Beautify – May 2020

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Speaker event ‘Hot Plants for 2020’

Doing the Chelsea Chop


Speaker event ‘Hot Plants for 2020’

By Michele Worden, Advanced Extension Master Gardener, MGANM President

We were nervous about how our first online presentation would work, so Robin Smillie and I entered the Zoom room 15 minutes early.  Much to our surprise – so did many other people!  Thus, for 15 minutes Master Gardeners had our usual social time before the speaker presentation.  We chatted and caught up.  How was handling the pandemic going at your house?  Many of us marveled at seeing so many faces at the same time.  It was a bit like coming out into the sun from a dark place.  We could not remember the last time it had happened.  We blinked.  We were giddy.

At 6:01, Robin Smillie of Garden Goods began her presentation. She regaled us with an overview of the green industry and how many plants Garden Goods sells in a season.  It was very interesting.  So far, they had only received balled and burlapped fruit trees.  They were Tibetan cherry trees (Prunus serulla) with decorative copper bark that provided an attractive winter interest and beautiful spring bloom.  She showed us a picture of the tree in a landscape and we oohed and ahhed.  

Robin proceeded with a beautiful Powerpoint presentation of plants Garden Goods was excited to be getting for 2020.  All plants had already been trialed in northern gardens by Garden Goods.  They test plant introductions for at least one season by planting at the owner’s home, or key places, to evaluate before they offer larger numbers to the public through their store.  I texted her to claim a few that I wanted for my garden during the presentation.  They will have very limited supply.   Best to get ahead of the curve.


The list Robin talked about are below:

Shrubs and roses

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Firelight’

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Summer Crush”

Petite ‘Knock-Out’ rose (a series)

Prunus Serulla



Aralia cordata ‘Sun King”

Allium ‘Millineum’ (weird spelling)

Brunner macrophylla ‘Jack of Diamonds’

Astilbe ‘Chocolate Shogun’


Doing the Chelsea Chop

By Nancy Popa, Extension Master Gardener

Did you ever hear of the Chelsea Chop?  It is not a dance or a recipe but rather a pruning technique to make your garden spectacular. The Chelsea Chop is named for the pruning technique that is carried out right before the Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show in Chelsea England.  The technique limits the size of the plants and controls the flowering season of many herbaceous plants.  It also prevents tall leggy plants from toppling over by making them bushier.

Many summer and autumn flowering plants are suitable for the Chelsea Chop.  Sedum (upright), Solidago, Aster, Phlox, Achellia, Penstemon, Helenium, Leucanthemum and Echinacea are perfect candidates.   It is not suitable for plants that only bloom once during the season such as Peonies, Iris and Aquilea.  It is not used in woody plants nor plants that are young or undeveloped.

Plants can be cut back by one-third to one-half when they are nice and green (anytime beginning in late May/early June) using pruners or scissors.  You can actually prune them several times throughout June, just make sure that your pruning is done by the summer equinox at the end of June, as the shortening days signal the plant to produce seeds and not flowers.  

Prune back close to a bud, where the growth-hormones will aid in the production of new branching and buds. Remember, the terminal bud (the bud at the end of a branch or twig) produces a hormone called auxin that directs the growth of lateral buds (buds along the side of the branch or twig). As long as the terminal bud is intact, auxin suppresses the growth of lateral buds and shoots below the terminal. When you remove the terminal bud by pruning, lateral buds and shoots below the pruning cut grow vigorously.

Make sure you keep the plant watered and fertilized following the pruning as it can shock the plant.  

You can cut back the entire plant if you want to delay the blooms to coincide with another flowering plant or you can cut back every other stem so that you extend the blooming time.  A word of caution; make sure you deadhead the first flush before it sets seeds, otherwise you will be disappointed by the intensity of the second flush.  In the end, the plant may be slightly shorter although sturdier and with numerous blooms, which may be smaller.  Expect blooms to be delayed by about 2 weeks.

It sounds like a great science project, especially if you are trying to time the blooms to coincide with another species.  Get out your journal and document your work!


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