"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away?"

Author: Unknown

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Promise to My Garden

Over the years, once I put a plant in the ground, things go pretty much neglected. My garden is lucky to get an occasional weeding, and a few waterings when their heads start drooping and tongues hanging out. So if your going to be in my bed you better be a tough guy. I have fibromyalgia to deal with so I have to budget my energy accordingly, and 2 years of family upheaval.
Then last spring, things started settling down and I could concentrate more on my flowers. I have never deadheaded before, mostly because I didn't know it would make any difference other than a neater appearance. After what I thought was an unsuccessful attempt to grow Balloon flowers from seed, I suddenly had a beautiful white one in my bed. The same happened with Cleome. Now let that be an example to all gardeners, just because you don't see growth of a new seedling when you expect to, don't give up. You never know what surprises Mother Nature will have in store for you.
Anyway, back to the Balloon flower. When I noticed it was starting to set seed pods, I kept watch on them. I have not been saving my seeds for a few years, but now wanted to get back into trading again. I wanted lots more, but didn't want to pay the high prices of buying a full size plant. Every once in awhile I plucked open a pod to see if the seeds were ready. Most plants are usually pretty easy to tell when the seeds are ready but this one I wasn't so sure of. I read that the seeds could be brown to a tan color when ripe.As luck would have it, each early pod I opened the seed was still a whitish tan color. So I would drop the seed and wait a little longer. I quickly noticed that as I was plucking seed pods, those branches would soon develop a new flower. Then the light bulb finally went on. I realized that if I dead headed this beauty I could enjoy the flowers much longer. At first I was afraid I was sacrificing seed for more bloom. Which I didnt want to do this yr.But after a few posts on gardenweb, someone mentioned that a lot of perennials will re bloom if dead headed. Also they will reward you with more seed later in the growing season, when blooming is finished. Wow! Wish I knew that earlier. Towards July my garden was almost bare, when it could have been more lush and colorful.
This is a shot of the Balloon Flower.

Someone on Gardenweb recommended the book " The Well Tended Perennial Garden" by Tracy DiSabato-Aust . I borrowed this book from my local library. It was a fantastic read. it was chock full of information on growing, and caring for lots of different perennials. I learned that with deadheading, pruning, and sometimes a severe cutting back, will reward the gardening with more bloom, fuller growth, and just a better overall shape and appearance. I highly recommend this book for any gardener. I hope to one day be able to have this book a part of my personal stash.

    Another beautiful example is Clematis Ramona.

This picture, however, does not due this gorgeous beauty justice. It is a much richer shade of a lavender/blue color than it appears. I had one gorgeous flush of bloom last yr. Then after reading more on caring for the different types of Clematis, I found out some require pruning at certain times.  Ramona is a Type B(2) Clematis.This type blooms simultaneously on last years growth and current season's growth, Normally blooming from June to September continuously. And can be treated as a group B or C in pruning technique. It is recommended that in late February or March to give it a light pruning, with variations in in length of stems for a better overall balance of blooms.Typically group B bloom consist of a heavy flush in May-June on previous season's growth, followed by a second smaller flush in September on current season's growth. Which I was told to dead head it to encourage the second flush. Here I was waiting months for the seeds to develop from the first flush when i could have enjoyed two blooming times then waited on seeds. (banging my head on the wall...)
      The book also stated that many perennials tend to get leggy if not pruned back early on before their bloom. Even some real tall guys like Heliopsis helianthoides (False Sunflower). This guy will get 3-5 feet if allowed. Someone on Gardenweb (check out this link about halfway down and one other below that, both by  vera_eastern_wa, here: gardenweb topic showed a picture of this one. I loved it, but I kinda wanted a shorter flower. I mentioned this to her, and she said to prune it back sharply before buds set. Also, in Tracy's book, it states that if  pruned, you can get a shorter more compact plant. So if I cut this plant way back as its growing, before buds set, I may get slightly fewer blooms, with the plant will be shorter and fuller. Tracy gives a more thorough explanation of when to cut, and where to cut your perennials for the best impact.
      This year, my Cleome, Phlox, Clematis, Balloon flower, Yarrow (which I hated in past season's because it was so floppy),Penstemon Husker's Red,Coreopsis Baby Sun, and many more are being introduced to my clippers.

So this growing season, I promise to make an attempt to dead head flowers for re-bloom, and cut back others for a more compact, pleasing appearance. I will also be taking more pictures to document how this effort goes.


  1. Good luck in you garden this year - I'm glad to have found your blog and will be following along. (I have fibromyalgia, too, so I feel your pain. Literally!) :)

  2. As you well know, fibro can be very difficult to deal with even in everyday activities. This winter has been particularly difficult.Thank you for visiting.

  3. Tammy, I am new to your blog too.

    You touched on a nerve for me about this subject.
    I am careless about cutting back and deadheading. I have Herbstonne rudbeckia and the thing gets about 6-feet tall and then we have a rainstorm and over it goes. I intend to snip it way back this year and see what happens.

    How did they diagnose the fibromyalgia? I have a more or less chronic pain in both bicep areas of my arms that worries me. I haven't seen a doctor ..... yet.

  4. gld, at the time I was diagnosed in 95, there wasnt a lot of info on it. There is lots on the web now. One of the big identifiers of this are the multiple tender points in the muscles.Feel free to email me anytime.

  5. Love the Cleome...I first saw some of those entered in a flower competition at our county fair in NC. :D

  6. Thanks Kyna, It is super easy to save seed from too.

  7. Dead heading and cutting back sure do have their rewards! Dead heading was my excuse to take one last walk through the garden each evening, but I think it was more of my way of saying good-night. I love the burst of cleome, too!

  8. I always find myself walking around the garden in the early morning hours during growing season. I often go outside in my robe right and enjoy the fresh morning air.

  9. I enjoyed this post very much! My asters and cosmos were a disaster last year because they grew so leggy. I was going to get rid of them, but I think I will prune them early as you suggest. Thanks!

  10. Just make sure its before buds set on. Let me know how they do.