Making the cut

Secateurs at the ready everyone! We are now nearly half way through September and that means one thing in the garden… it’s time to start cutting back. For those wanting advice/confidence on how to start cutting back in their own garden I have included a quick guide using Veronicastrum as an example. Remember you can do this with any herbaceous perennial/ornamental grass that dies back to soil level in winter. Be careful of tender perennials with semi-woody stems e.g. Penstemmon & Artemisia; these should be cut back after winter has finished.

There are several reasons why we cut back herbaceous plants in the garden. First of all it improves growth and flowering; if done early enough after flowering, some species including Geranium, Salvia and Delphinium will produce a second flush later in the same season. For others it ensures a more vigorous, floriferous plant next year. Secondly it neatens up the garden by removing foliage before it dies or becomes diseased. Thirdly (most importantly in my opinion) it makes applying mulch to your beds much easier as there are no leaves/stems/flowers/seed heads in the way!

This lovely Veronicastrum has done its stuff for the year, all flowers are now finished, it’s the perfect time to cut back.
With a sharp pair of secateurs cut back to just above ground level (2-3 inches).
All cut back and weeded.
It’s good practice to chop up rigid stems to aid breakdown of lignin in cell walls on the compost heap.
All five plants cut back and ready for their annual dose of nutritious compost!

Pruning perennials to a novice gardener might seem quite daunting but there really isn’t anything to fear… just like a hair cut, have faith they will grow back! (and with even more vigour than before).

It is worth mentioning that those wanting to leave seed heads etc. for birds and insects should postpone this process until early spring (February) when the same process applies.

Happy chopping!