By MELINDA MYERS
A bit of grooming and care will keep your flower gardens looking their best throughout the hot summer months and into fall.
Remove the flower stems of salvias, veronicas and similar flowers as the blooms begin to fade. Use a pruner or sharp garden scissors and cut just above the first set of leaves or above the side shoots where new flower buds are forming.
Cut back flopping perennials like Walker’s Low catmint, veronica and Salvia that have finished their second flush of flowers. New growth will be sturdier, more compact and eventually covered with blooms.
Plants like daylilies and balloon flower require a bit different care. Remove the individual blooms as they fade for maximum beauty. Once all the individual flowers have bloomed out, you can cut the flower stem back at the base.
Keep coral bells tidy and many varieties blooming longer with a bit of deadheading. Remove the whole flower stem, once blooms fade, back to the leafy base where it arises from the plant. And cut a few flowers to enjoy indoors in a summer bouquet.
Remove faded flowers for a neater and tidier appearance, but no additional bloom, on peonies, lamb’s ear and bergenia. Removing the seedpods of peonies as they form, back to a healthy set of leaves, helps keep stems upright and makes for a tidier plant throughout the summer.
Deadheading won’t extend the bloom for columbine, but it will prevent reseeding – if that’s a concern for you. Prune the flowering stems back to their base in the foliage.
Removing spent flowers on perennials like bee balm, purple coneflower, salvia, veronicas, garden phlox and many others will encourage additional bloom. You may want to skip deadheading of any late blooming varieties. This allows them to form seed pods for a bit of winter interest.
Pruning your flowers can also impact the appearance, size, and flowering of plants. Prune Russian sage and upright sedums, like Autumn Joy, subject to flopping back halfway in mid-June to encourage sturdy growth. Pruning coneflowers and other late blooming perennials once, early in the season, can result in shorter plants that flower a bit later. Pinch asters and mums back to 6 inches throughout June and into early July in southern regions for compact plants and an attractive fall display.
Further improve your garden’s beauty by removing or trimming back discolored foliage with sharp scissors or a hand pruner.
Stake taller perennials in need of a bit of support. Use bamboo stakes and ties, twigs woven into stems or other attractive or virtually invisible supports. Then make a note on next year’s calendar as a reminder to put stakes in place in spring as plants emerge.
Spread a layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic mulch over the soil surface. This conserves moisture, helps suppress weeds and improves the soil as they break down.
A bit of pinching and pruning now as various flowers fade will extend the beauty and your enjoyment throughout summer and into fall.
(Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books and is the host of The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series. Her website, www.MelindaMyers.com, offers gardening tips and videos.)