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Perennial Gardening Month

The great thing about establishing a perennial garden is that it keeps coming back year after year with just some simple weekly tending and a couple of hours of major cleanup several times a year. Here are 5 simple tips to make sure everything in the garden is rosy!

DEADHEADING

  • Deadheading improves the look of the garden. As flowers age and crumple you need to remove them. To deadhead, simply cut the dead flower off — using scissors for lightweight stems or pruning shears for heavy and thick ones. Cut the stem below the flower at the first leaves or flower bud you come to.
  • Most dead flowers form seeds. Some plants replace flowers with really attractive seedheads. But others scatter their seeds all over the garden, much like a dandelion does. You often wind up with dozens of baby flowers that you have to pull out to avoid ending up with a hundred daisies in one square foot of garden soil. Cutting off flowers before they form seeds prevents this maintenance headache.
  • Many perennials stop blooming after they form seeds. Removing the fading flowers before they can complete the process encourages the plant to continue blooming.

DISBUDDING

  • If you like your flowers really big, you may want to practice disbudding. Before the buds start to open, remove all but one or two flower buds on each stem. The plant then directs all its energy to the remaining buds, resulting in large flowers. Gardeners commonly disbud dahlias, chrysanthemums, peonies, and carnations. 

PINCHING

  • To keep perennials denser and shorter, you can pinch or shear them, a couple of times early in the season. This process is called pinching because you can actually pinch off the top of each stem between your thumb and forefinger — but using scissors or pruning shears is quicker and easier.
  • Simply snip (or pinch) off the top few inches of the plant when it grows to a foot tall in spring and then again in the middle of summer. Every stem you cut grows several new stems. The result is stocky sprays of more, but smaller, flowers. Chrysanthemums and asters are two perennials that are routinely pinched. Otherwise, they tend to get floppy.

CUTTING BACK

  • You need to be ruthless when the directions for a plant tell you to cut it back hard—that means reducing the height of the plant by one-third to one-half, using either scissors or pruning shears. This not only improves the look of the plant, but it restores its vigor.

STAKING

  • When a large perennial leans over on top of smaller, weaker plants, it can steal all the sunlight or actually crush the little ones. There are plenty of ways to prop up unruly (or just plain lazy) plants.
  • Bamboo stakes: Bamboo makes good support for flowers with tall, single spikes — such as delphiniums and lilies. Wait until the stems are several feet tall and starting to form flower buds. Pound the stake several inches into the ground at the base of the plant and tie the stem loosely to the stake.
  • Branches: When you prune shrubs, save any trimmings that are 2 to 3 feet long and brushy at one end, resembling brooms. When a perennial reaches about a foot tall, poke several of these branches — bushy side up and leaning slightly inward — into the ground around the plant. As the stems grow up through this circle of branches, the supporting mechanism is hidden by the perennial’s foliage.
  • Commercial supports: You can get artistic metal supports from garden centers and nursery catalogs.

Gardens are just like us, they respond to tender loving care. Plants can get stressed when you move them or uproot them, relax them with a couple of drops of Rescue Remedy. And in the winter when they are sleeping, just remember they are resting and will come back strong in the spring
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