Radical hair cuts

Even though we’re still in the middle of winter and not out of the woods yet as far as frost is concerned, we decided to start our annual round of trimming on the perennials outside the low fence in our front yard. This 4-ft. wide strip provides color from spring to early winter but often ends up looking like an overgrown jungle by the end of the year.

In July of 2010 and now

Last year we left some plants untouched, which was not necessarily the wisest choice. Many of our lavenders, now going into their 5th year, have grown large and woody. The interior is dead and moldy from a lack of light and air circulation. This is not good for the long-term health of the plants even though the outside looks perfectly vital. After a radical hair cut, our lavenders look unattractive now but as soon as it warms up, new growth will quickly cover up the unsightly mounds.

Grosso lavender (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’) in July of 2010
and now after its radical hair cut

Radical hair cuts were also given to the Silver Arrow maidenhair grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’) and Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) shown in the photos below. The Mexican bush sage had its top growth fried by frost on January 11th and looked particularly unsightly. There’s already new basal growth so maybe we’ll get another round of bloom in the next couple of months. Typically, Mexican bush sage blooms for us from fall until spring.

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Silver Arrow grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’ and Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) in mid-November and now

My 9-year old daughter, who was helping my wife with the trimming, couldn’t quite fathom why we would cut back plants that were still blooming (like the lavenders). I totally understand how she feels. Although I know it’s necessary, I still feel like I’m doing something horrible when I take the pruning sheers or nippers to a blooming plant.

My wife’s valiant trimming efforts produced quite a pile of plant matter. Fortunately, we have curbside pickup of yard waste!



  1. I don't know that I could do this if I lived in a warmer climate. I have a hard enough time cutting everything down in late winter when it's all been dead for months. If it were still blooming... don't know. I guess I'd learn that I need to do it, but still.

    Also, the miscanthus seed heads in that one photo are what mine look like at first, but after a month or two of winter weather they curl and fluff up. Maybe curling is temperature related?


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