Campanula ‘Loddon Anna’
Lupin Gallery ‘White’, ‘Pink’, ‘Yellow’