In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
July, 2012
Regional Report

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Purple coneflower (Echinacea) does a wonderful job of attracting butterflies to my garden. I usually deadhead my coneflowers for the first two months of flowering to promote more blooms. I allow the late season flowers to remain on the plant to feed the b

A Well-Planned Snip Improves Performance

I always associate the term "pruning"with something you do to overgrown woody shrubs and trees. In reality, pruning is simply a word for cutting back a plant to remove unwanted growth. When you cut back leggy plants, remove spent flowers, pinch stems, or disbud flower clusters, you are actually pruning. This type of routine trimming promotes compact growth and larger flowers, and it usually results in additional blooms in both annuals and perennials.

Increase Flowering by Removing Faded Blooms
Removing faded flowers (deadheading) improves a plant's appearance and can initiate additional flowering. On plants with foliage along the flowering stems, such as rudbeckia and scabiosa, you 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 columbine and heuchera, the spent stems should be cut 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.

Promote Bushy Growth by Pinching Out Stem Tips
Pinching out the growing tips of a plant, usually just above the uppermost full set of leaves, encourages new growth. Plants react to pinching by producing new branches, which results in a bushier, more compact appearance. Pinched plants produce more flowers than unpinched ones, although the flowers may be slightly smaller than normal. 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, that begin their display in early September.

Cutting Back Encourages New Growth
Cutting back, or pruning a plant uniformly, renews its appearance, reduces its height and width, and encourages a new flush of growth, which may result in 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, Bishop's weed, bee balm, yarrow, painted daisy, and Russian sage.

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

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