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The Last Burst of Color before the Dog Days

summer bouquet, cutting back flowers in mid-summerThere can be two floral seasons in the summer if you put in some extra effort. The first typically ends the first week in July, just before the dog days of summer begin. If you can brave the heat and humidity to do a few maintenance tasks in the next couple of weeks, it will pay off with a second flush of color and floriferous-ness in late summer.

Step One—Cut back any spent blooms and any flowers that have peaked right away. Deadheading can wake up perennials by fooling them into thinking their primary directive for reproduction has not yet been completed. Allowing the older flower heads to go to seed will send plants into a lazy decline and the foliage will begin to suffer from pest damage while the stems will elongate and flop to the ground. Interrupt the circle of life by removing both the petals and the developing seed pods. Be thorough. Leaving behind any flower heads and seed pods will keep the plants complacent, thinking their job of reproducing a new generation is done.

Step two—Rejuvenate large masses of flowers in a wholesale manner by cutting back the entire plant by about one-fourth the total height. This will scare out fresh growth and result in densely branched stems ready to set new blooms. Shearing back herbaceous plants removes damaged foliage that harbors insects and disease.

Step three—Forget step two. Carefully trim each individual stem to get a more refined, aesthetic look. Giving them a haircut helps the appearance of the garden, and the results of the cut-back will be directly related to the care with which you weld your clippers.

There are a lot of plants that benefit from this tough love. Shrub Roses, Purple Coneflowers, Lobelias, Chrysanthemums, Geraniums, Yarrow, Baptisia, Salvias, Daisies, Butterfly Bush, Fennel, Cut and Come Again Zinnias, and Marigolds. Other plants won’t be fooled. Black-eyed Susans, Pennstemons, Iris, and Daylilies bloom once, and that’s it. They’re done for the season. Their charm is their fleeting nature.

You need to perform this cut back to keep your landscape looking manicured and refined. By late July, spending time outdoors for very long is too hot and too muggy for comfort, so take advantage of cool evenings and breezy days. It may seem wasteful to remove some blooms at their peak, but you can bring them inside for arrangements and enjoy them at close range in air-conditioned bliss.

A Midsummer's Floral Beauty