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Floral notes: Cut and come again

Community Columnist

The chore of deadheading spent blooms and stalks is upon us, made especially weighty by this recent hot and dry weather.

In many cases on perennials such as daylilies and geraniums, cutting the whole plant, foliage and all, is necessary to make the garden less ratty. Don’t fret, new leaves will reappear within a week and its much easier than removing yellowed bits one by one.

The best tool for this is a pair of hedge clippers. A year ago, I replaced my dainty Japanese pair for a sturdier version with blades that have wavy edges that can really bite into heavier material, with speedy results.

A plant, whether annual, perennial or shrub, on which flowers are left to become seeds, has done its job for the season and will start to die or go dormant. A method to trick it into flowering again or at least not looking like it’s ready for composting, is to remove the finished flowers.

On a coleus or basil plant, from July on, it’s a battle to keep the flower stalks at bay. A butterfly bush blooms forever, if brown heads are removed. Always take the trimming back to where new growth [blooms] is emerging.

Use your fingers to pinch off the stalks, or if too tough, small clippers. Try the easiest method first, graduating to stronger tools, if that fails. I just broke lovely flower snips that held the bloom after it was cut, so flowers could be gathered with one hand. In use for twenty-five plus years, I broke my own rule as well, by not switching to the pruners. All these tools, plus a broken tipped, unserrated steak knife are in a basket that goes where I go. That knife is just sharp enough to cut one handed the stalks of many a perennial, then can be used to poke out any weeds unveiled by my work.

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