It’s a sad day as today is the final blog from Highdown Gardens’ head gardener G…


It’s a sad day as today is the final blog from Highdown Gardens’ head gardener Gary Prescod.

In true style though he rounds off with some horticultural gems, including more on the term known as the Chelsea Chop…

Take it away Gary….💚🌷💚


Here we are already in Chelsea week; how the year is flying by!

You’ve possibly heard of the ‘Chelsea Chop’? It’s at this moment of the year when we consider cutting some perennial plants right back down to the ground.

This does not damage the plant; instead, the plant will grow rapidly, providing fresh green foliage, and will eventually flower much later in the season, extending the interest into the summer months. The plant will also grow much shorter, negating the need for staking.

This is important for us at Highdown which is classically a spring/early summer garden with less interest over summer. If we cut hardy geraniums now, they should be back in flower in July/August. If we cut sedums now, they will still flower in the autumn, but will be shorter and stronger, and won’t flop under the weight of the heavy flowers. A win-win!

Chelsea week is where we begin to smell the scent of roses drifting over the garden. It’s the species roses that tend to flower early, and if you walk down to the lower rose garden, you can delight in the many strengths of fragrance.

My favourite, looking spectacular at the moment, is Rosa hugonis, Father Hugo’s rose. Native to central China, it was discovered in 1899 by Ernest Wilson. The pale yellow flowers seem to float like butterflies, a very elegant rose.

Also scenting the main pathway at the moment is a hedge of the Dunwich Rose, Rosa spinosissima ‘Dunwich Rose’. In Stern’s day it was named R. pimpinellifolia ‘Dunwichensis’; he grew many of the pimpinellifolia roses (aka the Scottish Rose) because they are tough: they’ll even grow in the chalk rubble at the base of the cliffs.

The Scottish roses aren’t easily found these days, perhaps due to their abundant prickles, but probably due to the fact that their thin, bristly stems do not lend themselves to the budding techniques used to propagate modern roses. However, their thorns make them unattractive to rabbits (great news for us at Highdown), they need no pruning, they’re scented and they never suffer from black spot, so all in all they’re a good rose to hunt out.

Later in the season we’ll see the famous Highdown rambling roses come into flower, as well as the more recently-raised shrub roses, but for now our delight is piqued by these simple species roses.

Unfortunately, this will be my last Highdown blog as my temporary maternity cover post has come to its end.

It’s been a great pleasure to learn about the exceptional plant collection at Highdown over the past 16 months and to share with you my highlights each week.

I will be continuing to work at the Council in the Parks department and will be driving forward the Heritage Lottery Fund project that is looking to secure Highdown Gardens for future generations. The knowledge I’ve acquired will be put to good use! Thanks to all readers of this blog, and to the many positive comments you’ve left.

To read more of Gary’s musings in the last year or so, visit: