Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to divide Peonies

Peonies do not like to be moved. That said, there are times when you have to move a peony, or divide a peony. It was planted too deep or planted in the wrong place, it has outgrown its present location, or it is not performing well.

An overgrown, poorly producing peony need to get divided. Most growers use the Crown Division technique to accomplish this.

How to divide Peonies

  1. Carefully push away the soil surrounding the peony to get a visual on the root system.

  2. Using a shovel, push it straight down to get as much of the roots as possible.

  3. Lift the plant out.

  4. Hose down the plant, getting rid of the soil from the roots. This will also help you see where to make the separations.

  5. Let the root rest anywhere from several hours to day to soften it. It is brittle at this point. Might have to cover it to avoid drying out.

  6. Prepare your working area.

    • Steady table

    • Sharp short knife

    • Water source with hose

    • Garden Cutter

    • Some newsprint or peat moss, barely moist

  7. Inspect the plant to see the interconnection of the roots to the eyes. This will help you get a clean cut.

  8. Trim back the tuberous roots to 6-8 inches from the crown.

  9. Using a sharp knife, cut section, making sure you have 3-5 eyes in each division.

  10. You can either plant the division right away in a suitable location or hold the new division in barely moist peat moss or newsprint. Make sure it is kept away from direct sun if you do this.

Here's a sample of the root with eyes.

Here are some samples of the divided root. Just think - more peony plants!

Or plant it in pots to give away as Christmas present to a fellow Peony Lover!

Do not expect the new division to flower the first year. If new buds appear, it is advisable to nip off flower buds to allow the plant to develop its root system during the 1st year.

Watch the step by step illustration of "How to Divide Peonies" on You Tube.

There's still time to Order Your Peonies for this Fall 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Glorious Peonies from a brown root

PEONIES - From roots to Garden Queen


Inside look at the growing cycle of a peony. It always amazes me how beautiful flowers come from itty, bitty seeds, a root that looks like a ginger root, and things like that. Looking at this peony root, we'll follow its evolution, transformation into a gorgeous peony flower

You will learn what to do with the roots when it comes, know what to look for as it evolves from root underground to the garden queen that Peonies are.

A protrusion pushing its way out of the ground -
the peonies are coming! the peonies are coming!

Let's go back a little and discuss why peonies need to be planted in the fall.

Peonies grow a majority of their roots in the fall. This allows the plants some time to grow roots and will be less stressed when summer comes. As soon as the roots are planted in moist soil, they quickly send out tiny filament like feeder roots. The cold weather triggers the development of flower buds.

Although peonies will survive when planted in the spring, it takes them longer to get established and flower. Roots dug in the fall do best. Keep the plant watered until the winter rain comes.You take a holiday while they're doing their thing.

Then come February of the following year, you begin to see a wonderful thing occurring in the ground: a protrusion pushing its way out of the ground. The peony snouts! The peonies are coming!

You can see from the picture on the right, the peony snouts at varying heights.

More info in About Peonies.

Peonies Leafing and Growing Taller

Here you can see the snouts turning into leaves and getting taller.
At this stage, the more stems with foliage you have means more flowers coming soon.
If you've had a dry winter, water the peony to give it a drink.

Like the kids say, "are we there yet?"
Not quite. But, we'll see some buds soon.

Peony Buds!

The good sign: BUDS! The excitement is building up.
Notice that almost all of the stems have a bud on it; some have side buds as well.
You have a choice at this point: pinch off the side buds for larger blooms or leave them alone for more blossoms.

Ants and the Peony Buds, how sweet it is!

There's an old wives tale about the peony buds needing the ants to open up. That's just what it is. An old wife's tale.

Ants love the sweet, sticky secretion from the peony buds. The peonies do not benefit from this at all; neither is it harmful to the peonies.

To avoid bringing in ants with your cut flowers, cut the flowers before the petals unfurl. A soft give on the buds indicate that they will open soon and is probably the best time to cut it.

However, the ant on a peony bud does make an interesting picture.

Peony Plant blooming

Paula Fay peony, the star of my garden. Imagine an extravaganza of peony flowers blooming in your garden!

Nothing could warm my heart more. This greeting of beautiful, vibrant blossoms. Frankly, I hate to cut them. They're so beautiful!

View available Peony varieties.

How to prevent flop overs

Note that peonies that are tall or have the double form (big full flowers) will need a support to prevent it from flopping over.

This is usually brought about by rain. The flowers get water logged and the stems can't support all that weight. There are several peony supports available in the market. If you have the tall variety (30"-36" tall), get at least a 36" support. The shorter ones will just cause the peonies to bend over. Heavy tomato cages works as well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Peonies as Cut Flowers

Peonies Perfect Bouquet at Peony Farm, WA

Peonies in Bloom

What a show stopper Peonies in Bloom are! Friends who visit, neighbors taking a walk or jogging by your property - when peonies are in bloom, they come to a stop to admire those peonies!

But, that's not all they're good for. You want them inside your house, lending its beauty, grace Peony Pink Hawaiian Coral in a vase at Peony Farm, WAand fragrance to your rooms; adorning your dining table, your kitchen, your living room, anywhere you want it. Peonies make a beautiful addition to your landscape garden. As cut flowers - they are elegant! Even just a single bloom can be a dramatic addition to a room.(Pink Hawaiian Coral in an arrangement with Hostas, Irises and Allium).

To view Peonies in bloom, go to Peony Farm 2010 In Picture

I guess we need to talk about cutting peonies for your home.

Cutting to promote growth during the 1st year

During the first year of your peony plant, and if you can resist it, do not cut any flowers. But if you must, cut as little of the leaves as possible to promote root development. Just cut enough length to put the flower in a very short bud base. These leaves are essential to the peony so they store food for next years growth. So take but a few flowers from each plant and leave as much foliage as possible.
New Peony Plant at Peony Farm

Leave as much as 75% of the flowers on the plants. Then, when the flowers are spent, deadhead it right away. Do not leave the seed pods on the plant. Remember, we are trying to grow the roots underneath for a more productive plant the following year.

You can certainly cut as many flowers as you want from your mature peonies, with a longer stem if you wish. Do leave as much leaves as you can because it will allow your peony plant to grow bigger.
Mature Peony Red Charm at Peony Farm, WA
Visitors to the Peony Farm tell of their grandmother's peonies that's been in place for over 45 years! Here's one that's been blooming for 3 years.

Optimum Time for Cutting Peonies

Cutting flowers in the morning applies to all flowers, including peonies. Peony Pink Hawaiian Coral floating in a vase, Peony Farm, WA It is the Optimum time for cutting peonies. Peonies make excellent cut flowers. Key to enjoy it longer inside the house is to cut the peonies while still in bud, before the petals unfurl. Press the buds lightly. It should feel like a semi-soft marshmallow. Avoid buds with a hard marble feel, when the buds are too tight. the flower might not open.

A single bloom (type of peony flower) can be cut earlier (tighter bud formation) than a double bloom. A double bloom is bigger and has lots of petals and so would need to be a softer bud than the bud of a single bloom. Cutting at this stage will allow you to enjoy your peonies longer.

When you bring in a fully opened flower in the house, it will fall apart faster.

To plan your peony garden and/or peony additions, check out ---the Peony Catalog at www.ilovepeonies.com for the different varieties available.

Preserving cut flowers for when Company's coming

If you are going to entertain and want a massive show of peonies, you can preserve your cut flowers for weeks after their bloom time:

1. Cut them as described above. Store them in the refrigerator.

2. They can be stored with or without water, placed on their side, wrapped in damp paper towels and cling wrap, for up to four weeks.

3. A few days before the day of your event, take them out of the refrigerator, place them in lukewarm water and let them open fully in your home.

However, peonies stored for a long period of time will open faster and will not hold as long as the fresh cut peonies.

Enjoy your Peonies!

Monday, August 23, 2010

How to grow Peonies in your garden

Most people love peonies. They love the flowers, the variety of colors available, fragrance and the impact the flowers make in the garden. Most have tried to grow peonies, but alas, it didn't flower, it just produced leaves or it died.

This is a how to guide for people who want to grow peonies
and are wondering how to start, how to grow them successfully resulting in beautiful, gorgeous flowers blooming in their garden rather than just the leaves.

When visitors come to our Peony Farm in Sequim, Washington, I often get remarks like this: "Oh, I love peonies but I don't know how to grow them!" or something like this: "I don't know, I love peonies and I remember them from my mother's garden but last time I bought a peony root, it didn't do anything" or "I've had it for 3 years and it has never bloomed".

Peonies are the hardiest plant you can plant in your garden if you follow some essential steps to planting. You will be rewarded with some gorgeous, big flowers that will grace your landscape and bring oohs and aahs from your visiting friends and family. The blossoms will grace the rooms in your home.

Are you ready for this?

Which Peony to plant?

You have unlimited choices for your garden. From the old fashioned peonies that you remember from childhood to the newest varieties, and the intersectional peonies (nicknamed as "itohs"), the various peony flower shapes, fragrance and colors - what a delightful surprise awaits you the next peony blooming period! Does it sound like I like peonies? You bet. I love peonies!

Examples: the Garden Treasure ITOH peony shown above; the Festiva Maxima herbaceous peony (white) shown on the left; and Hephestos Tree peony shown on the right.

View varieties available.

The peonies have five (5) blooming periods. Very Early, Early, Mid, Late and Very Late. If you are like most peony enthusiast, you'd want to enjoy the flowers all throughout their blooming period. This might mean selecting a variety from some of these blooming periods. Are you looking to have a peony garden, or to add it in your perennial garden? Are you looking for a color that will look good when you bring cut flowers in the house? Are you looking to complement colors in your garden? Is it going to be the center of attraction? Do you want to create impact with 3 peonies of the same variety? Take all these into consideration when making your peony selections.

Peony Root, Location and Soil

The Foundation

1. First, buy healthy peony roots with at least 3-5 eyes. In order to plant the peonies in the fall, buy the roots early in time for fall planting.

2. Second, select your location. A must - a location with at least 6-8 hours of sun. Choose location where the peony will not compete with any large roots. And remember, peonies do not like to be moved around. You can use an empty plastic pot, move it around the garden till you can picture your peonies sitting in the perfect spot.

3. Third, check your soil. Peonies do not like to sit in water. The roots will rot. You want soil with good drainage (amended clay; not sandy soil). Add cured compost to the soil. Mix it thoroughly. It is a good idea to prepare your soil while waiting for your peony roots to arrive.

You can also check About Peonies for more information.

Planting the Peony

Will it flower or not?

Planting the peony root. Finally, the peonies have arrived. You've prepared the planting bed. Now, the critical part. This section determines if your peony will flower or not.

How do you plant the roots?

  • 1. If the peony root arrived in a bag and you are not able to plant it right away,
  • refresh it with a little water.

  • 2. Remove the tags. Secure the tags for plant identification.

  • 3. Scoop out enough soil so that when you put your peony the root will be sit ting with just 1" to 1 1/2" inch of soil covering it.

  • 4. Position the root in such a way that the eyes are pointing upwards.

  • 5. Cover with soil.

  • 6. Water well.

  • 7. Keep moist until frost.

  • 8. Leave it alone till spring.

Key to this: Plant the root with just an inch or two of soil above the root. Peonies planted too deep will yield you leaves. Nothing more.
Be careful with the watering. Peonies sitting on a basin of water will cause the roots to rot.