Wednesday, November 25, 2015

2015 Purple Peony Rockii Seeds from Ebay Canada

I have been wanting to grow a flower like this for a long time. I love purple! A peony with purple petals and dark purple flares is right up my alley. So I'm hoping these Paeonia rockii babies will be just as gorgeous as their beautiful mother. Of course when I came across the listing for these seeds on Ebay, I just had to buy some. Also this seller is in Canada, not in China where these plants originate. So I may have a better chance of actually receiving the correct seeds that are from this year's crop as stated in the auction. Since it will take a few years to actually find out what these babies look like, a lot of patience is in order to see their beautiful blossoms. I will definitely document their germination rates in the spring! Let's hope they all grow! :-)

Purple Paeonia Rockii with Dark Purple Flares
Photo Courtesy of The Seed Harvest

Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015 Finished Cutting Back & Cleaning Up All Peonies

Yesterday I actually finished cutting back and cleaning up all of my peonies, the week before Thanksgiving! I think that's a record for me. I am usually a very slack gardener and a very good procrastinator. So lots of years I am cutting back brown, completely dried up peony stems in December and January, and occasionally in February! This year I started cutting back my peony plants as they started to look bad (when they still had a bit of gold or green or red in them and weren't all brown), and I finally finished this weekend. I started cutting back and cleaning up my peonies on October 1st. So I've been cutting them back over an almost 2 month period. Now they are just nicely groomed and freshly mulched beds waiting for spring! It feels so nice to be done with this very large task before the holidays even start. :-) If you haven't started cutting back your peonies, now's the time to do it!

Peony Beds Cut Back and Cleaned for the Winter

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 How to Divide an Intersectional Peony

The topic everyone has been dying to find out about... How to Divide an Intersectional Peony. Some have claimed that it's impossible, that the roots are so different than an herbaceous peony, that if you wait too long its too late. The rumors about dividing this plant have swirled, making dividing these beauties at once a mystery and almost no-no among home gardeners. However these plants are just as easy to divide as herbaceous peonies and perhaps adapt a bit easier to it. And who wouldn't want more of these long lived, easy to grow, and floriferous peonies in their garden?

Intersectional Peony to Be Divided

The first step in dividing your intersectional peony is to remove the ground covering or mulch from the soil surrounding the crown of the plant. You'll want to dig 8-12 inches away from the crown, depending on the size of your plant. I never measure this distance. I mostly eyeball it and use my gut feeling. You don't have to dig up all of the peony's roots. You just need to dig up most of them.

Intersectional Peony with Mulch Removed

After the mulch has been removed, start digging around the plant. I usually just start by making cuts into the soil with the shovel in a circle about 8-12 inches out from the plant. Don't worry if you hear a few roots being cut through. This is just part of the dividing process. However if it feels like you are cutting through lots of roots and the cuts are hard to make, you may be digging too close to the crown. Try making your cuts a little further out.

Begin to Dig Intersectional Peony

After I've made a few shovel cuts into the soil around the plant, I'll go around the plant again and do small test lifts of the rootball to see if the plant is starting to loosen out of the soil. By making these small cuts and doing test lifts, I can see how much more digging I need to do, or if the plant has become loose enough to begin to lift. You can also get an idea as to whether you should be digging closer or farther away from the peony crown.

Test Lift the Intersectional Peony

Once the peony is loose enough to begin lifting, I'll begin gently lifting it out of the soil by hand. If there is one side that lifts higher than the others, I will try to lift that side out first. If you find that the peony is still too buried to begin lifting, you may have to go back dig around it a little more, making few more cuts with your shovel.

Lift Out One Side of the Intersectional Peony

Once you have one side of the peony out of the dirt, you should be able to continue lifting it on that side and gently wiggle the rest of the roots out on the other sides. One or two (or several) of the roots may snap off, and that's okay, as long as you are able to get the majority of them intact. You have most certainly already cut through several of the roots when you were digging the peony anyway. Snapping and cutting off some roots is just part of the process when dividing a peony. So don't worry about those roots, your peony will live - as long as you didn't snap them all off! (Even then it may still survive, it would just take much much longer to reestablish itself and bloom again.)

Gently Shake the Intersectional Peony Until You Can Pull It Out

The next step is to select a place to divide the intersectional peony root. Often there will be a gap or space between some of the small clusters of pink buds. A space like this somewhere near the center would be a good place to start. I like to find a place like this and stick my dividing knife there. Also don't fuss too much about finding the "perfect spot" to divide the peony. Even if you make a mistake and cut a small piece off, that small piece will likely grow anyway, providing there's a small piece of the crown (hopefully containing a pink bud) with a small piece of root attached. Then you'll just have an extra "baby" division. This small division may take longer to grow to full blooming size, but it will be one more intersectional peony plant than you had before!

Find a Good Spot to Divide the Intersectional Peony

Often the intersectional peony roots are too hard to split by hand. I think this attribute is what may have caused the rumors that these peonies are hard to divide. However intersectional peonies are no more hard to divide than herbaceous peonies. They may require an extra tool (like a rubber mallet), but that tool may actually make the job a little bit easier. Use your rubber mallet to tap the dividing knife into the peony root in the place where you've decided to make your first cut.

Use a Rubber Mallet to Divide the Intersectional Peony

I usually do not try to put my dividing knife all the way through the peony's crown. Usually the peony's storage roots are intertwined and growing all around and underneath the peony's crown. Once the dividing knife is halfway or 3/4 of the way through, I will try to wiggle and pull the pieces apart to prevent further damage to the storage roots. If you find that you are unable to pull apart the pieces, then you may need to cut a little further or in a slightly different spot in order to separate the two divisions.

Intersectional Peony First Division Made

After you've made your first division, then you can examine the remaining pieces to see if you can find any other gap or spaces between buds that seem like a suitable place to divide the root even further. Repeat the steps above to cut and carefully pull apart any additional divisions you choose to make.

Find Another Spot to Divide the Intersectional Peony

You can divide your peony into as many pieces as you like. Most professional growers recommend leaving at least 3-4 eyes (the eyes are the pink buds) on each division. Also some growers will sell extra large divisions with at least 7-8 eyes on them. These larger divisions will establish themselves more quickly and are more likely to produce a bloom in their first growing season.
Intersectional Peony Second Division Made

Once you have separated your peony root into as many pieces as you'd like, you're done! Congratulations, you have now successfully divided your intersectional peony! The next thing to do is to figure out How to Plant an Intersectional Peony. May your garden grow and multiply. Good luck! :-)

Intersectional Peony Three Division

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 Yellow Tree Peony from the UK Arrives

Yellow Tree Peony From UK Mailing Tube

The Yellow Tree Peony Seedling from UK on Ebay arrived this past week, and I got it planted right away, which was good since its packaging wasn't very secure. It arrived in a half tube with a small pint sized plastic plant pot taped to the bottom of the tube. When I cut the tape to separate the tube from the plastic pot, I discovered that the rootball of the tree peony was no longer inside the plastic pot. It had apparently been jostled during shipment and there was no plastic, tape, or rubber bands - nothing to keep the plant inside its pot. The rootball was dry and the foliage obviously no longer looked like the foliage in the auction picture. However I got it planted straight away the same day it arrived. Since it has been raining here for several weeks now, the soil is nice and moist. So hopefully this will give the plant an opportunity to get some much needed nutrients and adapt itself to our climate before our harsh summer weather hits.

Yellow Tree Peony from UK

On the bright side, it looks like its roots are quite a bit more established than the Purple Tree Peony Seedlings From Ebay UK that I got in 2013. Those purple tree peony seedlings appeared to be first year seedlings. This yellow tree peony looks to be at least a second year seedling, as its roots system is much more extensive. Hopefully this extended system of moisture and nutrient absorbers will give this tiny tree peony a much better chance of survival. The bent and broken foliage looks a little roughed up from shipment. However I'm guessing the foliage won't last much longer here anyway. So I'll probably remove that soon anyway and let this plant concentrate it efforts below the soil.

Yellow Tree Peony from UK Planted

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

2015 Peony Experiments - Intersectional Stems

With the success of my peony experiment planting intersectional peonies with little to no stem attached (2012 Peony Experiments - Intersectional Divisions / 2013 Peony Experiments - Intersectional Divisions Grow), I decided to try another experiment this year planting intersectional peony stem pieces only. I want to see if intentionally planting only the intersectional peony stems will grow a new intersectional peony. I'm sure this would be a much slower method of propagation, since they would have no roots and would have to develop their entire root system and then grow large enough to bloom.

Yellow Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella' Stems

Even if this does work, I'm not sure it would work for every intersectional peony variety. For this experiment, I am using the same peony variety that I used in my 2012/2013 experiment - Peony 'Bartzella'. After cutting back a peony I planned to divide, I saved any of the stems that contained pink growth buds. Stems without these growth buds probably do not have much chance of growing. So I reserved only those stems that had a visible pink growth bud. Also I made sure that the stems were long enough to include at least two of these growth buds, and even three if there were three growth buds present on one stem.

Small Trench Dug in Peony Test Bed

For this experiment, I have 10 nice looking intersectional peony stems, 7 stems with 2 growth buds and 3 stems with 3 growth buds. First I dug a small trench in my peony test bed. I laid the shorter, 2 growth bud stems diagonally in the trench and covered them with dirt. I planted the three taller, 3 growth bud stems vertically with one section of the stems sticking out of the ground. I intentionally planted these two different ways to see if one way roots better than the other. I did not use any growth hormone or fertilizers on these intersectional peony stems. I plan to let Mother Nature work her magic on these, and we'll see what she comes up with in the spring.
2 Growth Bud Intersectional Peony Stems Planted Horizontally
2 Growth Bud Intersectional Peony Stems Covered With Soil

3 Growth Bud Intersectional Peony Stems Planted Vertically

Sunday, November 8, 2015

2015 Peony Donation to Historic Whitehall Gardens

On our 2015 American Peony Society Whitehall Mansion Tour this year, I was so impressed by the layout of their peony garden - both in the beautiful assortment of peonies grown and the care taken in their planting and upkeep. The only thing I felt was noticeably missing from their gorgeous peony garden was an intersectional hybrid peony and a yellow peony. Peony 'Bartzella', both an intersectional peony and a gorgeous double yellow, would be an awesome addition to their peony collection. So at the end of the tour, I spoke with their main gardener, Mike Hayman, and volunteered to donate one myself if they were interested. Of course they were interested! So here we are. I will be mailing out this package to them on Monday with their peony - what a great way to spread the love of peonies, while thanking Mike Hayman and the Historic Whitehall staff for such a great tour of their mansion and gardens!

Peony 'Bartzella' Donation for Historic Whitehall

Friday, November 6, 2015

2015 How to Cut Back an Intersectional Peony

There are two ways you can cut back an intersectional peony. You can cut the entire plant back to ground level or you can cut the plant back, leaving short stems with growth buds on them. In colder climates, it is preferred to cut the plant back to ground level. However here in the South, with our milder winters, these growth buds on the stems can often survive the winter just like the growth buds on tree peony stems.

Intersectional Peony in Autumn
View From Above

The first step is optional, but it helps me see what I'm doing. I just remove some of the lower foliage of the plant so that I can see what I'm working on. This is very easy to do. If you find where the leaf stem meets the main stem and just put a little bit of downward pressure on the leaf stem, the leaf segment will come off pretty easily. You'll want to have a trash bag handy for all of the foliage and stems you cut away. Peonies often carry botrytis blight. So it is best to trash the old foliage and not compost it to reduce future infections.

Intersectional Peony in Autumn
View From Underneath

To leave some short stems on the plant with growth nodules, you'll want to prune the stems back to the first or second growth nodule above the soil. Usually you will see a pink growth bud at the stem/leaf juncture. You'll want to prune the stem just above this point. If you don't see any pink growth buds on a stem, you can prune that stem all the way back to the ground, taking care to cut above the pink growth bud at the base of the stem, if present.

Cut Main Peony Stem Just Above Pink Growth Bud

After pruning the upper stem away, you'll be left with a short main stem and a foliage stem. Remove any remaining foliage on the pruned stem by applying a bit of downward pressure to the leaf stem. This will easily separate the foliage from the main stem. Make sure to remove and throw away all remaining foliage on each pruned stem.

Apply Downward Pressure to Peony Leaf Stem to Remove It

Intersectional Peony Being Pruned

Repeat this process on each of the stems until you have pruned all of them. After all of the stems have been cut back and all of the foliage has been removed, you'll be left with just a few short sticks sticking out of the ground where your intersectional peony once stood.

Intersectional Peony Stem Defoliated and Pruned

One advantage of this pruning method, leaving short stems, is that you'll know exactly where your instersectional peony is planted over fall, winter, and early spring. That way you won't accidentally step on it, dig into it, etc. However if you live in a colder climate where these growth buds likely won't survive anyway, or you prefer a cleaner look after pruning, intersectional peonies can be cut back all the way to the ground.

Intersectional Peony Defoliated and Pruned

If you want or need to prune your intersectional peony back to the ground, that's perfectly acceptable. Intersectional peonies are quite hardy once established, and they will definitely come back when pruned to the ground. You'll just want to make your cuts carefully to ensure the basal growth buds are not damaged.

Intersectional Peony Base

If you closely examine the base of your intersectional peony, you'll find where the stems meet the crown. If you have your peony planted even with the soil surface (hopefully you do - if you a Southern peony gardener!), you will likely see some pink growth buds near the base of most stems and on the crown.

Cut Peony Stem Back to Soil Level Just Above Pink Growth Bud

When you cut your intersectional peony stem back to ground level, you'll want to make sure to preserve these pink growth buds. So if there is a pink growth bud at the base of the stem, make your cut just above this growth bud. Also take care not to smash or cut any other growth buds on the base of your plant. Continue pruning each of the stems on the plant until you are left with just the crown and pink growth buds.

Intersectional Peony Pruned to Ground Level

Now you're all done cutting back your intersectional peony. Don't worry if you see the exposed pink growth buds. For Southern peony gardeners, this is a good thing! Don't bury them or cover them with soil or mulch! Those growth buds need to be exposed to as much cold as they can be over the winter to bloom properly in the spring. So leave them uncovered. You may want to put a plant marker near your peony if you don't already have one. That way you'll know exactly where it is, so you won't step on it or damage it over the winter.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

2015 Fall Peony Sales - Free Shipping, B2G1F, 50% Off

It always happens. I get that last minute feeling... Time is running out. The peony vendors are closing up shop. Did I get all of the peonies I wanted for the year? If I wait much longer, I'm going to have to wait until next year until I can get any more. So I checked out all of the peony vendor's web sites on the American Peony Society's Buy Peonies page. Many of them have already closed up shop for the year (Fina, Hidden Springs, Peonies from the Field, Solaris, Swenson). However there are several that are still open, and of those that are, a few of them are running a last minute sale to help make your peony buying decision that much easier! So check out this list of peony sales because time IS running out!

Bannister Garden CenterGoing Out of Business 1/2 Off Sale11/15
Birchwood Farms50% Shipping with $100 Order
Brooks GardensOrder 2 or More, Get Free Shipping11/8
Cricket Hill Garden25th Anniversary Specials
Song SparrowBuy 2 Get 1 Free11/5

2015 Fall Peony Sales

Monday, November 2, 2015

2015 Yellow Tree Peony Seedling from UK on Ebay

When I happened to see this Yellow Tree Peony from the UK on Ebay, I couldn't resist buying it. I put it on my watch list last week and decided to purchase it yesterday. I'm hoping it will have a better chance of surviving than the Purple Tree Peony Seedlings From Ebay UK I purchased in 2013. I purchased two of those hoping at least one would survive. However they arrived in the middle of our Southern summer, which did not give them an adequate chance of survival. They were unable to settle in and become established before experiencing our heat and sometimes dry conditions during summer. Sadly they did not survive. Unfortunately those purple tree peonies went dormant right away when they experienced our hot summer, and one of them got New Fall Growth on Purple English Tree Peony. This new growth was killed in the fall/winter, and unfortunately neither of these seedlings came back in the spring. I am hoping this yellow tree peony will have a better chance since it is arriving in the fall. Hopefully it will go dormant and stay dormant until spring. This yellow tree peony also looks a little larger than those purple tree peonies were, which seemed to be first year seedlings. This one looks like at least a second year seedling. Let's hope the size of the plant and the season help this one live!