According to the RHS, the Chelsea Chop is “(so called because it is usually carried out at the end of May, coinciding with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show) is a pruning method by which you limit the size and control the flowering season of many herbaceous plants”. Plants that do well for a Chelsea Chop are later flowering summer herbaceous perennials, such as Echinacea, Helenium, Phlox and Sedum. By taking back the growth by a third, you get much stronger flowering later on.
But for me, the Chelsea Chop is more about going to RHS Chelsea, taking 12,453 photos and then whittling them down to just a few. It was a very different Chelsea this year, with fewer showgardens, but I particularly enjoyed the BBC Radio 2 gardens, which I am guessing was brought in to make up for the lack of showgardens.
The gardens were broken down into three categories: Showgardens, Artisan and Fresh. Because I was working at Chelsea on behalf of Stark & Greensmith, I had access to the gardens before the show opened, and managed to get to see the gardens without the hustle and the bustle. Unfortunately, because I was working at Chelsea, I didn’t get a chance to have a good look at the Fresh Gardens.
There were trends this year, that many people have spoken about. The Lupins, the Geums, the Salvias, the Pinus mugo. Some people don’t realise that most of the showgardens are supplied by plants from the same two or three nurseries. For me, I’m not bothered by the trends, or how controversial a garden is, I want to see something that can be put into everyday use.
The Artisan gardens were particularly stunning this year. I really liked the planting of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, as designed by David Domoney. My favourite, however, was the Poetry Lover’s Garden. Its tiered layout, traditional planting with a contemporary water feature really did it for me.
Of the Showgardens, I really liked the Breaking Ground Garden, which I was working opposite from. I loved the ribbons of colour running through grasses, and the attention to detail.
However, the Chris Beardshaw garden for M&G was for me the best. The planting was the most achievable in an everyday garden – Hostas, Primulas, Peonies, Alliums, Nepeta, Irises, Delphiniums – all plants that are found in most gardens.
The BBC Radio 2 gardens were all stunning, and there was much from each garden that I will take away from me.
Its always very sad when its over, and the sell-off is brutal. But come the 6th June I get to do it all again at RHS Chatsworth.
Some other bits of inspiration: