Just about every morning, when I step outside all geared to catch up some routine yard work – watering, cleaning, aerating or weeding – or just to piddle around, invariably I get sidetracked: not to smell the roses, but believe it or not, to deadhead flowering annuals or perennials which could use a little grooming. The sight of spent blooms, to be perfectly honest, bothers me as it takes away from the neatness and beauty of flowering plants, which seemingly has led to, at times, my overzealous attitude towards deadheading.
Overzealous indeed, for more than once, as I was trying to remove the flowering stalks of basils to preserve the flavor of the herb, or faded blooms of other plants to extend the flowering period, the bumblebees hovering over the flowers in search of nectar protested the intrusion by threatening to sting the intruder.
Setting aside such instances, deadheading, though sounds trivial, is one of the most important tasks a gardener can perform during flowering season of annuals and perennials: routinely done, deadheading not only gives the plants a tidier appearance, but makes them bushier, hence promoting formation of more flower buds and at the same time, minimizing seed set which can sap a plants’ strength. In fact, after procrastinating for some time, I have finally snipped all the faded blooms of the balloon plant, a perennial that bears lovely, blue flowers in summer; sure enough, the plant now has a fresh look and is trying to produce a second flush of flowers buds.
True, removing spent blooms requires patience and can even leave ones fingers and thumb a little sore, but when done repeatedly, the act becomes somewhat of a second nature to most of us. Speaking of which, quite often when I water the flowers, particularly the ones in containers, I find myself multitasking – watering with one hand and deadheading with the other.
While it indeed is natural to use hands to deadhead, sometimes it is better to use a sharp tool, such as a small pruner, to make clean cuts instead of breaking the flowers forcefully. Incidentally, though the term deadheading does imply removing flowers that are past their prime, cutting flowers at peak to bring inside the house for arrangements or harvesting herbs for culinary use significantly encourages the plants to produce more green shoots and flowers. So, go ahead and do it; deadhead that is, and don’t be concerned if deadheading becomes a good hard-to-break habit.