Clip Clip Here, Clip Clip There …
This weekend I’ve been implementing a second round of cutting back my perennials. For some reason, whenever I do a lot of pruning or cutting back in my garden, I get a mental image of the Cowardly Lion getting a haircut during the scene from The Wizard of Oz when everybody is singing “Merry Old Land of Oz”. As a result, I find myself humming along. This movie made a big impression on me as a child, at least after I got over my fear of the flying monkeys.
But that is not the point of this post. The point is that what, when, and how I cut back has changed with both experience and the weather.
Normally I do my cutting back in late May. The purpose is to keep large summer and fall-blooming perennials more compact. Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), goldenrods (Solidago species), and all but the shorter asters (Symphyotrichum) were all cut back by one half to two-thirds. This year the cool spring delayed cutting back so that I wasn’t finished until early June.
Also, some plants didn’t need cutting back. Last year the Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) got so big and bushy by mid-May that it needed a restraining hand. This year the Golden Alexander got a late start but sent up its flowers at the normal time – but at a more modest height that did not require a garden sheers.
On the other hand, in early June I did cut back the Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night’ and S. x sylvestris ‘Blue Hill’ in order to prevent them from flopping and opening up, as they did last year. (Didn’t work, by the way, but that is a subject for another post.) They were not all that tall to begin with, so I only sheared them back modestly.
This second round of cutting back at the end of June is not something I did last year. It is aimed primarily at spring-blooming perennials that need substantial trimming to keep their habits neat, prevent self-sowing, and create space for plants waiting for their turn in the spotlight.
This weekend I cut back the Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis), which had just finished blooming, by about half. I had never cut this plant back before but it is recommended by Tracy DiSabato-Aust in her book, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.
I also cut back the Golden Alexander, now that it is forming seed heads. Some of the foliage was turning an attractive burgundy, something I had not noticed before.
The Blue Star (Amsonia tabernaemontana) is still putting out a few blooms, but in the next week or so I’ll cut it back substantially. Again, this is not something I’ve done in prior years, but it is recommended in DiSabato-Aust’s book. I am receptive to this suggestion because the Blue Star does get pretty unmanageable as the summer wears on.
Have you been spending a lot of time lately cutting back the plants in your garden?