Brown Cut Down

Brown? Cut it down!

While you are razing peonies in early fall, keep an eye open for other plants that are no longer contributing to the scenery. It is okay to cut them back.

“If it’s not adding to the picture, it must be detracting,” says Steven as he composes a photo. It’s true in gardens, too. Remove what is unsightly and the remainder has a chance to shine.

Janet follows a similar course. If you’ve worked with us at volunteer gardens or Garden By Janet & Steven events you’ve almost certainly heard her say, “If it’s brown, cut it down!"

Good for you, too

In addition to improving the scenery, cutting back one plant group at a time can be good for you, too. It can change your end-of-season clean-up from a marathon to a series of pleasant strolls.

We are not big fans of daylilies. Certainly the flowers can be welcome color but so many varieties have foliage that deteriorates even during bloom. By fall, they can be depressingly ragged.

We are not big fans of daylilies. Certainly the flowers can be welcome color but so many varieties have foliage that deteriorates even during bloom. By fall, they can be depressingly ragged.

Honestly, do you miss the daylilies? We don’t. Removing them clears the stage for the Colchicum’s orchid blooms (foreground, right) and allows the big blue leaves of the sea kale (Crambe maritima, background) to shine.

Honestly, do you miss the daylilies? We don’t. Removing them clears the stage for the Colchicum’s orchid blooms (foreground, right) and allows the big blue leaves of the sea kale (Crambe maritima, background) to shine.

But one thing can lead to another

As often happens in the garden, one thing can lead to another. While the daylilies were occupying the spotlight, you might not even have noticed the dry gray remnants of a lupine gone dormant. Now, you’ll want to clip that, too.

As often happens in the garden, one thing can lead to another. While the daylilies were occupying the spotlight, you might not even have noticed the dry gray remnants of a lupine gone dormant. Now, you’ll want to clip that, too.

Likewise the spent flower stalks from scarlet campion (Lychnis coronaria), which can be cut away to leave only the fresh gray rosettes of next year’s scarlet bloom. Even the oriental lily foliage can be cut back. No harm to the plants.

Likewise the spent flower stalks from scarlet campion (Lychnis coronaria), which can be cut away to leave only the fresh gray rosettes of next year’s scarlet bloom. Even the oriental lily foliage can be cut back. No harm to the plants.

Wildlife Gardeners, Whoa

However, if you are gardening to encourage wildlife, you should restrain the urge to cut. Neatness is not an asset if the garden’s meant to harbor butterflies, toads, pollinators, birds and small mammals.

“Think it’s Neat to Have Birds in a Garden” in What’s Coming Up 144 explains it.

Subscribers to our webinars can see more about this aspect of Gardening for Wildlife by viewing that topic in their library of webinar recordings. Others can read about it in the webinar outline, which is available to all at https://gardenatoz.org/about-us/webinars-appearances-calendar/webinar-audience-notes/#wild