Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cutting back the Summer Garden

About a month ago, I trimmed back a few perennial plants that, although still blooming a little, had started to look messy. One in particular was the tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis). It was stunning in June but had just about finished its bloom was was looking a little tired. Also, tall verbena is a prolific re-seeder and I don't need anymore plants so I don't want the seeds to mature. I cut it back drastically to tidy up the bed, not expecting to see anymore blooms this year. 

Verbena bonariensis

But not only is it blooming, the second flush of bloom seems even heavier than the first flush. And the plant has a more compact, fuller look. Normally, this is a back-of-the-border plant. It grows tall (4 feet or more) with an open, airy look; and its graceful blooms accentuate blooms of other plants around it.  But I'm thinking that next year, I might pinch back a few plants before they bloom to try a bushier, more shrub-like look.

The speaker at this week's Master Gardener's monthly meeting, Jason Powell from Petals from the Past nursery in Alabama, spoke quite a bit about cutting back perennials for a longer, more robust blooming season. He made me realize that I have not done a very good job of cutting back to get the most blooms from my perennials. Partly from laziness (keeping up with deadheading and cutting back can take a lot of time) but mostly from ignorance--I'm not well-informed about which plants respond by re-blooming and which just resent the attack. With so much information available on the internet, ignorance is a weak excuse. And Jason's presentation made me realize that I shouldn't be complaining about the summer garden looking old and tired if I haven't taken the steps available to keep it looking good.

So in those long, cold months when we gardeners are wishing for spring, I am going to spend some of my "down time" researching the plants in my garden so that next summer, I'll know what to do to get the most from the plants I have. I'm usually on the internet in those months away, but mostly looking for new plants to add to the garden. Now I realize you don't have to search out those new plants. In this active Memphis gardening community, they somehow find you.

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