Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pruning Daylilies

Herbaceous pruning (cutting the foliage of perennial plants) has a few uses. Often, it is used to delay the bloom of a plant, or to make it have better branching instead of just one main stem. This is known across the pond as the "Chelsea Chop", because gardeners in the UK can plan on cutting their perennials around time of the Chelsea Flower Show. (The show is usually held at the end of May.)

Another good reason for pruning perennial foliage occurs later in the season. During the hot months of July and August, perennial foliage often starts to look old and tattered. For many years, I sighed and assumed that yellowing leaves meant my garden was passing into its fall foliage already.

Before: Hemerocallis waiting for their trim in the Front Woodland

A few years ago, I started experimenting with cutting back (also known as "dead-leafing") my hardy Geraniums, lamb's ears (Stachys byzantine), lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and Hosta. Even that took a bit of courage at first, but my plants looked better for it!

Then I read Tracy DiSabato-Aust's thorough treatment on herbaceous pruning in her book, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden. New challenge: the bold step of cutting some plants to the ground. This was supposed to regenerate their foliage. But would it really work?

After: Post chop. Hedge shears made quick work of the entire Front Woodland.
I love daylilies early in the year. Their flowers are beautiful (sometimes scented!), their foliage covers the ground quickly in early spring and they are generally undemanding. Once they are done blooming however, I begin to despise their tattered appearance. In past years, I have torn off just the yellowing leaves under the base of my daylilies (Hemerocallis). This year, I decided to be brave and cut down the entire foliage clump when they had finished blooming.

After: Front Woodland with Hemerocallis nubs.
 I was very pleased with the overall appearance of the Front Woodland once I had cut the daylily foliage down at the end of July. It looked kept. Rather a satisfying bit of restraint at the most jungle-like time of year.  And with the Sedum 'Acre' ground cover in this garden, there was less bare mulch seen than I anticipated. I rather hate bare mulch. Better than dirt, yes, but that is what drives me to cover it with plants instead.

And for those of you wondering: Just a couple of weeks later, they are sending up new foliage. We have had some rain this week, which has helped them to recover quickly. The hope is that they will have new, fresh looking foliage all the way til frost.

Before: Cherry Corner
In the case of our Cherry Corner Garden, my decision to chop the daylilies worked out even better. The Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) were barely visible at all above the mess of foliage. Once it has been cut down, I was delighted to be able to see the yellow flowers dancing above the annuals. This is the best this garden has looked yet at this time of year. 

After: Wow! I could not tell there were that many Black-eyed Susans back there!
All that was left was a wheelbarrow load of foliage. After a long afternoon/morning of herbaceous pruning, I usually park this sucker in the garage and deal with unloading it later. Are you as lazy as I am?

Happy pruning!

Editor's Note: 
This article is a re-post from a few year ago from our first garden, Gilmore Gardens. Even though I am now creating our new garden at Havenwood, I am still clipping those daylilies after they flower. It makes such a difference in the garden for late summer!
Thanks for visiting! 

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Potager

Dill flowering in our kitchen garden this summer.
We enjoyed mixing in some flowers among the veg and fruit this summer. It creates such a beautiful atmosphere in this productive garden and attracts beneficial insects too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Purple Coneflower and Mugwort

Echinacea purpurea and white-flowering mugwort (Artemisia lactiflora 'Gutzhou')

A lovely combination for late summer/autumn. This combination was one that we spotted at Stan Hywet house and gardens in Akron, Ohio in their Great Garden. See more about this garden in my series on Stan Hywet... here

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Rose Garden

Cosmos 'Sweet Sixteen' and blue Agastache in the Rose garden this week at Havenwood.
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