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Report From PIA – March 11

Last Sunday I spoke about perennial bed maintenance at the Chicago Flower Show, and tomorrow I’ll give the same talk to the Cape Cod Master Gardener’s Backyard Horticultural class. Needless to say, this has me thinking about maintaining perennial gardens and how this relates to other things we want to grow.

I call my talk: Perennial Maintenance: The Need To Do, The Nice To Do and The Nuts To Do. Basically, weeding, editing and annual soil amendment with compost are needed, mulching, deadheading, fertilizing and dividing if needed are nice to do, and depending on what you plant, disease control and staking are nuts to do.

What we have to do in a perennial garden greatly depends on which perennials we plant. Those that spread or die quickly are more work, and the species that stay fairly contained, are sturdy enough not to need staking, and are disease resistant are low-maintenance.

If we use the right plant in the right place, it will grow well and demand less from the gardener. Even when we put each perennial in the proper location, however, we need to constantly tend to the garden.

This blog would be more popular if I talked about how easy gardening was, or claimed to give the “secrets” of low-maintenance landscaping. The problem is, there are no secrets, and gardens take work. Ditto life.

Still, if we think of our lives in the same way as perennial bed maintenance, if we classify everything as a Need To Do, Nice To Do or Nuts To Do, everything is a bit more manageable.

Some cut down perennials as soon as the frost hits them, while others leave the plants in the garden all winter. There is no one right way... everyone should decide on the maintenance method that works best for him/her.

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