Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Springtime Bouquet, Past Tense

Springtime bouquet, past tense

What do you think of my springtime bouquet of peonies?

My bucket of floral trash was overflowing, but when I glanced at it, I thought, “Wow, that’s almost attractive. It reminds me of a classical springtime bouquet—a springtime bouquet past tense to say the least.

My bouquet, as you can see, contained the peony blossoms that I had deadheaded and stuffed into one of my garden work buckets. A week ago, the fragrant blooms were glorious—red and pink backed by deep-green leaves.

But wind, rain, and time turned our peony blooms into brownish masses of falling petals. The beautiful had become ugly. So I took my hand pruners and cut off the dried-up flowers, letting them fall into the bucket.

Peonies before deadheading
Cutting spent flowers from plants is called deadheading. In its chapter on “Pruning,” the University of Maryland Master Gardener Handbook explains: “Flowers that go to seed consume large amounts of energy that could be used for vegetative use. Perennials should be deadheaded to a lateral leaf, flower, or bud unless there is a single flower stem nearly bare of leaves, in which case the stem should be cut off close to the base. Rhododendrons, lilacs, dahlias, and peonies are deadheaded.” The chapter on “Herbaceous Plants” adds, “Deadheading may also promote longer bloom periods. Avoid moving any foliage.”

I deadheaded most of the peony stems about 10 inches from their spent flowers, usually just above a leaf on each stem, so afterwards the plants looked like round and bushy mounds of dark-green leaves. I did do more drastic cutting back of several stems that were flopping into nearby Shasta daisies and a mini-crape myrtle.

Peonies after deadheading
The whole deadheading job took just 15 minutes or so. That’s when I noticed the bucket of cuttings had an odd appeal. It somewhat resembled a classical springtime bouquet—albeit one long past its prime.

My deadheading isn’t done for the season. As the Handbook says, deadheading may promote longer bloom periods. I need to remember to deadhead other plants that I know will re-bloom—such as our Knockout rose, our Tiger Eyes marigolds, and our hardy garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).

I want to encourage the beautiful.

No comments:

Post a Comment