garden tip: first, make things worse
I‘M BUSY MAKING BAD SITUATIONS WORSE THESE DAYS, which is exactly what has to be done to bring any garden from now to a visually pleasing high summer and fall. It’s not unlike cleaning your closet: Things have to get pulled apart and look a lot messier before they get better. Really. The butchery around here extends beyond the huge swaths of beheaded bigroot geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum), above. Want the hit list? Feeling brave?
Some euphorbias, particularly the basic early spring yellow species called polychroma, will start to flop open and get mildewy here if they don’t get a brutal cutback, so you can see (left) what I’ve done to them (same thing I do again in earliest spring before new growth begins).
The new red-foliage polychroma cultivar, ‘Bonfire,’ seems to stand up better to summer, so I’m not chopping it down. Will I regret it? Don’t know…only my second year with the plant, so it’s all an experiment.
Which is what cutbacks are: You observe what is going on, and if it’s not looking good, you consider administering a haircut.
The pulmonarias were shorn to the ground after flowering last month, and already have a new set of showy leaves (instead of tattered, about-to-mildew old ones). They would have grown a new set right up and over the old, but I prefer to just shear them, rather than fussily deadheading each flower stem.
Perennial salvias, like the popular ‘May Night’ and the nemorosa varieties ‘Snow Hill’ and ‘Caradonna,’ can do with a good, hard cutback when they’re done blooming. A new rosettes of foliage will be emerging down below, and a lower-impact second flush of bloom will eventually be mustered.
Catmints (Nepeta) look a mess when they pass their first major bloom, so hack them back I do (again, same treatment as in earliest spring), forcing another flush of foliage and perhaps more flowers. Again, most of all what I am seeking to do is avoid having to stare at big, ugly, floppy plants long past their prime. I’d rather have a tidy, smaller mound of fresh green and a bit of a hole than a gone-by mess.
Apparently some visitors here agree, including two from mores southerly zones (John and Writermom, see their comments), who confessed to cutting down their spring-flowering Clematis recently after intense heat had fried them. Again, experiments. One, so far, reported success, even though the books won’t tell you summer Clematis butchery is on the recommended list.
With anything you are this harsh on, be sure to keep an eye on watering while it rejuvenates. And don’t panic, or at least not right away. Some plants (like my euphorbias) will sit there looking like you killed them for a week (or two or three). And then, most times, they’ll get up and growing all over again.
Given any good haircuts lately? Perhaps that stringy hanging basket of petunias?