Face lift? Yes! We cut and smooth and leave fresh space.
Pictures tell the tale.
Take a look at:
1) If it's brown, cut it down.
2) Lively deadheading, and
3) Groom for room: The freshness of
If it's brown, cut it down.
People are certain about one thing when they cut the top off a
dandelion but leave the root, chop a weed tree and leave the stump,
or mow the lawn -- they know it will grow back. Yet they doubt
their perennials, allowing those plants to become absolute eyesores rather than
take away any of the foliage.
We feel otherwise. Our standard operating procedure is "If it's
brown, cut it down." It will produce clean new leaves and might
bloom again when it grows back. If perchance it doesn't grow back,
not this year (sometimes cut-backs simply go dormant for the
season) or ever (it can happen, but it's not common among otherwise
healthy perennials) the bare space is still easier on the eye than
Examples* of what we clipped and
Foliage that was fading because it had passed
Old fashioned bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Right: Doesn't the bed look fresher without it?
Perennial geranium (G. sanguineum and G.
Daylilies. You're reading this right: We don't simply deadhead, we
Leaves scorched or killed by heat…
Sweet Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odoratum) scorched
where it foolishly grew out beyond the protection of tree shade.
Bigleaf forget me not (Brunnera macrophylla)
Above: Big leaf forget me not (Brunnera
macrophylla), growing in hot dry sun ever since its sheltering
tree died. This year, it burned so completely and to such darkness
we didn't have to cut. The remains look like black-brown mulch.
(Will it die? No, it will grow back. For three years it's burned
but returned, ever since the ash that once shaded it succumbed to
emerald ash borer. We must get around to redesigning that bed
Left: Doesn't the oxeye (Telekia speciosa a.k.a.
Buphthalmum speciosa) look better with the brown clipped
Leaves tattered and smirched by pests…
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis and hybrids) browned out
by leaf miner
Helen's flower (Helenium variety) clumps that had
mildewed because we let them become too crowded. Right: There
they are, the shabby creatures. No sense including an "after"
picture because you know what empty bed looks like. They'll grow
…and if cutting out the individual bad leaves was too tedious,
cut the whole plant down:
Hosta (photo below)
*We give just a few
examples rather than a comprehensive list because every herbaceous
(non-woody) plant could be listed. None are exempt when we look to
Deadheaders use clippers
and a crystal ball: Cut now for glory later
Examples of what we deadheaded:
Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)
Ural false spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia)
Right: Well, we forgot to take the "after" photo. Too bad
since Dawn Miller and Janet did such a thorough job clipping off
all the spent Ural false spirea blooms.
Big betony (Stachys micrantha)
Globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)
It may reduce the flowers' impact now but we know they rebound
quickly. Their main purpose in our garden is to provide color in
late summer and early fall when our perennials are off duty.
Clipping now very temporarily reduces color but leads to even more
Below: Celosia, deadheaded
Groom for room: The
freshness of space
One of the most beautiful aspects of spring is the space that
surrounds and highlights every bloom. We clip parts of plants and
even whole plants right out of the picture now to restore some of
that fresh spring feel.
Below, left:We clipped all through this bed,
deadheading A) Salvia superba, B) annual blue Salvia (S.
farinacea), C) butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) and D)
Below, right: The Salvia superba begging for that
Isn't the scene much better with space where we razed the scorched,
tired hostas and Solomon's seal? It will also look great when they
grow back, fresh green.
Making fresh space comes not only from cutting but from
propping, staking and otherwise helping plants stay in their
Below: Some people might think it a very minor detail but we
think tying these rose canes into place makes a big