In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
April, 2004
Regional Report

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In my garden, each plant has a responsibility. Lily's duty is to look regal and reign supreme over the carpet of vinca at her feet.

A Well-Tended Garden

Every garden needs a little sprucing up now and then. I find it's much easier to keep my garden well-groomed when I attend to the little things on a regular basis. Most gardeners associate pruning with woody trees and shrubs. But when you cut back leggy plants, deadhead spent flowers, pinch stems, or disbud, you are actually pruning. Routine attention to annual and perennial plants promotes compact growth and larger flowers, and usually prolongs blooming.

Deadheading
Removing faded flowers is called deadheading. It improves a plant's appearance and can initiate additional blooms. On plants with foliage along the flowering stems, such as rudbeckia and scabiosa, deadhead by cutting spent flowers off just above the foliage or along the stem just above new flower buds.

On plants with leafless flower stems, such as columbines and Shasta daisies, cut the spent stems close to the crown of the plant so the stubs are hidden by foliage. Flowering annuals, including cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, petunias, and salvia, need continuous deadheading to keep them blooming all season long.

Pinching
Pinching is removing the growing tips of a plant, usually just above the uppermost full set of leaves. The plant will react by producing new branches, making it bushy and more compact. Pinched plants produce more, but smaller, flowers than unpinched ones. I pinch late bloomers, such as chrysanthemums, in the spring when plants are 6 inches tall and again when they're 8 inches tall. I continue to pinch at two-week intervals until mid-July. This treatment produces bushy, compact plants loaded with blooms, which begin their display in early September.

Cutting Back
Cutting back means pruning a plant uniformly to renew its appearance, reduce its height, or encourage a new flush of growth and additional flowering. If you cut back bloomed-out annuals and perennials that have become leggy, they will produce new growth and will often bloom again before summer's end. Plants that respond well to cutting back include alyssum, veronica, spiderwort, phlox, dianthus, catmint, Bishops weed, bee balm, yarrow, painted daisies, and Russian sage.

Continuous grooming will make fall cleanup easier, because you did most of the work earlier in the year when you pinched, cut back, and removed spent flowers. Ornamentals with more flowers, compact growth habits, and fresh new leaves all season long make your garden more attractive, which is the ultimate reward for all your efforts.


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