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AT the Tatton Park Flower Show recently we did an item for Gardeners' World TV coverage about how to keep the summer show going.

Part of it is ensuring that as one plant bows out, another takes over. Apart from that complex subject, there are so many simple ways of getting the best out of your garden and prolonging the show.

Here at Glebe Cottage the garden has romped away in the hot weather and we've never known such exuberant growth. It's difficult to keep up with it, but all the more reason to try.

It has been such a joyful summer so far it would be a shame to let it slide into oblivion. No - the show must go on.

DEADHEADING The whole point of any flower is to attract insects - to persuade them to pollinate and thereby produce seed. It's all about reproduction.

If we want to make sure a plant keeps producing flowers, we have to stop it setting seed. Very few flowers die gracefully and deadheading regularly helps the whole show look better.

It needn't be a tiresome task, and it can be a really good way of keeping a friendly eye on how your garden is doing. It also gives you a chance to spot problems early, and see what's in need of a drink or a good feed.

ROSES AND DAHLIAS In the case of hybrid teas that produce one bloom per stalk, it's important not just to remove the spent bloom, but to cut the supporting stem right back to the next bud.

If it's floribundas or bunch-flowered climbing roses (we have a Rosa 'Sander's White' with great bunches of flowers that all mature at different rates), spent flowers need to be removed individually. Use either secateurs or finger and thumb, leaving the rest of the truss to flower in its own good time.

When the whole truss has finished, it can be cut back to an outward-facing bud on the branch or sideshoot it came from. We use some sharp, little fruit pruners with narrow blades for this.

They're good on dahlias, too. Dahlia flowers don't last long, but a single plant can produce scores, even hundreds of flowers if it's deadheaded diligently. If you're not well-acquainted with dahlias, it's not always obvious which are the new buds and which the spent flowers.

Buds are spherical and you can often detect a hint of new petals. The whole thing is firm - it feels solid.

Spent flowers are squidgy, full of moisture and longer. They should be cut down to the next buds further down the stem. Try not to leave long, stubby bits. They may start to rot, and this can spread to healthy parts of the plant. All the energy the plant would have put into seed production will now be diverted into making new buds and flowers.

BEDDING PLANTS Bedding plants - especially those with big flowers such as petunias - benefit from being deadheaded frequently. Hanging baskets, window boxes and borders will keep a fresh, energetic look with frequent maintenance.

Nip off flowers, including the potential seed pod, with finger and thumb. In the case of pelargoniums, snap off the whole flower stem at its base. While you're doing this, your plants will benefit from an occasional feed. Just as you'd feed tomatoes when they start to flower, feed your ornamental plants, too. In fact tomato fertilizer, high in potash, is ideal.

TAKING CUTTINGS Penstemons and salvias are two of summer's longest-flowering plants and both flower in a similar way. They produce several flowers to a stem, first on the leading shoot and then on sideshoots.

If the first flowers are taken off when they're fading, cutting back to the next twin sideshoot, this will encourage those shoots to grow. When they are a few inches long they can be removed either with finger and thumb, pulling off a little heel (a tiny piece of the main stem attaching the shoot), or by severing it with a sharp knife.

In both cases the base of the cutting should be neatened up, the bottom and top leaves of the cutting nipped off and the cutting inserted into gritty compost around the edge of a pot (clay pots are best for this).

Water them well and put them in a bright place such as the greenhouse, porch or kitchen windowsill, although at this time of year they will probably root fairly rapidly outside.

Both penstemons and salvias sometimes succumb to cold in winter, and it's a good idea to have replacements ready, especially as a by-product of tidying up your plants and inducing more flower.

CHOPPING BACK Sometimes a more radical approach is needed. We love hardy geraniums at Glebe Cottage, and in some ways the garden depends on their presence.

This year particularly their growth has been phenomenal, and it has been matched with an abundance of flowers. But there comes a point when they begin to look straggly and overgrown.

Even though they may still be producing a few flowers, it's time for you to step in with the secateurs and, in some cases, the shears.

Geranium pratense seeds itself all over the show here, and plays an important role in the June and July garden. But when the show is over, that is that.

We cut all its flowered stems down to the ground leaving only the basal clump of leaves. Even if they are sheared, new leaves will quickly replace them.

Cranesbills such as geranium psilostemon and the lower, mat-forming geranium oxonianum can be cut back tentatively removing some stems or, if you're brave, you can cut them down to the base.

It may seem severe, but within a couple of weeks there will be new leaves and in a month or so the plant may produce new flower. A liquid feed with a general fertilizer - we use an organic, seaweed product - gives plants a gentle boost.

Always water first and apply the fertilizer on to wet ground as this makes it easier for the plant to absorb.

BThe A bit of maintenance now can help you get the best out of your displays - and prolong this glorious season for a few more weeks


B Carol dead-heads her Rosa 'Sander's White' to keep it flowering Regenerate... dahlias produce masses of flowers if dead headed diligently


New life... cut back cranesbills and they will flower again
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Title Annotation:News; Opinion, Columns
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 4, 2013
Previous Article:ELVIS ON MY MIND.
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