Peonies

I have numerous favorite flowers but I have to say the exquisite, perennial peony has to be top, even though roses and daisies follow close behind.  I can remember my mother having a long row of the fragrant bushes on the farm where I grew up.  When I got married and moved to Powhatan, I discovered that Gene’s dad had planted a stunning row of them beside the house several years prior.

I can always count on them starting to bloom the week before Mother’s Day. They don’t last more than 2-3 weeks but the fragrance is like no other flower. It just begs for you to bury your nose in the soft, velvety petals and breathe deeply. They do really well as cut flowers and make a stunning, fragrant bouquet that catches your attention when you step into the room.

 

It is best (they last longer) to pick the flowers while they are still buds. This will also decrease the amount of ants you carry into the house! Ants are attracted to the sticky sweetness and also help to open the buds. The first, “on my own,” gardening year, I sprayed them with pesticide to kill the pesky rascals. That was a mistake! I learned the importance and value of ants.  To determine when the bud is ready to pick, take hold of the bud between your thumb and first finger and gently pinch. If it is squishy, not hard, it is ready. Within a day of being cut, they will open to a full flower.  (I just recently learned this trick from a gardening friend, Lisa Ziegler).

My row of peonies is at least 48 years old, maybe older.  I have never divided them, although it probably would be a good idea. I am afraid I might mess up a good thing. They say peonies need very little care and can produce for 100 years.

In October after the stalks have died, I cut the dead foliage off as close to the ground as possible. That is all I do to prepare them for winter and the following spring.  If you are want to transplant or divide the plants, October is the month. The first year after replanting they probably will not bloom.  You need to be very careful in replanting that you only cover the roots with 2-3 inches of dirt or they will not bloom.  Peonies love sun but also like some shade protection during the hottest part of the day. Mine are planted on the north side of the house but because they are about 6 feet away from the house they have the benefit of a lot of sun and a little shade. It has been a perfect spot.

Peonies come in different colors and varieties, the most popular and hardy, being the old-fashion white. I also have a lovely, soft, light pink and a medium pink. The red I have replanted several times, I just can’t seem to keep it.

 

Rain is not kind to peonies once they start to bloom. Because of the very large flowers and multiple blossoms per stalk, the rain weights them down and the blossoms quickly turn brown. This year was especially hard on them. We have had 5 inches of rain in the last week just as they are at their peak. Even the buds hang their heads.

I like using peony rings with my plants. You can’t see them and it helps to hold the heavy stalks and keep them from falling over. I prefer the open two-ring style that looks like a tomato cage, only shorter, rather that the one with the grid top.

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1 Comment »

  1. Mabel Powell Said:

    Also my favorite.


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