Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The well-nibbled perennial garden

Earlier this month, my super-gardener sister-in-law paid a visit to the back quarter acre. I always learn so much from her--like the best local cultivars, organic gardening practices, and good garden hygiene--and best of all, my sister-in-law has a gentle zen-like way of leading you to knowledge. She definitely has that enlightenment thing going on.

After checking out a happy bed of bearded irises, she cast an eye on some rampant plantings of Joe Pye weed "Gateway" (Eupatorium maculatum), shasta daisies (Chrysanthemum maximum), and garden phlox "David" (Phlox paniculata). "Are you familiar with "The Well-Tended Perennial Garden" by Tracy DiSabato-Aust?" she asked. "It's full of information about shaping plants and extending bloom period by pinching back and pruning your plants." Message received! And the book itself arrived a few days after.

Pruning! Pinching back! Pure genius! Initially, I was disappointed to discover that I had already missed so many opportunities this season. Then I realized that in fact I had been well-tending my garden, by proxy. This year's bumper crop of bunnies have been hungrily pinching back and pruning for me.

The rabbits have been nibbling away at sweet peas, anemones, dahlias, larkspur, and rudbeckia. Just before some of those plants disappeared entirely, my sister-in-law told me about an organic pest repellent. These "Purple Dome" asters (Aster novae-angliaeaster) received a dusting just in time.

Three weeks later and lots of new growth!

That nibbling, pinching, pruning thing really does work.

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