Advice tells us to cut back our perennial plants with the May Chelsea Shop or the June Hampton Hack. Why and when do we do this and what if we don’t?
Here in London the front garden has gone from gorgeous abundant profusion to a bit of a dry collapse but I’m thinking it still looks lovely enough to leave it and so far I’ve resisted cutting everything back.
The borders currently look like this and I wrote more about the garden earlier in the month here
It’s lovely but with some heavy rain and then some sun the whole pack of cards is really collapsing. So it really is time to cut back.
Here’s a patch I cleared of just one sprawling plant. There’s a nice gap that I can enrich with my compost and then pop in some new plants. Thus small area by small area I can rejuvenate the soil and the planting rather than cut it all down around the same time.
The rest of that narrow path border looks like this
The path is messy and I love it but as our trousers get more wet every time we walk down it, I am going to have to cut these things right back to the edge of the path. You’d be amazed how these plants are hiding about 18 inches of path on each side.
This Brunnera in the centre of the photo below grew new fresh leaves within 6 days of my shearing it down to the ground. That’s what some plants can do – pulmonaria, geraniums, omphaloides, alchemilla mollis,, campanula, and many others no doubt. Be brave. Just do it.
Two weeks later it looks like this
A good watering really helps them re-grow so when I see rain coming I pop outside and cut some things down.
Why cut back at all? Good question.
Well since nothing stays the same in a garden and plants are always growing or decaying, cutting foliage down gives a fresh green look rather than a brown shrivelled look. It gives the plant a boost to get growing. Here’s a cut back patch looking bare but in 2 weeks it’ll be a mass of fresh green.
A loose cottage garden style will be a balance between beauty and mess. We all have a difference tolerance level for mess. In my garden I like lots of messy chaotic unpredictable jumble but wouldn’t like too much of that in the rest of my life.
Cutting back also reveals the things that have died under the messy growth. I dig them up wondering what they were – so full of promise at the garden centre but……….
So when rain is forecast, get out there and be bold.
Lastly I have exciting news about ground elder. The wonderful Alys Fowler has written an article about letting it grow and not bothering to see it as an overwhelming problem. In manageable doses it looks very pretty so I’ve decided to let mine grow and just change my atttitude to it. You can read that here