and the wheelbarrow looked
It's quite safe to cut down most perennials in autumn but penstemons are best left until spring. They have a tendency to layer themselves and indeed, after some clearing, I found a whole new plant had established itself close to one of the clumps. A few years ago there was a rage for penstemons, which seems to have died down. I think this is probably because some of the prettiest varieties are short lived. Some, however, go on forever. If you want something totally reliable and hardy I recommend 'Garnet' (properly 'Andenken an Friedrich Hahn' but you won't get gardeners dropping a name they've used for years) and 'Firebird'. This also has a more official name: 'Schönholzerei'. Surprisingly, some plants which have lasted a long time with me were raised from seed and I expected to grow them as annuals.
I thought this would be a not-too-taxing task but, to quote my favourite gardening writer* there is no way to take the backache out of gardening.
The garden is full of promising buds: on peonies, aquilegias and this clematis.