I find myself playing referee in my garden at the end of summer. Tall plants like mexican sunflowers, orange cosmos, turk’s cap, and butterfly weed can shade out, or fall over onto smaller plants. Others will spread into areas where they were not intended to grow, like black-eyed suzans and ajuga.


1. Prune back over-grown perennials, especially those that bloom over a long stretch into the Fall like butterfly weed, ruellia, and salvias.

2. Stake larger perennials that need it.

3. Straighten a leaning plant and wedge a piece of brick or stone at its base where it is not visible.

4. Dig out unwanted growth outside the area allotted for the plant. Pot it up, replant it somewhere else, or share with a fellow gardener.

Continue to cut back and remove dead flower stalks and unattractive growth. Look for bright green new growth at the base of perennials. When you see this, cut back the plant hard. Dead head regularly. Don’t be afraid of harming or killing well-established perennials when cutting back. They will thank you with new vigorous growth to bloom again in the cooler months in the Fall.

Are you convinced that perennials need to be the architectual scaffolding in your garden?

Summer garden

Buzzing with bees and hummingbirds,

Summer blooms

Dancing with grace and exuberance,

Summer herbs

Exuding pungent scents,

All gift me.

All lift me.

All fill me.

Thank you summer garden

My sanctuary,

My playroom,

My classroom of life.



Dr. Sheila Graham Smith

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