Master the Chelsea Chop: Pruning Tips for the Ultimate Garden Tidy Up

Master the Chelsea Chop: Pruning Tips for the Ultimate Garden Tidy Up  

It feels as though the year has started with a bit of a dreary spring at times with little sunshine and endless rain, but it seems the plants in our gardens have not minded one bit! Perennials in particular have shot up so vigorously they are now becoming a bit floppy and sprawling, so now is a good time to slow them down a bit, this is where the Chelsea Chop comes in.

Preparing For The Chelsea Chop 

There are certain plants that respond well to the Chelsea Chop technique, so called because it is usually done from the end of May (Chelsea Flower Show time) through June. The top plants to apply the Chelsea Chop to are: 

  • Perennial Geranium varieties such as Geranium ‘Rozanne’
  • Verbena Bonariensis 
  • Sedum Spectabile 
  • Penstemon
  • Other plants that flower mid to late summer

It may look a bit drastic after ‘the chop’, but don’t worry, in a few days the plants will start coming back to life and be much happier for it in the long-term. For certain plants such as Geums, wait till the flowering tails off and cut back the faded flower stems to the base and trim the foliage by 50%. This will encourage new leaves and hopefully a second flush of blooms!

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing the Chelsea Chop 

For plants that sprawl such as Geraniums, gather the stems together then simply chop everything off by about 50% or more. They will quickly grow back but will be far more compact. You can do the same with Catmint (Nepeta) and Alchemilla when the peak of flowering is over. You can be even more ruthless with these by cutting back to about 20cm from the base with shears or scissors and watch the magic happen! 

Don’t forget to water thoroughly every day or two after chopping back plants and even add some liquid feed in the water or mulch with compost around the base. 

Additional Pruning Tips for a Garden Tidy Up

June is a very busy time in the garden, so our top maintenance tip is ‘little and often’. As soon as a garden gets a bit out of control it can become stressful and end up being a chore rather than a pleasure.

Top tips for a garden tidy up:

  • Cut grass every two/three weeks rather than weekly and leave patches of uncut lawns for wildflowers
  • Always edge the lawn after cutting so there is a clean definition between lawn and border, this gives a ‘sharp’ look
  • Mulch the soil with organic compost and soil conditioner as this adds nutrients, keeps weeds down, keeps moisture in and looks nice too!
  • Dead-head faded flowers to encourage new blooms
  • Keep evergreens and shrubs under control by pruning regularly as and when you see them getting too large for the space

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Snipping and trimming plants is very therapeutic and most plants benefit from it too.

Sometimes certain plants grow more vigorously than others and can end up growing over the smaller or slower growing ones. This reduces the light and airflow and can harm the smaller plant. Don’t be afraid to control these vigorous ones, they won’t mind at all and some evergreens can take over a space if you let them. 

Photinia ‘Red Robin’, Ceanothus and Choisya are good examples of large growing shrubs that can easily take over your garden. Trim regularly to keep them in check as you can manage these brutes to remain at 1.5-2m in height and less than 1m wide with pruning 3-4 times a year.

Embrace the Chelsea Chop for the ultimate garden tidy up

In summary, managing your garden with regular maintenance rather than letting it get out of hand is a life saver further down the line as well as being great for your garden’s health. The Chelsea Chop is the perfect technique for cutting back those unruly plants and keeping them in check; your garden will thank you for it later.

Mulching (placing a layer of mulch over soil around your plants), will also save watering and weeding while also looking amazing. Enjoy relaxing in your garden and don't let a few weeds spoil the fun, they are wildflowers after all. Contact our gardening experts for more guidance on techniques to keep your garden in check, or explore our range of borders to enhance an empty space following your garden tidy up!