Tuesday, June 26, 2012

As I've mentioned {again and again}, last year I watched the garden grow. Other than keeping the weeds out, I just wanted to see what was here. While observing, I began to do some research ~ making lists of the plants that were out there and reading about their care. One of the things that became apparent to me was that I had to do some work in the spring to keep my fall flowers looking sharp. And that, my friends, is what this post is all about.

Let's take a step back and look at last fall's asters ::

That leggy aster is a mess, and it's the reason why I thought that I didn't like asters. It's spilling out into the grass, in other beds I had asters sprawling out over the flowers next to them, and in this state I feel that they look more like a weed than a flower.

As a result of the asters {and other flowers} overflowing their beds, I ended up with patches of dead grass that turned to dirt. To remedy the problem, I'm doing a couple of things, first, I bought a box of short, border fencing. Note ~ if you're like us and need a lot of fencing, you can find great deals ordering it by the case online rather than buying it by the piece in your local garden shop or hardware store.

After a couple of months of growth, the side beds are filled in, and the fences have done a great job maintaining order! You can also see that the brown edges have filled in and we have grass right up to the flower bed.

And a fun side-note, new flowers are popping up this year that definitely weren't present last year! Do you see the single pop of red that's halfway up the bed in the photo on the right? It's a new poppy! When the pods dry, I'm going to sprinkle more seeds throughout the beds to see if we can get them to spread beyond their bed in the front yard.

{Note :: Before you read any farther, let me apologize for the blur of green you're about to see.}

Putting up the fencing isn't the only measure I'm taking to get things in order. I've been pinching back my mums and sedums in order to create stockier, fuller plants this fall. I'm referring to what I've done as pinching back because I only removed the growing tip of the plant, and sometimes up to a couple of inches. This is less extreme than cutting back, which involves removing of a greater portion of the growing stems and can also be used to rein in the plants discussed below. In either case you want to do it early enough in the growing season so that you aren't removing their blooms and so that they have enough time to create the bud and bloom after they've been pinched. Of course, your timing will vary depending upon your local climate, but many of the sources I read suggested pinching back in May and June.

Here's an example of an aster before pinching {it's on the edge of a full bunch of asters}::

Pinching off the growing tip stalls the plant's growth, which will produce the stockier growth we want and it results in later blooms. It also encourages branching, and each of those branches will produce flowers, creating a fuller plant in the fall.

In the photo below you can see the white, dried end of the original stem that was pinched. Around it you can see the new growth that's occurred since the plants been pinched. In some cases, the new growth really took off, and I did a second round of pinching on that new growth.

The next photo provides an even more dramatic post-pinching shot. This is a grouping of asters that were pinched about 10 days before this photo was taken. You can see the stems that were pinched and the plethora of new growth that's occurred since then.

I'm using the same methods to encourage stockier, fuller Autumn Joy sedums. Here are the sedums before pinching::

Again, I just pinched off an inch or so from the tips of the growing stems. In the photo on the right below, you can see the plant immediately after pinching {the pinched tip is not even dry}. In the photo on the left, you can see the budding out that has occurred after a couple of weeks.

I've pinched back all of the asters I've come across in the garden, but I've been more selective with the sedums. Pinching back the plants that were taller and leaving some of the shorter ones alone. We already have flower buds forming on the plants that I didn't pinch, which will create a nice sequence of fall blooming.

Of course, pinching isn't the only thing going on out there. I've already harvested this spring's lavender. I've tied it in bunches and it's drying in the cool and dark craft room. I have plans to put some of it in sachets and some in herbal eye pillows.

The lavender plants are still an area of uncertainty for me. I've done a lot of research and I feel like I"m on the right track as far as pruning and maintenance goes with the lavender plants that I added to the garden last year, but I'm at a loss for how to take care of some of the old, woody, and generally ugly looking lavender that's out there. I may just pull out some of the oldest/deadest looking plants and replace them with young lavender plants.

This year, even more than last, I've made it a priority to bring fresh flowers into the house. Right now we've been cutting hydrangea, butterfly weed, bee balm, and lilies. Next week we should have some coneflowers to add to the mix.

There you have it, a spring garden post all about how we're getting ready for the fall flowers. Let's hope we have a long, hot summer before then*

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Things are a shaggy mess around here - I am so bad about keeping things reigned in. I am working on remembering to harvest some lavender though.