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Flower containers looking bedraggled? Become a hanging-basket barber.

Hanging flower basket with white, blue and red flowers.
Andrea Kessler/Getty Images/iStockphoto
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iStockphoto
If you adorn your house and gardens with hanging baskets, by mid-July, you might notice they're in need of a haircut! Learn how to separate and repot flowering plants or prune them back so they'll keep flowering till fall.

Late July is a great time to clean up containers and hanging baskets. In the weeks since you purchased or put them together, the baskets that were packed with small flowers and plants have grown beyond their boundaries!

Try these three methods to get your hanging baskets and containers looking like new again.

If you have a basket that is all one plant variety, especially if they are vining plants, give them a good hair cut by trimming the vining plants back. Try cutting them back maybe six inches to a foot depending on how big they've gotten.

This pruning stimulates new growth and new flowering, and your plants will look as good as when you purchased or planted them earlier this spring.

If you have multi-plant containers or hanging baskets, you may notice one plant is the brute in the basket. Certain plant types like geraniums, coleus and fuchsia tend to take over and push all the other plants out. In this case, remove all the other plants and leave one plant per container. Repot the others separately so they can thrive, too.

The last thing you can do is you can start all over again! Right now, garden centers and nurseries have plant specials going on and are clearing out their greenhouses, so you can find a bunch of new annual plants.

These pruning, trimming and repotting techniques will make for stellar hanging baskets and containers that will look great right into the fall.

Q: "I'm starting to convert a scraggly front lawn to ground covers, and there's a little linden tree in the middle. I've been moving in vinca and it's doing well. I'd like to plant sweet woodruff but I wonder how that would do. I've also thought about geraniums. Any suggestions or advice?" - Jane, in Burlington

A: Linden trees are smaller with fewer low-growing branches so certain plants will do well growing underneath them, as they would get sufficient sunlight.

Vinca and sweet woodruff should thrive their, though your linden tree could compete with the roots of your ground cover.

Make sure to keep everything well-watered and try other plants as ground cover, like mint or even strawberries! Mint may spread beyond the ground around your tree trunk and into your lawn but if you're okay with mowing it and enjoying the sweet scent, give that a try.

And mint as a ground cover will look nice all summer long and eventually even flower.

Q: I've got a large semicircle of ornamental hollies. I've had them about 15 years. Years ago, I used pine shavings for kitty litter and then I disposed of that around the hollies. The hollies grew and grew and grew! Then, I stopped applying the used kitty litter and I've noted severe damage every spring on the hollies. They're not the glorious beds they used to be. Is it the lack of the kitty litter "fertilizer?" - Laurel, in Chilson, NY

A: Because used kitty litter can harbor diseases that can affect humans, using it in gardens - especially edible gardens - is not recommended.

Even in this ornamental garden, you might try something else. For instance, unused pine shavings could be a solution.

Those pine shavings probably created a nice, moist environment around the holly plants. The layer protected the bed from weeds and even cold temperatures.

Try going back to doing some mulching again, either with the same type of pine shaving kitty litter (unused, this time!) or even other kinds of wood chips.

And hollies are notorious for preferring a low pH soil. Those pine shavings might have also aided in keeping the pH low.

One way to find out is to do a soil test. If the pH level is too high, add some organic holly fertilizer like Holly Tone. It's a granule fertilizer you sprinkle onto the soil.

Mix up the fertilizer with the woodchips or wood shavings and maybe even add some sulfur to lower the pH further. Try these tips and see if that helps your holly beds for this year and next year, too.

Q: I bought 12 of double-file viburnum shrubs. Six years ago, I planted them and added lots of compost. They did well for a few years but since then they've began to send off suckers from low on the stem. At the same time, the main branches suffered a lot of die-back. The flowering is now very weak. Should I be cutting the suckers off or adding more fertilizer? Or just pull them out start with new shrubs? - Kathleen, in Burlington

A: What might be happening is that you got some die-back on the top of the plant and it is compensating by growing suckers from the base of the plant.

The double file viburnum, viburnum plicatum, is a Zone 5 plant. And even though you're in Burlington - which is a fairly solid Zone 5 area - your viburnum could be only marginally hardy.

To assess what's going on, first determine if your plant is a grafted viburnum or just a regular rootstock viburnum.

To determine if it's grafted, check the stem. You'll notice a bulge on the stem down towards the soil line. And if all those suckers are coming out underneath that graft, you're not getting the viburnum that you growing. Instead, the rootstock is growing. If that's the case, you can yank it out.

If it looks like a straight stem - meaning you don't see any graft union - it's probably growing on its own rootstock, then you can prune it way back.

The viburnum will continue growing and use those suckers to form a new plant.

And if you love viburnums, there are other hardier varieties to try, like the viburnum judii, viburnum carlesii and the viburnum trilobum. The first two are very fragrant to where's the last one has beautiful red berries.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with Vermont Public host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vermontpublic.We've closed our comments. Read about ways to get in touch here.

Mary Engisch is the host and reporter for Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday on VPR.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on VPR. Be part of the fun and send your gardening questions here, for Charlie to answer on the air. Plus, find lots of great gardening tips and information for all seasons here. For more gardening information, check out Charlie's website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.