Bearing no relation to the Barnsley chop the Chelsea chop is a method of pruning herbaceous plants. This annual beheading is best done in late May to early June and so coincides with the end of the Chelsea Flower Show, hence the name.
Suitable for most late flowering perennials the Chelsea chop limits the size of the plant and delays the flowering season, ensuring that you have colour when other flowering has ended. The closer the chop is delivered to the natural flowering period then the longer the blooms will be delayed.
The Chelsea chop has both followers and opponents with many gardeners being unwilling to chop off healthy flower heads, especially when they’ve been looked forward to all winter. Others feel that, however brutal the action, the benefits make the Chelsea chop worth delivering. These benefits include:
– Plants remain shorter and neater
– The stems grow stronger and are less prone to flopping
– Less staking is required and less chance of wind rock and damage
– The plants flower later when other plants have finished
– The flowers are more numerous albeit usually smaller
Some choppers are braver than others but most will reduce plants by about a third, using sharp shears or secateurs. Different varieties of late flowering perennials can be cut to different levels and with large clumps the front can be cut lower than the back or even layered throughout the clump. This will result in continual flowering throughout the summer.
Plants that benefit from the Chelsea chop include:
– Hardy Chrysanthemums
– Gold Rod
In summary, the Chelsea chop is a great way of controlling a plant’s shape and flowering period and is easy to do with shears or secateurs. Your reward for taking a deep breath and chopping will be a colourful garden right the way through to late summer.