Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Perfect Pinching

Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne' pinched
Day 172
The Daily DuBrule

Every June I do a garden walk at Natureworks that demonstrates pinching back perennials to double the bloom period. This is based on techniques I learned from the book The Well Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy Disabato-Aust. I remember when I first read and understood what she was talking about. I was SO excited. This was cutting edge territory for me, something that I knew would change the way I tend gardens. 

Basically, you cut the front half of the plant in half. Timing is important. For late season bloomers like the Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne' above, early June is best. For fall bloomers like asters and Helianthus, it should be done by the end of June. This technique accomplishes two things. First, and most important, the part that you pinch blooms about 3 weeks later. As the back half finishes blooming, the front half starts. Thus you double the bloom period for the plant. How cool is that! Second, you layer the plant so it steps up from front to back. This makes the garden look really nice.

Eupatorium 'Little Joe' perfectly pinched
I did this to Eupatorium 'Little Joe' in June. If you look at the picture above, you can see the back part is budded and about to bloom. The front part is shorter, with lots of smaller buds forming. It will bloom next month.

Try this with bee balm. Do it in May, not June. When the back half is finished flowering (and most likely has powdery mildew), cut it down to the ground. The front half will start to flower and you will get to enjoy your bee balm for another 3-4 week.

Thank you, Tracy Di-Sabato Aust, for writing your excellent book and teaching me this trick. It really makes a huge difference in my gardens. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree, this book has completely changed my pruning forever. (and the walks at NW have helped me too!) Any garden can be completely revolutionized by learning some of these tricks! Last year, I cut my monarda in THREE levels as it was quite large and it bloomed forever, totally hiding the yucky foliage. And my balloon flowers-wow-no more flopping and tons more flowers just by being brave and pruning 1/2 the plant away in May. Next year I'll do the Rudbeckia 'Herbstsonne' like the photo here--never did that one and now finally after a few seasons, my plant is getting big. How about the big leaved Rudbeckia maxima that gets REALLY tall? Have you done that one? It's always a great experiment when you prune this way but usually a successful one.