Marianne Binetti

Mid-summer pruning can lead to a second blooming season

The end of June is the time to do some summer pruning. If you cut back early perennials now, you’ll be rewarded with a second flush of flowers. Tall and spiky plants like delphiniums and foxglove can be pruned as soon as the tallest spike has faded flowers and this will allow side shoots to take over for weeks of more color.

Bushy bloomers such as coreopsis and daisies can also be sheared back by one half once the flowers fade, and a whole new crop of buds will appear. In the vegetable garden, use scissors to prune and harvest leaf lettuce and you’ll see new leaves popping up to replace the old.

Q. How does one keep sweet peas in bloom? Mine had one display of flowers and now the vines are turning yellow. I see lovely sweet peas at the farmer’s markets so I know they must still be blooming. D.D., — Puyallup

A. Sweet peas have one simple demand to keep them in bloom – pick the flowers. Once you allow the flowers to fade on the vine and seeds to start forming, the blooming party is over and the plant goes into decline. The best time to harvest sweet peas is in the morning when they are full of moisture. Cut the flower stem close to the main stalk and have a bucket ready to place the blooms immediately into water. Sweet peas like cool soil so a fresh mulch of compost on top of their roots part way through the summer will also help to extend the blooming season. Share the cut flowers by placing jars of blooms in public spaces, such as libraries and the post office. This random act of kindness will encourage more sweet peas to bloom in your own garden.

Q. I have a petunia hanging basket that was full of flowers when I received it for Mother’s Day. Now the branches only have flowers at the tips of the branches and the rest of the stems are rather bare. I do water and use a fertilizer and the basket gets sun. Please help. T.P., — Olympia

A. Help is right at your fingertips. Petunias need to be pinched and pinched often. All petunias bloom at the tips of branches and the more you create branching by removing the tips, the more flowers you will have on bushier plants. Your leggy petunia basket may need an extreme makeover with the pruning shears. Cut back the long branches so that they are 6 to 8 inches tall. Fertilize and stand back. New branching will begin and new blooms will follow. In a few weeks you will have a full and flowering petunia basket once again – but don’t forget to keep pinching all summer.

Q. I have planted sedums called Hens and Chicks inside an old metal lunch bucket and have received many compliments about the display. Several of the individual sedums have started flowering and I have heard this means they will now die. Is there anything I can do to stop this from happening? I chose to grow sedum Hens and Chicks because I was told they were impossible to kill! I cannot enjoy the flowers knowing that the plants will now die. M., — Email

A. Don’t count your dead chicks before they flower. It is true that sedum sempervirens will fade and die after they flower but the Latin name means “lives forever” because once the mother plant or hen dies several baby chicks hatch or sprout to take her place. Pluck out any faded hens to make room for the chicklings. These circular shaped sedums will grow in thick rosettes even if you don’t remove the blooming plants but avoid fertilizing sedums to discourage flowering. In Europe Hens and Chicks are called “House Leaks” as they are used to fill in the cracks and patch up leaks on old tile roofs.