Saturday, September 24, 2016

2016 University of Vienna Botanical Garden Peonies

University of Vienna Botanical Garden Peony Garden

Yes, it was the end of summer, but I couldn't help checking out the peonies at the University of Vienna Botanical Garden on my trip last week. This botanical garden is quite strict in its definition of botanical. The are several varieties of peonies. All of them are species peonies however, except for one Paeonia suffruticosa selection - perhaps because there are no longer any true representations of this species left. In this Vienna, Austria garden they grow their peonies in an open, oval bed surrounded by grass and trees (at some distance). The soil is flat and bare, not covered by any type of mulch.

University of Vienna Botanical Garden Peony Garden

The species I found represented in their garden are Paeonia delavayi, Paeonia emodi, Paeonia lactiflora, Paeonia mairei, Paeonia mascula, Paeonia officinalis ssp. officinalis, Paeonia peregrina, Paeonia rockii, Paeonia suffruticosa 'Duchesse de Morny', and Paeonia tenuifolia. So they have 10 varieties of peonies growing there. Not quite enough to be listed on the American Peony Society Peony Garden Map, but still worth a visit if you are in the area or are particularly interested in species peonies.

Me with a Very Tall Paeonia delavayi Peony Plant

I was quite surprised to find this particularly tall representation of Paeonia delavayi. I must admit I have never seen a P. delavayi peony growing this tall. It was almost as tall as me. The one P. delavayi peony plant I tried to grow here lasted for a few years, but each year it became smaller and smaller and eventually died. I will have to try again after seeing how successful their plants are. Also according to Wikipedia, the growing zone in Vienna, Austria is equivalent to a growing zone 8a, which is warmer than my own growing zone 7b. Someone's calculations must be incorrect. Perhaps mine is a bit warmer or theirs is a bit cooler. The temperatures here this week are still in the 80s for the last week of September, and their temperatures were in the 60s for most of last week. It also surprises me considering they seem to be able to grow the Paeonia tenuifolia (fern leaf peony) there, which does not grow at all here in my climate.

University of Vienna Botanical Garden Peony Paeonia emodi

I was also happy to meet this Paeonia emodi plant growing in their garden. I had never seen this plant before, nor have I ever seen its roots or seeds for sale. Its foliage particularly delighted me. The leaves are so long and wide too, very gracefully coming to a nicely symmetrical, pointed tip. It is supposed to have a pretty single white flower. Here are some of the other species peonies that were growing in the University of Vienna Botanical Garden. Please feel free to click on any photo to see a larger version.
Paeonia delavayi
Paeonia lactiflora
Paeonia mairei
Paeonia mascula
Paeonia officinalis ssp. officinalis
Paeonia peregrina
Paeonia rockii
Paeonia suffruticosa
'Duchesse de Morny'
Paeonia tenuifolia

Sunday, September 18, 2016

2016 Questions - Growing Peonies in South Carolina

I received this question from Tony in zone 8b:
"I live in Mt. Pleasant, SC, zone 8 (“8b” I think) and would appreciate your help with some peonies I’ve planted. My wife is crazy for peonies and I’ve begun to try to cultivate them even though I realize we are at the outer reaches of their comfort zone."

"The herbaceous varieties I purchased and planted 2 years ago were all of the early flowering variety, mainly tending towards the pink/burgundy and white themes. According to directions, I planted them not deep, striving for the tops of the roots being 2” under the soil surface, and in areas that are either full sun or more sun than not. My soil is particularly acidic (typical for this area of SC) and I’ve tried to amend it from the 5.5 pH it started at to somewhere closer to 7.0. In several of the small plots (2-4 plants each) I’ve more or less achieved the hoped-for result, but in several others it may take me another year or so; they are now at 6.0 or so."

"The results, so far, are by no means outstanding. Of the 5 small plots planted so far, the typical is that one or at most 2 stems have come up from each, and in both Summers each plant has grown to approximately 1’ – 1.5’ tall, one single stem, with healthy-looking leaves but few of them. No apparent fungal infections, and each of them brown up and die (over a period of several weeks to a month) and are completely done with their season by the end of August or early September. When the top growth is obviously dead, I clip the stems at ground level and get rid of the clippings. None of the plants has flowered in the two years since planting. I typically sprinkle a bit of 8-10-10 around all my perennials twice a year (early Spring when growth starts, early-mid Summer) and rake it in lightly."

"My question(s) is(are) : Does this scenario sound typical for peonies – at least starting out – for my area? Should I be doing anything different or additional to maximize their potential for success? I will continue to add lime (and scratch it into the soil) to get to, or maintain, a neutral pH; I will continue to drench the plots with a mild fungicide (different each year) in Spring when growth breaks the soil. Until the plants have grown substantially in size and abundance I’ve felt no need to add a drench of minor nutrients like “Palm Nutritional” with Mg, Mn, Boron, Copper, Iron, Zinc, etc."

"I also have one “tree” peony with similar concerns. It has grown but sparingly in the two seasons since I planted it, similar pH concerns, and similar growth slowness and leaves seeming to complete their year’s duties by early September. But since it otherwise appears to be healthy, albeit very slow growing, I am not as concerned about its ultimate survival."

"I would appreciate any helpful hints or suggestions you may be able to render. I’ve not as yet explored your whole website, but I do note that in addition to peonies you also highlight lilies (Lilium, not those ‘imposters’ the daylilies) which are about my favorite flowers ever. If I can find a relatively easy way to keep the deer around here from decimating my lilies – along with about 90% of everything I plant – I will surely be ordering some of those from you in the future. Thank you in advance for your attention."

Peony Eyes Visible at Soil Level

The only thing that really jumps out at me is the 2" below the soil. Herbaceous Peony roots need chill hours in order to develop the blooms for next spring, and the deeper you plant them, the less chill hours they will receive. I am in NC, and I plant my peony roots even with the soil. I do also add a 1" layer of mulch on top of all of mine. However, I usually take care not to put too much mulch around the crown of the plant, and often many of my herbaceous peony's pink buds are visible throughout the winter. If these pink buds are buried too deeply in the soil in our climate, the peonies will not bloom.

That being said, since all of your peonies are relatively young, I would not necessarily expect any blooms yet. However, if I were you, I would lift your herbaceous peonies this fall and bring them closer to the soil surface. Tree peonies are a different story. Since most of them are grafted to a nurse root stock, it is better to plant them very deep (in hopes that the tree peony stem will start to send out roots of its own).

Another thing I was trying to get at with the photos is - What is planted near your peonies? Are they near trees, shrubs, other perennials, a fence, a wall, etc.? Do they have any competition? Is the soil evenly moist, watered on a timer, or left to Mother Nature?

Also my peonies do start to "turn brown" in the summer. It is a slow progression of foliage, whereby a lack of moisture, disease pathogens, and/or fungi affect the foliage over the course of the year. Since peonies only get one set of leaves per year, the foliage will naturally start to look ragged by the end of the summer/early fall. Right now there are some peonies in my yard that have turned completely brown, but most of them are still green/brown.

Also some herbaceous peonies varieties do better in the South than others. I didn't see you mention the herbaceous peony cultivars you were growing. I was going to offer any experience and advice I might have if you could name the cultivars. I personally have only a few tree peonies, and I don't have as much experience with these as I do herbaceous and intersectionals. Here is a page on my site where I recommend peony cultivars that do well for me in the South... Southern Peony Best Performers

Another thing I wanted to mention to you was that intersectional peonies may be something you'd want to try in your climate. Intersectional peonies are a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies, and they grow quite well and fast. Many of their blooms are not as large as the herbaceous double peonies, but some of them are larger! One I would definitely recommend is Peony 'Bartzella', a lovely yellow double.

I hope this information helps.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

2016 Best Performer Again Peony 'Keiko' with 77 Buds!

Peony 'Keiko'™ 愛幕 (Adored) aka Peony 'Pink Double Dandy'

Last year Peony 'Keiko'™ 愛幕 (Adored) was a Southern Peony Best Performer for 2015 Peony 'Keiko' (Adored) Best Performer - Week 4. I would be remiss to mention that it was a Best Performer again this year in my garden, and not just a Best Performer, but THE best performing plant in my garden for 2016. This one intersectional peony plant had 77 buds on it, and Every. Single. Bud. Opened. Not one of the buds was blasted. The blooms were not affected by the late frost we had. The blooms were not affected by disease or bugs or anything. There were 77 blooms on this plant. Last year there were 35. Every year, this plant just keeps getting bigger and better and the number of blooms just keeps increasing! I can't wait to see what it does next spring. The flowers open a rich, gorgeous medium pink and slowly fade to a lighter medium pink. If you haven't bought one of these peony plants for yourself yet, you need to find one, and buy it, and plant it - this fall! Peony 'Keiko'™ 愛幕 (Adored) aka Peony 'Pink Double Dandy' is one peony plant your garden should not be without!

Peony 'Keiko'™ 愛幕 (Adored) aka Peony 'Pink Double Dandy'

Sunday, September 11, 2016

2016 Thank You Card for Southern Tree Peony Seeds

I wanted to share with all of you the Thank You card I sent to my reader in Georgia for the Southern tree peony seeds he sent me. I feel so grateful for this outlet, and the feeling of community and support you all have given me. I am also grateful that I have the opportunity and privilege to spread the love of peonies far and wide into areas that people may not think of as good places to grow peonies - much hotter climates like the Southern United States. I am also grateful for all of my peony friends and the camaraderie we've shared. The blooms on this Southern Peony Thank You Card are all from my Southern Peony garden. You too can grow this beauty right in your own back yard! This thank you card is for all of you, all of my readers that share this peony journey with me. Thank you so much!  - Adriana

Southern Peony Thank You Card

Monday, September 5, 2016

2016 Planting Red Tree Peony Seeds from Georgia

Well, we finally got a break in the dry weather. We've had two rain storms in the past week, and we were sorely in need. We actually did a get the outer edge of Hurricane Hermine that brought us some of this rain, and I am very thankful. So now things in my garden seem like they are happy again instead of pouting and wilted. Now that summer is starting to fade and we are starting to get some cooler temperatures, I took some time this Labor Day to plant out the Red Tree Peony Seeds from SP Reader in GA I received a couple weeks ago. If your garden has started to cool down and moisten up a bit, then now would be a good time to plant peony seeds in your area too. If you don't have any peony seeds, and you'd like to plant some, you should definitely check out the APS Seed Sale. It is only for APS Members, but if you are this interested in peonies and you're not an APS Member yet, you should definitely sign up!

Red Tree Peony Seeds and Sign

I planted these red tree peony seeds in my fledgling tree peony garden. There is still some space here to plant in some nice soil. So I decided to go ahead and plant out these seeds there. To plant the seeds I just got some garden gloves on to prevent dirt from getting under my finger nails. Since I didn't want to cultivate the entire area, I just made some seed holes for the peonies using my thumb. The soil wasn't too hard to work with, and I was able to make a nice divot in the ground for each seed. Then I placed one seed in each hole, covered them with soil, and tamped it down. I can't wait to see what these seedlings may bring. It will take years to know if any of these seedlings will be garden worthy plants, but hopefully it will be worth the wait!

Planting Holes for Red Tree Peony Seeds