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Newbie question here. I am a first-time gardener; last year, I bought a house with a beautiful garden and I fell in love with the flowers, so I'm trying to learn how to take care of it.

Over the winter there was a huge mess and I hired a professional to clean everything up. When she was done, there was mostly just bare dirt visible and she smiled and told me "I think you're going to be surprised".

Sure enough, I got treated to a beautiful display of spiderworts, asters, and much else besides. In the picture, there is an aster plant on the right; the flowers were beautiful, but the dead flowers and foliage are less so. I don't know the name of the tall, grass-like plant, but there were so many that I pulled lots of them in spring, and those in the picture produced stunning red flowers. I believe the plant in front is a four o'clock, and it is still blooming. There are also various weeds that have grown in.

Now, it's mostly past bloom season and it's a big mess. What is a recommended course of action here? On the one hand, I want to tidy things up and get rid of the weeds. On the other hand, I want to preserve the perennials so I can enjoy them again next year. Thank you!

Picture of Messy Garden

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Stock advice if you are not collecting seeds is to cut the flowers/stalks (deadhead) when the flowers die off. That way the plant is not trying to put energy into making seeds that you are not wanting.

That advice does not apply to "self-seeding annuals", or they obviously won't self-seed.

Leave the foliage as long as it's green (to put more energy into the roots for next year's blooms.) When it turns brown, you can cut it back and compost it.

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