Wednesday, 27 October 2021

How to: cut down Japanese anemones

Japanese Anemones: time for autumn slaughter!

Yes, it's time to chop down the lovely Windflowers: they've been wonderful this year, but now the flowers are over, and the foliage is going brown, so it's time to get out there and deal with them. It's a simple job, and here is my easy four-step plan.

1) firstly cut off the flowering tops, as they contain the seeds - and we don't want them in the compost heaps! I generally cut them down just below the first branching point, to make sure I get all of the seed heads, but (looks furtively over shoulder in case anyone is listening) if I am in a hurry, I just gather up a handful of stems and cut them at about knee height. This part of the plant should go in the green waste bin, or on the bonfire heap.

Here's a photo - left - which shows a clump that I have just started - if you look closely, you can see some cut stems just at the height of the tops of the leaves.

2) the second job is to cut the remainder of the plant right down, to just a couple of inches above ground level, and all of it can go in the compost. Go on, I know it looks harsh, but honestly, these plants benefit from it.

 This photo - right - shows a clump, reduced very nearly to nothing. 

Just look at all those nasty dead, black bits! Those are the leaves and stems which have died, at various times through the late summer. 

Having said that, some of them may well be the dead stems left over from last year, ones which were cut down to ankle height at this time of year.

So the next jobs is - all together now:

3) Yes, out with the Daisy Grubber, and rake through those clumps, to pull out all the dead leaves, and the decaying stems. You can use whatever hand tool you prefer, or  you can use a gloved hand: just rake through, and pull out anything which is dead.

Here is the same clump after this raking. Can you see the difference? 

It's good practice to scrape out all the dead bits, because they are a haven for slugs and snails, and there is also a risk that they will harbour disease over the winter: often, you will find that the old dead material has already started to go mouldy.

4) finally, add mulch. Home-made compost is fine, mixed with some leaf mould if you have any left: just fling it around all over the clumps, and let the worms pull it down into the soil over the winter.

There you go! Easy, wasn't it? 

Chopping the old stems and leaves right off has another advantage - if you leave them six or eight inches high, as a lot of people do, then they will catch all the autumn leaves which will be tumbling any day now. This just creates nice cosy habitats for slugs and other pests, not to mention being unsightly. It also makes it a lot easier to carry out stage four, the mulching: you can just ladle the mulch straight in place, without it forming great mounds and hummocks! 


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  1. Thanks for this - I was wondering how brutal I could be with these!

    1. You're welcome, Nic - and the answer is, as brutal as you like!


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