Monday, July 28, 2014

2014 Landscaping with Peonies

Peonies are a great plant for landscaping. They provide loads of blooms and color for several weeks in the spring. They also have great long lasting foliage that stays green for 3 seasons providing a great backdrop for other plants in the landscape when they're not in bloom. And in fall, the leaves on some peony varieties begin to change into eye catching colors for yet another show before the foliage begins to fade. If you're unsure where to plant peonies in your landscape, take a look at these photos for some ideas. Peonies can be planted singly or as a group of specimen plants in wide open sunny areas. They can also be used in border plantings around foundations, decks, and patios. They can be planted in mixed perennial borders around garden benches so their blooms and fragrance can be enjoyed up close.

Peonies in the Landscape - Garden Bench

The American Peony Society has a special award that is given to peonies that are especially suited for landscape use - strong stems, long lasting foliage, and of course lovely blossoms! This is the APS Award of Landscape Merit which is awarded to peonies with "reliable performance across North America". So if you're thinking of adding a peony (or several) to your home landscaping, check out this list of great landscaping peony cultivars!

Peonies in the Landscape - Specimen and Deck Plantings

Monday, July 21, 2014

2014 Questions - Peony Blooms Decrease Over Time

I received this question from Bob in zone 5:
"I live in northern Illinois, zone 5a -20 to -15 F. I bought a Bartzella in the late 1990s directly from Roger Anderson. So it has been planted in the same location for 16 years. The plant has bloomed well except the last two years. In 2013 I had only 5 flowers. This year 2014 I had no flowers. The plant looks to be growing well, it has many stems, good green color. All the stems are strong and tall no wilt. No signs of disease either. The base of the plant is about 14 inches across. In the fall of 2012 I trimmed the stems to about 1.5 inches. Thinking that might have been too short in the fall of 2013 I trimmed the stems to 4 to 5 inches tall. I have other herbaceous peonies in the same area and they bloom well."
"Any ideas on what I should do?"
"These are my ideas"
"1. Divide the plant and replant"
"2. Don’t divide the plant and add bone meal, slow-release nitrogen (Milorganite) and Triple Super Phosphate Plant Food to the drip edge on the plant"
"3. Don’t trim the old growth until the early spring 2015 instead of late fall 2014."
"4. Some combination of 1 and 2"

Bob's Peony 'Bartzella' that is Not Blooming

I would recommend option number one along with a few other ideas. A peony plant that is 16 years old should be divided and probably into more than two pieces. Once you have divided the plant, I would replant one piece in the current location and the other pieces in different locations, especially if you have a location that receives more sunlight than the current location. Also, I'm not sure what you have growing underneath your peony or how long it has been growing there, but it is possible that this groundcover plant could be having a negative impact on your peony, taking moisture and nutrients away from your peony plant. So I would recommend removing this groundcover and using some type of mulch instead. Peonies don't like too much fertilizer, so I would be careful with their use. Instead of constant fertilization, I would recommend amending your soil with compost and/or composted manure before replanting the divided peony pieces. If you don't have compost of your own, bagged compost and composted manure can usually be purchased at most home improvement or hardware stores. As for when to cut back the peony plants, this can be done anytime after the leaves have died back, so late fall vs. early spring should not make any difference in your peony blooms (except that removing the dead stems and foliage earlier may lessen foliar diseases the next year). I hope this information helps, and good luck with your Peony 'Bartzella'!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

2014 Peony Seed Collection Time

Wow! I can hardly believe it! The first of my peony seeds pods are starting to pop open! It's already peony seed collection time. Only the earliest seed pods have opened. Most of them are still closed. Peony 'Roy Pehrson's Best Yellow' is usually one of the first seed pods to open for me. I am really excited to see which varieties will set seed for me this year, especially considering this is the first year that I saw my First Unique Herbaceous Peony Seedling Blooms! :-) Not only can you collect peony seeds to plant in your own garden, but if you're a Member of the American Peony Society you can also get free peony seeds when you donate some of your own seeds. When you donate peony seeds to the American Peony Society Seed Distribution Program, you'll get to select free seeds from other peony growers that grow different peony varieties than you. With this program you'll have access to hundreds of peony seeds varieties. Even if you don't have any seeds to donate to the program, for a low cost APS members can still Buy Seeds from the APS Seed Distribution Program. Happy Planting!

Peony 'Roy Pehrson's Best Yellow' Seed Pod

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2014 Questions - Peony Soil Solarization & Weed Control

I received this question from Taherra in zone 7:
"I came across your blog in researching solarization as a method to create new planting beds. Your solarization project for your peony beds was in 2012 and I was curious as to the weed and grass control in that area. Any info/tips would be greatly appreciated."

For me this was an extremely successful project. The weed and grass control has been excellent. The only weeds that grow in this area are generally near the edges of the bed, where weed seeds have fallen from weeds growing outside the solarized bed. I have kept it weed free by mulching the soil with wood chips. I also curb any new weed growth by hand weeding the interior of the bed and spraying a weed killer around the exterior edge of the bed. The steps I took to create my solarized peony bed are outlined in the following posts:
1. 2012 Intersectional Peony Bed Preparation
2. 2012 Peony Bed Soil Solarization
3. 2012 New Dirt for New Peony Beds
4. 2012 Soil for New Peony Beds
5. 2012 Intersectional Peony Garden Planting

Soil Solariztion Tips:

1. The fewer sheets of plastic the better. Try to get your plastic sheet in one whole piece that will cover the area of your bed. This will keep the area hotter with less air escaping between the plastic sheeting.
2. The more weights the better. The bricks I used around the edge of the plastic sheeting not only keep the plastic sheet in place, but also trap the heat underneath. I actually added more bricks to the edges of my plastic sheet after a couple weeks to keep the hot air in.
3. Keep the sheet in place. Don't be tempted to remove the plastic sheeting early. Keep it in place the recommended 6 to 8 weeks to make sure the job is completely done. If you have extra time, then leave it on a little longer. It won't hurt and can only help!

Solarized Peony Bed Two Years Later

Thursday, July 3, 2014

2014 Heat Tolerant Peonies for Southern Gardens

The month of July is great! Fireworks, American spirit, and don't forget the blistering heat! The peonies have long since finished here in the South. Their blooms are but a distant memory captured only by the photographs I've taken and the camera in my mind's eye. So with the heat of July, I thought an appropriate topic would be heat tolerant peonies for Southern gardens. If you were disappointed with your peony display this year and are looking for hints on how to improve your peony garden for next year or maybe you just want to add more lovely blossoms to accompany the gems you already grow, then now is the perfect time to start thinking about building a better peony garden. Fall is the perfect time to plant peonies, and if you haven't gotten your 2014 peony order in yet, now is the time to do it! So I've done a little research, and here are some great sites to check out for tips on growing peonies in the South...
Flowering Perennials for Georgia Gardens
Peonies: Coming Soon to a Garden Near You
Growing Peonies in USDA Zones 8 and 9
How to grow peonies
Peonies for the Home Landscape

Heat Tolerant Peonies for the South

Also if you are looking for specific peony varieties that will grow well in the South, you will definitely want to check out our list of Southern Peony Best Performers. These are peonies that grow and blossom well here in the heat of the South. I select the best performer each week of the peony growing season here in our hot and humid weather. These peonies will definitely survive the heat and return year after year!