In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
August, 2011
Regional Report

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Cutting back the fading flowers from my yarrow will encourage another period of bloom in September.

Deadhead to Promote More Blooms

As the heat of August brings on an abundance of blooms, it's not too late to prune back or "deadhead" the fading and spent flowers. There's still plenty of growing time left to enjoy a second show of blooms.

When flowers start to wither, turn brown, and shatter, it is time to deadhead. Making a habit of deadheading will also help reduce the spread of diseases, since removing dying, decaying parts will eliminate the environment for growth of diseases and reduce the invasion of insect pests.

My collection of yarrows is finishing off its first blooms and is in need of deadheading. Though the process of cutting back spent flowers may seem tedious, the time invested will reward you with a second flush of healthy growth and blooms.

The processes of deadheading will not only refresh the plant's appearance, but it also will control seed development and redirect energy from seed production to root and top growth. When I'm on my knees, I can observe the plant more critically and check out the general health of the perennial, if it is in need of division, make sure it is in the right location, and if other plants are competing with it. You can get in some weeding, too.

It is good to get outdoors and take a walk around the garden and prune off the spent blooms in the cool of the morning or evening. You can make mental notes as to what you like, what needs changing, and what plants need replacing.

Perennials are not the only plants that benefit from a trim. Deadheading annuals such as marigolds, petunias and geraniums will keep them blooming until a hard frost. Although the second flush of blooms is not as big or numerous as the first, it continues color in the garden through late summer and fall.

Before you get overzealous and remove every faded flower in sight, be sure you know which perennials and annuals produce attractive seed heads or pods for winter interest. I prefer to leave dried seed pods of false indigo (Baptisia sp.), which make fun rattling sounds, the seed heads of coneflowers, and seed pods of Oriental poppies. They will add interest in the garden in winter and stand out against a blanket of pure white snow.


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