Learn to garden with Mike. #GardeningMadeEasy

Over the past fifteen weeks of COVID-19 lockdown, I have shared my garden, live, every Friday morning on Instagram. My ‘Weekly Wander‘ has allowed me to showcase my garden as it has grown away and burgeoned through the season. Every week an enthusiastic gathering of gardeners (is there a collective noun for lots of gardeners?) has tuned in and watched my garden’s progress. Along the way (he said, avoiding the much overused word ‘journey’) trug-loads of gardening questions have been put to me.

Mike’s ‘Weekly Wander’ – Week 14

Watch Mike’s ‘Weekly Wander’ – Week 14 by clicking this link.

It occurred to me that there are many, many aspiring amateur gardeners out there. Gardeners who want a beautiful green space of their own, no matter what the size. Whilst I trained professionally as a gardener, I clearly remember my very early days of making mistakes (and there were many), muddling through and trying to do my best. It was hugely frustrating at times. Things were different in those dark, ‘Neanderthal’ days (yes, I really am THAT old). There was no Instagram. There was no easily accessible community of gardeners on Facebook. I had Alan Titchmarsh in my lounge on a Friday evening for half an hour, but he seemed not to notice that I had my own specific questions, individual concerns and associated problems.

And so I am introducing #GardeningMadeEasy.

My idea is not rocket science, it’s been done before in various guises, I suspect. #GardeningMadeEasy is about sharing my love, passion and knowledge of gardening and plants with others. I certainly don’t know it all, but I know a fair amount and I love chatting (as you will have noticed) and sharing that knowledge with fellow gardeners.

Whether you are a complete newbie to gardening or looking to increase your existing gardening knowledge and skills I will be here to help.

#GardeningMadeEasy will be driven by the gardening jobs that need to be done right now to help your garden, your pots, containers and hanging baskets flourish. There will be:

  • Easy to follow, live Instagram demos and talks with the experts
  • Helpful IGTV videos, and
  • Plain English blog posts

I will aim to demonstrate, explain and de-mystify some of the gardening basics and some of the more complex tasks that budding amateurs will want to strive to achieve.

Amongst MANY gardening topics I will explain:

  • Confusing gardening terminology
  • Different composts and soil improvers and when & how to use them
  • How and when to feed and fertilise plants
  • Pruning and propagation
  • Pests & diseases and how to use them effectively.

I’ll also be lifting the lid on some garden design tricks of the trade, which you can use in your green patch.

I’ll not be able to cover everything, of course, but you’ll be able to message me with any problems you are struggling with.

If this is something that will be of interest to you, please SUBSCRIBE to my blog (www.mike-palmer.com) and my Instagram feed (@mikepalmer01) to see all details of live demos and talks, IGTV videos and blog posts and SHARE with all of your gardening family and friends.

Thank you.

Mike

Chop, chop! Demystifying the eponymous Chelsea Chop

It’s mid-May; beautiful blue skies, warm, sun-soaked days, heavy rain, freezing cold days and devious, late frosts. It has to be Chelsea Flower Show-time. The gathering of the horticultural glitterati, designer show-gardens to leave you breathless and a pavilion full to bursting with green stuff; no that’s an understatement if ever I’ve heard one. A horticultural heaven filled with a host of celestial, multi-coloured gorgeousness.

And talking of the ‘green stuff’, some of the plants in our gardens are ready for a (literal) slice of Chelsea action. It’s time for the Chelsea Chop.

So what is the Chelsea Chop?

The Chelsea Chop is the name given to the process of ‘chopping’ (pruning) back by a third to a half, certain perennial plants in mid-May. The timing of this falls loosely around the middle of May, the time of the Chelsea Flower Show.

Sharp secateurs at the ready

Why do we Chelsea Chop?

The Chelsea Chop has several benefits:

Removal of top growth at this time will delay flowering. But why on Earth might we want to postpone the much anticipated blooms of our favourite plants? And herein lies the rub. The Chelsea Chop is NOT an imperative horticultural instruction. Gardening generally is all about the ‘manipulation’ of nature. We prune to restrict size and/or promote improved flowering or fruiting, be it bigger, better and/or more bountiful. The Chelsea Chop is just a further example of this ‘manipulation’.

Some perennials, like so many prepubescent teenagers, can shoot up and become tall and lanky. If not controlled (the plants that is, not the teenagers), top heavy growth can cause plants to flop, opening up the middle of the plant in a rather unattractive manner; I’m thinking drunken, mini-skirted ladies falling out of taxis! The Chelsea Chop, therefore, is an early-season prune which removes the top third/half of certain perennials, promoting the growth of side shoots lower down the stems. This, in turn allows for bushier, sturdier plants. The ‘chop’ whilst promoting new side-stem growth will delay the flowering of the plant. However, as the multitude of new side stems grow away, each will bear flowers, albeit slightly later in the seasons, and maybe slightly smaller.

How to do the Chelsea Chop (see also video below)

There are a few ways to consider executing the Chelsea Chop:

  • Chopping all the stems on one plant will just delay flowering; more flowers, but later. What’s the point? As such, my recommendation is to chop HALF of the stems on each plant. This will allow non-chopped stems to flower as usual and the stems that have been chopped to flower a little later, thus prolonging the overall flowering period of the plant.
  • Alternatively, if you have more than one of the plant to be chopped, e.g. you have three Sedum spectabile, chop ONE completely and leave TWO to flower as usual or chop TWO leaving ONE to flower as usual.
  • Or finally, chop half of the stems on all three plants.

Which plants can be Chelsea Chopped?

Lavender

Penstemon

Nepeta

Achillea

Helenium

Anthemis

Echinacea

Phlox

Hylotelphium (formerly Sedum)

Asters

Campanula

Rudbeckia

Helianthis

Coreopsis