If you've finally gotten your spring and summer garden beds into shape and are marveling at the lovely blooms and foliage that are now on display, take a little time to think ahead. Those flowers and plants will eventually wilt; even with the best care, their natural lifecycles will take over.
The question then becomes what to do with the wilted plants? Some should be removed, but others will grow back next year, and then there are special considerations like wanting to see if a seed pod grows. Here's a look at what you can and should do with your garden when the flowers start to wither.
Choosing to Deadhead or Not
Regardless of whether the plant is an annual or perennial, if it produces flowers, you'll have to decide whether to deadhead or not. Deadheading is the practice of removing dead flower heads from the stalks of the plant.
Deadheading does make the plant look nicer; leaves don't always wither at the same time as the flowers, so by removing the dead blooms, you can have a nice green plant for a bit longer.
Deadheading also prevents those dead blooms from forming seed pods. If the flower was fertilized during the season, once the petals drop off, the lump at the base of the flower will develop seeds. These can burst and spread seeds across your garden.
For those who like having trim gardens that contain only the plants that were originally planned, seed dispersal is frustrating. It means that the next season, you could have additional plants sprouting across the yard in places where you don't want the flowers.
Leaving the seed pods on also means there is less nutrition for the rest of the plant. Some plants will develop more flowers if there is enough nutrition to adequately support the new blossoms. By deadheading before the seed pods form, you could encourage the plant to produce more beautiful flowers.
Occasionally you might want a seed pod or two. Maybe you want to show your children what happens over the life of the plant, or maybe you purposefully planted a specific species for edible fruit (remember, fruit serves as a seed dispersal method for many plants). Roses, for example, produce rose hips, and many rose hip species are used for making syrups and teas (just watch out for those itchy hairs they can produce).
Once the entire plant has started to wilt, you should replace it if it's an annual. Those plants won't grow back next season, so you're best off removing them and either preparing the soil for winter, or planting another type of short-lived annual.
Judging Perennial Leaves
For perennial plants, which will grow back, take a look at the leaves. Those that are still green, even if they look old, should remain on the plant until they turn yellow. Green leaves can still photosynthesize and gather food for the plant for next year. If you remove green leaves, especially from bulb flower stalks, the next year's blooms will likely be disappointing.
Perennial Stalk Trimming Versus Showcasing
Even after the leaves have yellowed and gone, the stalks could be rather picturesque. You may want to leave some of the stalks standing to create a fall garden look, depending on what's planted around those stalks.
Leaf and Debris Removal
As the plants wilt, keep the ground around them clean. Remove fallen petals, leaves, and other pieces of the plant. Fungi and other pathogens, as well as insect and rodent pests, can live on and under leaf debris, infecting or destroying plants during the winter and into the next season.
If you're new to keeping a garden, or you are experienced and know exactly how much work caring for a garden can take, enlist the help of Eshelman Mill Gardens to help maintain the garden. You can turn all the work over to the landscapers or divide it up. Either way, having the company's help will make it much easier to keep the garden looking neat and healthy throughout the year.