MAY TIPS

The Chelsea Chop 

In the third week of this month you can 'Chelsea chop' your summer-flowering perennials to delay their flowering times. Sedums can be cut back by two thirds to provide lusher foliage, but at the expense of flower. 'Matrona' (the sturdiest pigeon-grey and pink sedum of all) responds well, as does 'Purple Emperor' - the best of the dark-leaved sedums. Reduce the front stems of phlox, heleniums and all yellow daisies, leaving the back two thirds alone. That way any drying foliage will be hidden by the later flowers at the front. 

Stakes 

It's imperative to stake plants that flop and metal plant supports will prevent peonies and other heavy-headed plants from being weighed down by summer rain. Canes can also work well, but do cap them. The Scottish oak cane caps will not only protect your eyes, they will age to silver after a year or so. 


Add Verticals 

So many plants form mounds that, if you're not careful your garden will resemble a rumpled duvet after a bad night. To add height, introduce bee-friendly spires to rise above the pack, such as Verbascum chaixii 'Album', Aconitum 'Spark's Variety' and Veronicastrum virginicum 'Lavendelturm'. Or, add some upright features. These could be willow tripods, or metal obelisks, both of which will provide a vertical presence, linking earth to sky. 

Sow Runner and French Beans Outside 

Wait until the middle of this month and then sow some beans around a tripod of willow poles. Use three beans per tripod and mix the varieties. 'Painted Lady' (red and white-flowered) and 'Lady Di' (an all-red) have attractive flowers followed by tasty runner beans. These tripods are pretty enough to be grown in a flower border. 

Easy Summer Containers 

Plant up large, easy-care containers with drought-tolerant, scented leaved pelargoniums now and they will shine until the first frosts. Mix the perfumed 'Attar of Roses' with the minty divided foliage of 'Grey Lady Plymouth'. Then add a splash of colour, courtesy of Verbena 'Claret', to liven up the soft foliage.ow Runner and French Beans Outside