Plantswoman FIONA EDMOND, owns the award-winning Green Island Gardens in Ardleigh. Today she talks about knowing when to reach for the pruning shears

It is usually around the first week in August when I start to cut back some of the perennials in the main beds, firstly to stop them seeding everywhere, but also to make them produce a second flush of growth often with a few extra flowers as a bonus.

This year however due to the drought it will be more than the usual geraniums, alchemilla and stachys that will be getting the chop! Astrantias, paeonies, poppies, sanguisorbas, and geums are all looking very shrivelled and brown and are making the garden look even more parched and dead than it really is.

Rather than the traditional deadheading I prefer to cut back all the growth to the base.

This promotes the plant to produce a second flush of lovely green foliage which will see us through the autumn and into winter.

Alchemilla mollis or Lady’s Mantle as it is otherwise known is one of the very best ground covering perennials, however if not dead headed it like the geraniums and stachys can put in a bit of a takeover bid.

Geranium Johnson’s Blue, like the Alchemilla above is best cut to the ground after flowering.

Around the pond there are huge gunnera leaves, darmera and many of the ferns including the royal fern, Osmunda regalis which have shrivelled and no amount of water will rescue those, so better to cut back hard and wait for them to produce new fronds from the base.

Brown leaves on waterside plants that have suffered can just be cut off at the base.

There are a few shrubs in the woodland that I fear we may have lost purely due to the heat and impossible task of getting right round the 20 acres trying to save precious plants with buckets of water.

However, rather than ditch them now I would not be surprised if they spring back to life when we have cut them back to a much smaller framework and rain finally comes (for sure it will do one day, and then the searing temperatures of July will be but a distant memory).

Viburnums and hydrangeas seem to be struggling the most along with the deciduous azaleas, rhododendrons and cornus.

Even if they have lost all their leaves at the moment this may only be a safety mechanism the plant uses by sacrificing its leaves in order to preserve the whole plant. I am optimistic they will spring back to life in more favourable conditions.

In terms of trees it is the birch trees which seem to have gone into early dormancy by shedding most of their leaves and the sweet chestnuts with their huge leaves which looses such huge volumes of water via transpiration.

I fear some of these will not come back next year, however I shall be glad of the firewood when we are under 3 feet of snow again, and I shall relish the space in which to plant new plant acquisitions. Every cloud has a silver lining!