Overachievers

Take a deep breath, pick up your clippers and shear these plants back right now.

purple chrysanthemums

Photo: Martin LaBar

In summer, as we assess the designs of our perennial beds, we notice that fall blooming asters and chrysanthemums are already getting lanky.

Some plants, like some people, seem to need to be coaxed along in order to perform. Other plants reach for the sky when we would prefer them to be more compact.

Cutting Back

In summer, as we assess the designs of our perennial beds, we notice that fall blooming asters and chrysanthemums are already getting lanky.

This is the time to cut them back. It takes courage to do this, but it should be done. Take a deep breath, pick up your clippers and shear these plants back right now.

When you are finished these plants should be about a foot high. Since plants need about six weeks to set their buds, you can keep cutting plants back as long as you stop doing it six weeks before they are due to bloom.

The Chelsea Chop

In England, I’ve been told, cutting plants to slow them down, and at times to postpone their bloom, is referred to as the Chelsea Chop.

These words create wonderful onomatopoeia since each word begins with the affricative “ch” and the last word ends with the stop precise “p.” That combination of consonants evokes the auditory image of the action of the cutting. Listen to it – Chelsea Chop.

They are words that sound so decisive just as the blades of our cutters are incisive. Do the Chelsea Chop on other perennials like cranesbill geraniums, shasta daisies, bee balm and annuals after their first exuberant flush of bloom and these overachievers will put out new growth and more flowers as a result.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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