Sunday, July 7, 2013

Keep Those Summer Blooms Coming! by Carol King and Donna Duffy

Late June and early July are rewarding times in the garden. The results of all the hard labor in the spring are beginning to be evident: a variety of blooms make their first appearance. Those beautiful blooming plants will need some attention to keep the blooms coming back. Most perennials and annuals will benefit from deadheading, pinching, cutting back, and disbudding. It’s not as traumatic as it sounds, and you’ll be rewarded with a longer blooming season.

Deadheading: Deadheading is the practice of removing faded flowers. By removing spent flowers you keep the plant from setting seed and thus promote flowering. Not all plants need to be deadheaded. Some annuals have flowers that fall off cleanly by themselves. Other blooming plants such as daisy, black-eyed susan, daylily, marigolds, geraniums, zinnias, roses, and yarrow respond well to deadheading. Be sure to use a clean, sharp pruning tool. Don't deadhead if you wish to dry flowers, save seed, or want to save seed pods for drying. Toward the end of the blooming season, leave some seed heads intact for winter interest in your garden.

Pinching is done to promote bushiness and, consequently, more flowering. For most plants, all you need is your fingernails. You may give annuals a pinch at planting, and then pinch again later in the season to rejuvenate and encourage new growth. Perennials are pinched or pruned for the same reasons.  Some flowers that benefit from pinching include: asters, ageratum, browallia, calendula, coleus, verbena, zinnias and petunias. Timing is important: be sure to pinch your fall blooming perennials (like mums and asters) before they start blooming. Don't pinch after July 4th or you’ll find yourself bloomless and baffled in the fall.  

Cutting back: Cutting back certain plants after they flower will cause them to bloom one more time later in the season. Cut the flower all the way to the leaf on lady’s mantle, catmint, sages, salvia and sea hollies. This will feel more drastic than deadheading or pinching because you’re removing more of the plant. Be brave – it will be worth it.

Disbudding: The act of cutting off a perfectly good bud may seem a bit crazy, but doing so creates larger blooms from the remaining buds. Want a show stopping dahlia or a prize winning rose? Disbudding is the key. On dahlias, remove the two side buds next to the central bud at the end of each lateral branch. The flower that develops will be larger and will grow a longer and stronger stem. On hybrid tea roses, remove the secondary buds by the main bud; on floribundas and grandifloras, remove the middle (terminal) bud.