A GROWING CONCERN: Ode to the ‘dynamic duo’ of pinching, deadheading

NOW THAT SUMMER is almost officially here and your flowers and plants are finally growing at a recognizable pace, hanging baskets are ablaze with color, roses abloom and lavender in bud, let me focus on an all-important task.

Especially this year, having slogged through a long, cool spring, we all want to get the most out of our summer plants, pots and baskets.

And when I say get the most, I mean having these plants flourish well into October and November.

The essential trick to this accomplishment is the dynamic duo of the ornamental world: pinching and deadheading.

When these two methods channel through your fingers and pruners, both the longevity of blooms and the duration of flowering is greatly enhanced.

Deadheading is the process by which one removes, cuts off or severs dying flowers from the plant.

Deadheading is only the removal of the complete flower head, including the leaflets normally accompanying most flowers.

Pinching is the procedure that removes not only the flower head but cuts off at least one node. In flowering plants, this is at least the first set of “true leaves.”

Leaflets are the foliage growth near the flower head, which resembles leaves but are actually part of the flower.

Normally, they are noticeably smaller than the true leaves or, in the case of roses, not complete.

Rather than the five-leaf structure of a rose leaf, they are composed of only one, two or three such leaves.

The reason we pinch and deadhead flowers as soon as they start going bad is twofold.

First, there is disease.

Flowers deteriorate quickly, and being composed of soft, sensitive, succulent tissue, they rapidly rot away with botrytis and gray molds, thus infecting the bloom almost instantly.

As the rotten petals drop and fall on the foliage, these leaves become infested and soon the plants is a festering mess of disease.

As fall approaches and if gray mold is present, the plant is a goner.

The presence of shorter days and cooler night temperatures heavy with dew just fans the flames of this pestilence.

Second, all living things exist to reproduce.

Reproduce they must, so if old flower heads are present, then the plant turns its focus to seed production, not flower formation.

And again, as autumn nears and the days of August get shorter with night temperatures dropping, the plant starts to shut itself down in terms of growth in order to mature its seed heads in time.

Removal of flowers at the moment they start to fade — not waiting until they turn brown — really frustrates the plant, and it produces even more flowers in an attempt to reproduce.

So the more flowers you take off, the more buds the plant produces in an endless cycle until the cold frost of November finally kills it.

These poor plants have no choice because they are driven to procreate and will stay blooming for as long as possible to do so.

Pinching in combination with deadheading even adds more blooms to the mix.

Every time a node is cut off, exactly above another node (leaf set), new branches then form where they would not have otherwise.

With more branches with new flowers, pinch these again when they have finally finished blooming and even more branches will sprout off the already new branches. It is exponential.

So invite these superheroes of the flower world into your garden and be prepared for a cornucopia of blossoms, which here on the North Olympic Peninsula can last until Thanksgiving.

P.S. Don’t forget next Sunday is Father’s Day.

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

More in Life

A GROWING CONCERN: See Gardens of the World all in one place

AFTER THIS WEEK of snow, more snow, then slush along with more… Continue reading

HELP LINE: Beware: The Promise could kill you

ONE OF MY many totally unrelated and utterly fragmented theories about life… Continue reading

Avalanche lecture, self-defense seminar, green crabs among the upcoming activities

EDITOR’S NOTE: The date has been corrected for the lecture on S’Klallam… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Finding our light through service to needy

THIS WEEK’S TORAH portion continues telling the story of the Jews’ journey… Continue reading

HORSEPLAY: When Gypsy met Porsche

Mini-horse becomes companion for French Warmblood horse

HELP LINE: Remember to express love to those you love

MY BEST FRIEND and I have a large, wrought iron sign on… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: ‘Snow’ what you’re doing in the garden

AND BANG, JUST like that: It’s winter on the Olympic Peninsula. It… Continue reading

THE COOKING HOBBYIST: Winter advice: Let the slow cooker do the work

I THINK MY slow cooker might be the dinner chef I’ve always… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Putting God’s plans ahead of your own expectations

IT CAN BE a rather scary leap approaching God. What does that… Continue reading

Six set for 124th Irrigation Festival pageant Saturday

Six students will compete for four spots in the 124th… Continue reading

Dragon Dance, tree talks, feeding octopus on tap this week across the North Olympic Peninsula

The annual Dragon Dance, talks about cedar trees and an octopus feeding… Continue reading

2019 Book Wars Final Competition set for today

The 2019 Book Wars Final Competition that had been… Continue reading