‘Don’t be too eager to cut back peren­ni­als’

Garden News (UK) - - Over The Fence - Jonathan Pearce, Mil­len­nium Gar­den, Pen­sthorpe Jonathan has been Head Gar­dener at the Mil­len­nium Gar­den, Pen­sthorpe, Nor­folk, for three years

Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, spring is an im­por­tant time in a late-sum­mer peren­nial gar­den. Some Mil­len­nium Gar­den plants are real thugs and if we don’t thin them in spring we’ll lose oth­ers later, as they tend to dom­i­nate once they grow. We can’t get in to tend the bor­der in sum­mer be­cause ev­ery­thing’s so densely packed, so peren­nial weeds, such as ground el­der and bindweed, must be ripped out early on.

De­velop your plant­ing scheme with dif­fer­ent species and va­ri­eties that give a sim­i­lar feel. While we’ve ex­panded the Mil­len­nium Gar­den and ex­per­i­mented with many new peren­ni­als that have come on the mar­ket since the gar­den was first de­signed, we’ve al­ways kept Piet Ou­dolf’s orig­i­nal master­piece firmly in mind. Not ev­ery year is the same in a gar­den. North Nor­folk had a very dry win­ter and spring, then a very hot pe­riod and now sum­mer’s here with a lot of rain. We adopt the ‘Chelsea chop’ and cut some peren­ni­als back at the end of May but they didn’t pro­duce as much growth as usual, so are con­sid­er­ably shorter this year. We can’t change the sea­sons, so we just try and en­hance the en­vi­ron­ment by ad­just­ing the shade cast from trees and other plant­ing.

It’s never too early to plan for next year. It’s al­ways more cost ef­fec­tive and sat­is­fy­ing to pro­duce your own plants from seed, cut­tings or di­vi­sion – many peren­ni­als bulk up quickly and can eas­ily be split. Pen­sthorpe is a 700-acre na­ture re­serve so we al­ways need a good stock of back-up plants be­cause birds will de­stroy them.

Don’t be too eager to cut back your peren­ni­als be­cause the gar­den can be spec­tac­u­lar in win­ter with frost hang­ing on the seed heads, golden grasses and mist in the air. It’s also a huge ben­e­fit for wildlife as well. Leave it un­til early spring.

Piet Ou­dolf’s style with grasses and peren­ni­als is an in­flu­ence here

Try and leave most peren­ni­als un­til spring for cu ing back

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