Gardening: Making the cut

FINAL FLOURISH: Rudbeckia are getting ready to move to the compost bin.
FINAL FLOURISH: Rudbeckia are getting ready to move to the compost bin.
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It’ll soon be time to cut back the stems of flowering perennial plants such as golden rod, coreopsis, helenium, coneflower, penstemon and rudbeckia.

When they have finally finished flowering for the season it’s sensible to tidy up the growth and give the compost heap a welcome feed.

Cut back stems to leave a couple of inches above ground level so you know where the plant is and you can avoid digging it up when planting bulbs and corms for next spring’s display.

Some perennials with attractive seed heads, such as Chinese Lantern (Physalis) ornamental grasses and globe thistle (Echinops), should be left as long as possible to brighten up the winter border and provide food for the birds.

Michaelmas daisies (asters) may have flowering potential left until November as will chrysanthemum, phlox, sedum and Japanese anemones.

Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of time to plant bulbs and corms for next year’s flowers. If you fancy something different from all-yellow daffodils such as ‘King Alfred’ and ‘St Kiverne’, try ‘Salome’, with white petals and pink trumpets. A similar colouring but this time in a ‘double’ form is found in the variety Repleat’.

Dwarf rockery narcissi are worth planting in containers or on the edges of the flower border. If you want to stick to a white and pink theme, then ‘Reggae’ is the one to choose.

For something completely different, consider the multi-headed Triandus narcissi, which are highly fragrant and come in pale lemon (‘Tresamble’), yellow (‘Stint’) and white (‘Silver Chimes’).

Alliums are a great investment – decorative onion bulbs producing spectacular purple heads in May and June. They range in size from small drumsticks to the giant ‘Globemaster’ and come in various colours from white through pink, lilac and purple.

As with other bulbs they will flower well in the first year and gradually diminish in size and vigour unless they are fed while the leaves are still green. This means feeding with dilute plant food every 10 days, spraying the foliage and soaking around the roots during April and May.

Complete the planting of the winter flower bed with specially selected bedding plants which will make all the difference this autumn.

You can find pink and white flowers of bellis, yellow, purple and white flowers of viola and, of course, winter-flowering pansies, wallflowers and drumstick primulas.