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.
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.
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.