Green thumbs up
to pinching back annuals in containers and hanging baskets. Just
whack 'em back. Need more detail? Read on!
Green thumbs down
to letting black thoughts get the better of you during a
drought. There are always good sides: Less fungal disease, fewer
weed seeds germinating, less mowing... If you switch your focus
from what's awful to what's doing well despite the drought, doors
Two summers ago we created a garden of everything that was
thriving despite the drought. What a joy that garden is now! Read
all about it, including a list of the plants that qualified, in What's
Coming Up 110.
Jump over to What's
Coming Up 148
to brush up on deadheading...
As for pinching back:
We're not talking about a simple deadheading -- removal of spent
flowers. We mean clipping back whole flowering stems, all or most
of 'em on a plant.
Do it b
efore the plants begin to look scraggly. This
encourages dense new growth that
will produce more and bigger blooms while making those blossoms
look better by virtue of a clean backdrop.
People tend to hesitate rather than do this good thing. They
worry that the plant will die and/or they'll lose all the
But that'll kill it!
To address that first concern --
killing the plant -- it's pretty unlikely that a plant will die
when it has been growing so well it's reached the overgrown state.
Let's say your cut reduces it to just a few leaves. Think back!
That's all it had to begin with just weeks ago. It's quite capable
of repeating that performance. When the leaves you cut away are
decrepit and/or infected, the
invigorating effect is even greater.
Right: Still concerned? You can do what
we did to this Verbena: We cut half the stems back, deadheaded the
...and we'll cut those out next week.
(Inset: We stepped back in to add this
photo for a reassuring peek three
weeks into this basket's future.)
Reading the buds
About those flower buds: You may indeed sacrifice some flowers
when you cut. Yet you'll net more and bigger flowers because the
cut stimulates growth from lower on the plant where individual
stems are sturdier and flowers bigger. However, our bet is that you
aren't losing as many as you think.
People frequently mistake developing seed pods for flower buds.
Take a close look at what you think are buds to determine what they
Sacrifice one or two pods/buds for this good cause. Slice them
open to see if they contain moist, furled petals... or swelling
seeds and drying capsules. Remove those seed pods -- the chemicals
being produced by the burgeoning seed are a powerful influence on
the plant. They say, "No need for more flower, this seed's set so
we've completed our task!"
Right: That's a verbena seed pod, not a
flower bud. It's taller every day but never shows
Below: Be honest, now -- is this edging
lobelia attractive, with all its stretched-out few-flowered
Next to the blooming flower, there is a moist, swelling bud.
Everything between there and the base of the plant -- seed!