Monday, 6 February 2017

Things to do now in your garden: cut back perennial plants

Sedum spectabile
If you need convincing that spring is on the way, here's what to do:
1. Go outside.
2. Find a perennial plant (like this Sedum).
3. Look at the base of it.

Perennials are so called because they come back into growth every year after dying off at the end of the previous growing season. Some wither and fade by themselves each autumn. Some will get blown apart by autumn winds, others disintegrate in January ice. Others have stems and flowerheads robust and woody enough to withstand the worst of winter and last right through to spring.

Some of them have an interesting or attractive enough appearance to be worth leaving them there over the winter. Although they are dead, they provide some structure when everything around them has shrunk back into the ground. They can look beautiful on frosty mornings when covered in icy crystals, and they add texture to an otherwise potentially bland wintry scene.

Acanthus spinosus
If you peer underneath them now that most of the frosts and the darkest months have passed, you will probably see something like this (this is Acanthus). You'll see shoots emerging and this means these seed heads and stems have done their job of giving you something to look at in winter. It's time to move on.

Now is the time to remove the remnants of last year and start looking forward to everything the garden has in store for you this year. Just cut the old stems right back to the ground and enjoy the fresh bright growth left behind as it takes over, giving hope for the coming year as the garden gets going again.

Sedum spectabile
At the top of this post you can see a Sedum spectabile in my garden, still standing nicely upright after a wet and windy winter. Here it is a few minutes later after I removed all the seedheads and stems. The new growth has barely broken the ground up to now, but it will soon get going now that Spring is just around the corner.

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