6 August 2010
off with their heads
In times of drought it can be somewhat wearying to watch as plants, left and right, become increasingly dishevelled. Without readily available moisture they are unable to put on much fresh growth and flowering often ceases as they try simply to stay alive. In a normal year many early flowering herbaceous plants benefit from a mid-season cutback to remove congested old flower stems and encourage fresh regrowth, but in a droughty season this is also a useful technique to ensure they survive until better times. Cutting off all the leafy growth above ground reduces the amount of moisture the plant needs so instead of dying the plant will regrow from the base when conditions improve. It can take a hard heart to savage a treasured special but if you keep in mind that the buds shrivelling on the plant won't open this season anyway it becomes easier to steel the nerves for a severe chop. Keep in mind that this way they will next season.
Here is a collapsed Geranium 'Claridge Druce'. It has flowered and fed the bees for months. It is tough as old boots and will survive the worst the garden can throw at it but now it has become a mass of sprawling seedheads, and frankly looks a bit of mess. I don't need to steel my nerves for this one (it gets this treatment every year), I grasp the stems together in a big clump and chop the whole lot off.
Which leaves me with this.
I want some quick regrowth to fill the gap - or someone "but I'm not stood on anything" will soon be standing on it - so it gets a couple of buckets of water thrown over it to give it a bit of encouragement.
In a week it has new shoots coming through,
I expect it to be back in flower by the end of the month with no additional watering and it will flower well on into Autumn.
Other plants, not as tough, and cut back to aid their survival have not been watered. This seems contrary but encouraging fresh growth from these before there is rain will soon see them struggling again to support the new leaves. Better they wait beheaded and quiet until the overall conditions improve.