5 Ways To Clean Up Your Perennial Bed

Give your garden a mid-season face lift with these tips that clean up their appearance and encourage new growth.

by Jessica Walliser

5 Ways To Clean Up Your Perennial Bed - Photo by Jessica Walliser (HobbyFarms.com) 

Mid-summer sometimes brings an over-grown vegetable garden. Managing overzealous plant growth can be as simple as harvesting, thinning seedlings or pinching back tomato plants, but rowdy plants in the perennial border may require a bit more finesse.

1. Grow Rings

If you don’t stake taller perennials with grow rings (sometimes called peony rings) or bamboo stakes and twine, they’ll grow floppy as the season progresses. It’s always best to do this early in the season, so the plants can grow up through the staking system and help hide it, but if you forget to do it in the spring, be sure to do it before the plants come into bloom. In other words, better late than never.

2. Loosely Tie

For taller, top-heavy perennials that haven’t yet bloomed, go out and loosely tie them up. Asters, perennial sunflowers, coneflowers, monkshood, delphinium, foxgloves, Heliopsis, goldenrod, Shasta daisies and others, all may require a bit of extra support. Don’t tie the twine too tightly or it will look forced and awkward. Keep the stems as loose and airy as you can. Here’s a video that shows how to create a inexpensive peripheral staking system for perennials.

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3. Hard Pruning

For perennials that have already finished blooming, a good haircut is often necessary this time of year. It will keep them looking neat and tidy. Don’t be afraid to cut these plants back heavily; in most cases, I take them all the way back to the crown of the plant. This encourages lush, green, new growth—and sometimes even more flowers! Plants that I cut back hard post-bloom include Nepeta (catmint), lungwort, daylilies, yarrow, lady’s mantle, perennial geraniums, dianthus, perennial salvias, coreopsis, Shasta daisies and Veronica. It may seem a little intimidating to cut the plants back so hard just after they’ve bloomed, but you’ll be surprised how fresh your garden will look after giving these plants a heavy haircut.

4. Edging

Another simple way to freshen up an overgrown garden is to give it a clean edge. Although edging is often considered a springtime chore, I find that if I give my summer beds quick re-edging mid-season, the garden looks tidier, even if the plants growing inside the bed are a still little rambunctious.

5. Deadheading

And lastly, be sure to regularly deadhead your flower garden. Removing spent flowers often induces another period of bloom and keeps the plants from looking tired. I always keep a pair of clippers in my pack pocket, and every time I stroll through the garden, I clip off any spent blooms I come across. I always deadhead perennials that can re-seed aggressively, such as butterfly bush and feverfew. But there are also some plants I never deadhead, mostly because I know the songbirds enjoy eating the seeds or because they are plants I want to encourage to re-seed throughout my garden. Most of the plants in this category are native to my region, including milkweed, coneflowers, Rudbeckias, asters, goldenrods and perennial sunflowers.

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