Phlox flower

The ‘Chelsea chop’

Chelsea chop
The Chelsea chop (so-called because it is usually carried out at the end of May, coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show) is a useful pruning technique that helps control the size, shape and flowering time of certain summer-flowering herbaceous plants. Late May or early June is the perfect time to do it.

Plants that respond well to the Chelsea chop include:

Echinacea purpurea
Phlox paniculata

Many other summer and autumn-flowering perennials can be treated similarly. The degree of cutting back is specific to each species but the closer to flowering time you prune, the greater the delay in flowering. Doing the ‘Chelsea chop’ can delay the flowering of perennials by four to six weeks. You can either prune all the stems on a clump, which delays all the flowers, or just half of them, which spreads the plant’s flowering over a longer period. This can have some positive results:

The plants are not so tall and leggy
They need less staking
The flowers are smaller but more numerous

This happens because the removal of the top shoots enables the side shoots to branch out (the top shoots would normally inhibit the side shoots by producing hormones in a process called apical dominance). Using this method, along with regular feeding and watering, ensures beds and borders look tidy throughout summer.

To carry out the Chelsea chop:

Use sharp, clean secateurs to cut back the stems of perennials by one-third or a half, making a sloping cut just above a leaf joint.
If you have several clumps of one plant, try cutting back a few, but leaving others. This will prolong the overall flowering time
Another method is to cut half the stems back at the front of the clump, extending the flowering season rather than delaying it.

Here’s an example of a Phlox paniculata that I cut back half of the foliage in late May this year:

Phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata prior to carrying out the Chelsea chop

Phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata after carrying out the Chelsea chop

Phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata cut stems after carrying out the Chelsea chop

Autumnal Tree colour

Garden Jobs in November

Cool, misty mornings and the last leaves clinging to the trees make this a beautiful and melancholy time of year. Ensure that you take some time in between carrying out the tasks below to make the most of this month.


  • Plant the last of your autumn bulbs. Tulip bulbs can be planted in pots and borders. Ensure they are covered with at least twice their depth of soil or compost
  • Lift dahlias tubers after the first frost, clean them off and store them in dry compost in a cool, frost-proof place
  • Leave any faded seed heads on perennials and ornamental grasses for the birds to eat
  • Plant bare-root hedging, roses, trees and shrubs, before the weather turns too cold
  • Move any half-hardy plants that are growing in containers to a greenhouse for the winter
  • Check any stakes and ties to ensure they are secure

Fruit and veg

  • Prune autumn-fruiting raspberries to the ground after they have been harvested
  • Plant garlic, shallots and onions, then cover with fleece


  • Insulate the greenhouse with bubble wrap
  • Check greenhouse plants regularly for any overwintering pests
  • Thoroughly clean greenhouse staging and glazing with disinfectant
  • Ventilate the greenhouse when the weather allows, particularly after watering and when paraffin heaters are used at night

Garden maintenance

  • Check bonfires carefully before lighting to make sure there isn’t any wildlife sheltering inside
  • Continue to mow the lawn if the grass is still growing and the weather is mild but raise the height of the blades
  • Collect any fallen leaves, especially from lawns and ponds, and place in bin bags. Add some water if the leaves are dry and then puncture the bag with a fork. Leave them to decompose into leaf mould
  • Raise outside containers onto pot feet to prevent waterlogging and wrap bubble wrap or hessian around pots outside to protect from frost damage
  • Mulch around the crowns of perennials to give them extra protection from the winter weather. This will also help to improve the soil structure
  • Try to keep off the lawn if the ground is frozen to avoid damaging the grass
Dahlia flowers

Garden Jobs in September

This month heralds the start of autumn. Although the days may be getting shorter and temperatures cooler, there is still plenty of interest in the garden, with hints of autumn colour to come.

Here are a list of jobs to do this month.


  • Support tall late-flowering perennials
  • Deadhead and feed hanging basket displays to prolong flowering
  • Plant up containers for autumn interest, using cyclamen and other colourful bedding plants
  • Plant out spring-flowering biennials such as wallflowers, pansies and forget-me-nots
  • Plant spring-flowering bulbs
  • Collect seeds from your favourite plants
  • Bring tender potted plants under cover, or take cuttings
  • Start planting new trees, shrubs, climbers and perennials as the soil is still warm
  • Stop feeding trees and shrubs in containers
  • Last chance to force hyacinths for Christmas

Lawn Care
Now is a good time to carry out essential lawn maintenance to avoid waterlogging and compaction.

  • Scarify and aerate established lawns
  • Sand the lawn
  • Feed the lawn with an Autumn fertiliser
  • Reseed bare patches
  • Sow or turf new lawns

Fruit & Veg

  • Harvest marrows and the last courgettes
  • Lift maincrop potatoes, dry off and store
  • Plant out spring cabbage
  • Sow hardy greens such as winter lettuce and kale
  • Continue to harvest apples and pears, and pick autumn-fruiting raspberries
  • Plant onion sets, plant new strawberry plants and sow spring cabbage


  • As light levels start to fall, remove any shading from your greenhouse towards the end of the month in order that plants receive the maximum amount of light
  • Close greenhouse vents and doors in late afternoons when cool nights are forecast in order to trap in heat overnight
  • Check greenhouse heaters are in good working order
  • Reduce watering and ventilation in the greenhouse
  • Continue to pick off faded blooms and dead leaves from plants before fungal diseases have a chance to take hold

Garden Maintenance

  • Start clearing autumn debris to prevent pests and diseases overwintering
  • Clean out water butts and check downpipe fittings in preparation for autumn rains
  • Remove algae from water features and net ponds to keep out autumn leaves
  • Net ponds to prevent leaves falling into them
Christmas ice snowflakes

Wakehurst Place – Winter

I am fortunate that I have many National Trust gardens to visit that are close to me, one of which I visited recently was Wakehurst Place.

Wakehurst Glow Wild Tree
I visited the Glow Wild winter lantern festival which took place from 30 November to 17 December 2017 where I was able to take part in a magical after-dark walk through Wakehurst’s beautiful botanic gardens and majestic woodlands. All of this was brought to life with glowing, handcrafted lanterns. The walk was just under 1 mile in length and took approximately 1 hour.


Wakehurst Glow Wild BadgersThere were floating lanterns on the Mansion pond and stars adorning the oak trees in the Pinetum. Lanterns taking the form of fox, badgers and various other animals were also lit up and placed strategically along the trail.

The stream that led down to the Black pond was transformed into a river of fire – a continuous stream of lights cascaded downwards, filling the water with glittering light and made quite eerie by soft music being played in the background.

Wakehurst Place Mansion Lights


As I neared the end of the trail, shadowy silhouettes adorned the Elizabethan mansion making it look totally magical.


If you’d built up an appetite by the end of the walk, there were marshmallows which could be warmed by fires in the courtyard along with stalls selling items such as roasted chestnuts – yummy! All of this could be enjoyed whilst admiring the UK’s largest living Christmas tree, which was adorned with Christmas lights.

A truly magical experience – I’ll definitely be purchasing tickets for the 2018 trail.

Wakehurst Place is well worth a visit and I suggest that, if you are close by, to pop in – it won’t be a disappointment.

Dahlia flowers

Fantastic Dahlia Grower

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to an extremely knowledgeable gentleman this weekend – award-winning dahlia grower Terry Cornell. He showed me around an area of land that a local nursery had given to him in order to grow a wide range of Dahlias. He regularly supplies friends and neighbours with beautiful cut flowers for them to enjoy in their homes and generously gave me a car boot full of flowers to take home with me.

His wife, Nicky also grows a multitude of daffodils for display in the spring and I look forward to being invited back to experience this cheerful spectacle.