Peonies the Perpetual Perennial
Easy and Delightful
Everybody’s grandmother had Peonies and we all remember those huge pink blooms with the wonderful fragrance. We remember them because they are still growing in that same spot. One of the Peonies greatest virtues is their longevity. They are wonderful plants for lazy gardeners. Plant them once and enjoy for a lifetime!
That’s All There Is To Do?
Well, you may also remember that after it rained, all those wonderful blooms came crashing to the ground. There are two solutions to this problem. If you want to grow those large double flowers, and there are now many wonderful varieties to choose from, then three minutes work at the right time of year will solve the problem. Garden centres now sell simple, long lasting Peony rings. Buy one, take it home and stick it into the ground around the Peony as it is emerging from the ground. That’s it. If, like me, you tend to procrastinate, you can spend half and hour, or more, trying to tuck a large Peony into one of those rings after it is already tall enough to need it. You will probably only make that mistake once.
The Other Solution! How Do I Plant Them?
Grow Peonies that don’t flop down. There are an amazing array of single flowered varieties with strong stems. (For the novice, single flowered does not mean that the plant has only one bloom but rather that the blooms have a single row of petals rather than the multiple rows that make up the ‘double’ flowered types.) Most of my Peonies, and I have to admit to a small collection in excess of 20 varieties, are of the single, Japanese or semi-double types. The varieties I choose have strong stems, that rarely require staking, (the catalog should tell you this.) To me the flowers are just as amazing as the double types. The colour range is from white through many pink and mauve shades to brilliant reds and on to deep burgundies.
Where Do I Get Them?
This is one of the few plants that you probably won’t get from your gardening neighbours. They have huge root systems and there is little horticultural need to ever dig them up. The huge root systems also make them one of the few perennials that the garden centres have difficulty dealing with. The small piece of root that they can put into their average sized pot, will probably not bloom for 2 -3 years after you plant it. Specialized Peony nurseries will send you a large piece of root in the late fall. These pieces should have several eyes, (growing points for next year,) and will often reward you with one or two blooms the next spring. I get many of mine from a wonderful Peony specialist who only operates from her web site
I challenge you to go to this site and see if you can come away without succumbing to it’s many, wonderful offerings. Huge hunks of root arrive in late Sept. and you will rush out to plant them.
With a flashlight. My neighbour, who is frequently amused by some of my weirder gardening activities, loves to tell the story of helping me plant Peonies. You need to dig quite a large hole to accommodate these big pieces of root. Be generous with the compost and long lasting fertilizer such as bone meal, because they are going to be there for a long time. You should choose the location carefully for the same reason. The big secret is how deep. The little red eyes on that root should not be any deeper than 1" / 2.5 cm under the surface of the soil. Any deeper and they will grow fine but never flower. Now in late Sept. it is getting dark quite early in the evening and I always like to get these new roots into the ground as soon as possible. That’s where my neighbour’s story goes. He saw me out there one evening struggling to get these roots at just the right depth and came over and offered to hold the flashlight while I used the trowel. A good soaking with my favourite 10 52 10 transplant fertilizer finished the job and we both enjoyed the blooms the next spring.
When Do They Bloom?
By carefully choosing different varieties of Peony, you can have a bloom time in excess of seven weeks. Each variety only blooms for 2 -3 weeks but there are early, middle and late season varieties. The earliest will bloom in my garden by the middle of May and the latest are still enchanting me at the end of June. The other great feature of Peonies is their foliage. They have rich glossy green leaves that stay healthy and green throughout the summer and fall. Even when they are not flowering they are a pleasant addition to your perennial gardens.
Come and be seduced by the perfect lazy gardener's perennial and inhale the enchanting fragrance of your Peonies.
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