I bet you are in the swing of gardening here in May.
You just finished all the garden chores, cleaning up debris, edging beds, adding amendments to the soil with compost, topping off with mulch, weeding, dead-heading, cutting back spent plants, dividing, thinning and transplanting, and now you want some NEW PLANTS.
But you have run out of room! What to do? A few choices come to mind. Cut back or prune tall perennials early before they bloom for a shorter display, or simply, find another plant that fits and remove WHAT DOESN’T!
One might now choose your favorites to keep and replace those not performing with new better improvements. Mid-May is a great time to do this in our area.
The rule of thumb on perennials worth the space they take up is they should have extended period of bloom or extraordinary flowers. Additionally they should have other attractive features throughout the season, from good form or structure, to great foliage, nice texture, wonderful fall color or colorful seasonal berries. And don’t forget about their benefit to wildlife! It is not all about a plant’s aesthetic value.
This is what hybridizing has predominately done for our plants. A hybrid plant is developed by crossing two species, which results in some characteristics of each parent plant and possibly creating something quite different. It made plants better in many cases. But not all cases.
This is where the choice comes in. Do we go with the old standby plants of our grandmother’s garden, or do we look for better behaving cultivars? Do we sacrifice fragrance or berry production if choosing cultivars?
By choosing cultivars, gardeners know exactly what they’re getting, without the variation and sometimes unsightly growth of certain native species. Cultivars let you design your garden for maximum impact and less worry of plants over-taking their bounds. Of course, that is not always the case with certain cultivars like some goldenrod, monarda, gooseneck loosestrife, carex or tradescantia. These cultivars can be garden thugs, just like the wild counterparts.
Most well-behaved cultivars are like garden ornament in a way, where you add the dazzle, but not the headache. Some cultivars are nativars (near natives) of a native like those just mentioned, but with a more favorable, pleasing and expected growth behavior. Certain monardas are an example.
Improvements have been brought to many old-time favorites like coralbells, columbine, coneflower, and daylily most notably. As you are out weeding, digging, and watering your perennial gardens, think about which plants are truly performing. Think where a new choice could be the answer.
If you are out dividing the old standby plants, do remember if plants are already growing tall or flowering soon, wait until they have flowered before digging in that cutting spade. Baptisia, Campanula, roses, and other early bloomers need you to pump the brakes for a bit. But do some pre-emptive pruning if you have aster, sedum, some salvia, monarda, goldenrod or phlox to make them less tall in bloom or yield them shapelier. Maybe more on this topic later…
The show opened and the stage is set on my garden this May. The entire ensemble is starting to arrive, a few still are on standby. Stay tuned, more images on the way up until Fling time. What will still be in bloom? Next post… how I deal with my heavy clay soil to have all that you see blooming.