Pinched Back | The Catholic Gardener

Pinched Back | The Catholic Gardener

Platycodon grandiflorus

There are several perennial flowers that bloom more abundantly when pinched back in late spring and again after about 4 weeks in early summer.

Those flowers are of the type called ‘terminal bloomers’, meaning they flower on the ends of stems. Perennials in my yard that are terminal bloomers and trimmed back include mum, sedum, platycodon (balloon flowers), and the shrubby Annabel hydrangea.

Because these plants bloom on the ends of stems, by pinching back the tips the plant sends out additional lateral (side) stems and thereby creates more terminal ends for blooms.

The other day, after yet another rain, I saw from the kitchen window how leggy some of the plants had become. I had failed to finish the task of pinching back started several weeks ago and now, with all the rains the platycodon and mum were getting long and floppy—the stems soft from rapid growth due to the warm rains.

My arthritic body ached—which was the reason I had delayed the chore for so long—but knew what had to be done, and it was such a small chore. As soon as there was a break in the rain I slipped on my boots and grabbed the nippers, heading out to the garden.

It felt good to be in the lushness of an early summer garden, and to enjoy the birds singing and tree frogs chirping.

Good for about 7 minutes!

My back and knees began to hurt so I rushed through trimming the remaining plants. Being careless, I cut several stems too far, and having done so knew the flowering would be inhibited rather than enhanced.

Closing the shed and heading for the house I prayed…

Dear Lord, I ask that in my own frustrations of who I am as I mature, trying to grow too fast through the storms of aging, that you do not prune me with such reckless abandon.

As I dried the nippers and pulled off boots I knew Our Lord would prune with love, attentive to the flowering to come.

Image by Walter Stern at

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