Give Your Perennials a Trim

Book Review

“The Well-Tended Perennial Garden” by Tracy DiSabato-Aust is a wonderful book if you are a perennial lover like me. I found out about it last year at a talk about making plant divisions that was given by Becky. She highly recommended it and said that it is a must have. I asked Santa for it and he came through!

The author discusses gardening & bed preparation in general and includes care and pruning instructions for individual perennials. Since she is a northern based gardener, the information is perfect for our NH gardens. You will find all your favorites in her A-Z Encyclopedia of Perennials which comprises most of the book. I love that they all have great photos so you can identify plants in your garden. My only problem with the book is that the plants are only listed by the Latin names with no cross-reference to common names, so I had to rummage through the book to find the plants I was interested in (like that was a real burden).

The best thing that I got out of the book was the importance of deadheading and cutting back early for many plants. Now the thought of cutting back a plant in June made me cringe. So I didn’t do it, even thought the book suggested that it would be a good idea. I bought some Cardinal Flowers this spring to put in a wet area of my yard. They seemed to like it there very much – they grew like crazy. They are behind the bird feeders, so you can imagine that there is a lot of activity. One day there must have been a squirrel rumble as I was very cross to find that a couple of the stalks were broken. Little did I know that the critters did me a favor. The broken stems put out several flowering branches instead of  one giant one (we’re talking 6 feet here!). The bushier plants really do look nicer, even if they are not not as tall.  I still had flowers to come on the shorter plants, so staggered pruning extends the bloom time. The lesson has been learned. Next year I will cut them back as they start to grow. I plan to experiment (with book in hand, of course) on other plants in the garden as well!

You can get a copy at Amazon and other fine book stores.  Below are some snaps of the Cardinal Flowers.

from Max

Notice the flower stalks on the shorter plants have yet to show color. When the red ones that opened in mid-July were gone, more came in August. There are still stragglers now!

Cardinal Flowers are aptly named. They are a striking, bright red.

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