Time for Cutting Back, Or Not

During late May and early June I spend a lot of time cutting back my perennials.

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Bluestar  (Amsonia) after a haircut.

There are the spring-blooming perennials that blooming that need a haircut afterwards to keep them from sprawling about and/or to encourage them to give a repeat performance. This includes the Bluestars (Amsonia), perennial Salvias, and the taller Catmints (Nepeta).

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Blue Wild Indigo with seed pods. They turn black later in the year.

In past years I have also cut back the Wild Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis) after it blooms, but Judy missed the seed pods, so this year I’m leaving it alone.

I do, however, cut back some of the taller summer and fall-blooming perennials: New England Aster (Symphiotrichum novae-angliae) and some other asters, Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba), and Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), for example. These get cut back hard, by at least half.

Cup Plant, Silphium perfoliatum
The Cup Plants can reach 8′-10′ tall.

However, I tend not to touch the Cup Plants (Silphium perfoliatum), Joe Pye Weeds (Eutrochium), or Monardas. I feel that they don’t respond as well, plus there are some plants that really should be allowed to come into their full towering glory.

On a completely different front, I wanted to say that the Gray Dogwoods (Cornus Racemosa) are particularly floriferous this year.

DSC_0796There are several Gray Dogwoods by the patio. They go well with the ‘Sally Holmes’ rose on the lower left.

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‘Darlow’s Enigma’

And speaking of roses, ‘Darlow’s Enigma’ has come into bloom as well. It’s a tall rambling rose growing on an arbor that leads into the back garden, and its fragrance welcomes all who enter. It’s also got a birds nest this year, high up among its thorny canes. A Robin’s nest, I’m pretty sure, because two adult Robins worked themselves into a frenzy when I paused beneath the arbor earlier today.

Have you been cutting any plants back lately?

31 Comments on “Time for Cutting Back, Or Not

  1. It’s always a tough decision whether to cut back some of the taller Geraniums or not… they might continue producing the odd flower in the heat, but will they rejuvenate enough to flower again if I cut them right down? I usually compromise and cut down half of them! Your white rambling rose is lovely and the whole patio area looks very calming with just green and white.

  2. Spiderworts are the only things I have cut back. They are flopping like crazy due to lack of rain. They tend to flop here anyway. My garden is parched.

  3. I have just come in after cutting back my plentiful mourning widow geranium – right to the ground with my hedge trimmer. It soon greens up.
    I feel a little guilty as in my friend’s garden its seed provides food for the bullfinches. Although they have had previous opportunities to discover this tasty morse mine have never learned…

  4. Cutting back starts in June and never ends till the snow flies. And then in spring I have to run out and cut down all the tall grasses I left up over winter. I often wonder how long I can continue to garden at this pace.

  5. Cutting back only works if plants are in growing mode – mine are all slipping into dormancy so I’m just taking out dead foliage and stems.

  6. Cutting back is my current quandary, Jason. So thank you for spurring me to action!
    Charming picture of the dogwoods and Sally Holmes in bloom, inviting you to take a break from garden chores!

  7. I don’t do much cutting back in the summer. On a different note…oh, that patio of yours! It looks absolutely delightful.

  8. The “Chelsea Chop” works wonders but there’s so much weeding to do that I rarely get around to it.

  9. A timely post. I want to pinch back some of the ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum for sure. Re asters, I think I will give each clump a “shag” in the attempt to achieve a layered look. I didn’t know catmint should be cut back – I thought it would bloom all summer.

  10. Ok so I will try cutting back the ammonia after all. I was just wondering today how it would handle a cut, maybe I’ll do the asters as well.

  11. I always cut back the asters and the goldenrod, because I know they would flop over in the fall if I didn’t. But I’ve never cut back the amsonia–do they bloom again? I’m usually too busy trying to get all my new annuals planted and the beds mulched in May/June to get much else done. I love your patio, especially with the dogwoods in bloom–it looks like the perfect place to retreat and relax after a hard day of working in the garden!

    • The Amsonia don’t bloom again, but they do make a much tidier mound. I should clarify that I am talking only about A. tabernaemontana, I don’t think it would work to cut back A. hubrichtii.

  12. So much dedheading to do, but today I cut back all the mourning widow geraniums, but I suppose that was deadheading too. No time to cut back plants that flower in the autumn, I will just have to put up with them flopping.

  13. I cut back my bush clover and it looks amazing!!! First year for the Chelsea chop also the first pruning of the year for my white wisteria. I also cut back geranium rozanne because they are in spaces to small for them and this variety is sprawling in shade. But they are all ready blooming after 2 weeks 😱

  14. Robins and roses, what a lovely combination. I tend to leave the tall plants and trim the shorter ones.xxx

  15. I know I should cut my plants back more than I do, but I’m either too busy when they need it or I’m a big chicken. I did, however, cut back all of my salvia greggii a few weeks ago.

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