Sunday, March 29, 2020

2020 The Tree Peony and the Honey Bee

Tree Peony P. Rockii Seedling & Honey Bee

I'm not sure who was more eager to see this tree peony open - me or the honey bee! We finally got some sunshine after days and days of rain and cloudiness, and boy was I thankful for it! So was this bee apparently, since the sun helped open up all of these flowers in bud. This tree peony is a seedling I grew from some seed I purchased on Ebay, 2013 P. Rockii Peony Seeds from Cricket Hill Garden. I guess this would be considered a semi-double bloom since it has more than a single row of petals. It sure is gorgeous, and I just love those purple flares in the center of the flower!! I will definitely be labeling this one so that I remember to move it this fall out of the seedling bed fall and into my garden! :-)

Tree Peony P. Rockii Seedling & Honey Bee

Tree Peony P. Rockii Seedling & Honey Bee

I'm sure the honey bees will be happy to have more flowers in the garden each year. I do know of one peony grower in Canada that also likes peonies & bees - Blossom Hill Nursery. They have their own hives, make their own honey, and lots of other products with the wax. I am just so grateful to see the bees here in my garden. I know that bees have been having a hard time. I hope that bees are able to recover. I also hope that we can all do our part to reduce our dependence on harmful chemicals and try to make each of our individual garden spaces bee friendly. Bees are our friends, let's make them welcome! :-)

Tree Peony P. Rockii Seedling & Honey Bee

Saturday, March 28, 2020

2020 Peony Blooms Week 1 Very Early

Peony 'Early Scout'

The only 2 named peony varieties to bloom this week in Week 1 were Tree Peony 'White Phoenix' and Peony 'Early Scout'. Since our bloom season started so early this year (almost a week earlier than any other year recorded in the last 15 years!), not many peonies have had the opportunity to grow, much less bloom. There are several other tree peonies waiting to bloom, and with this 80 degree weather we had today and will have again tomorrow, many of them will likely melt! That's how it usually goes here in NC - from winter to summer in 1 week flat! LOL Let's hope we get a little bit more temperate spring weather this season. Looks like we'll have some days with highs in the 50s next week - here we go again!!! I hope your start to spring and the peony bloom season is coming along nicely. Welcome spring!!! :-)

Tree Peony 'White Phoenix'

Friday, March 27, 2020

2020 Intersectional Peony Calendar

I just got this calendar in the mail. Okay, well, I guess I hadn't opened my mail since last month... (don't tell). When I did get to this envelope last week, I set it aside figuring it was something else. When I went to open it today, I got this nice surprise! I must say the Intersectional Peony 'Impossible Dream' is my favorite intersectional peony in the whole calendar. I am still looking for a source for that one (after one failed attempt at purchasing it on Ebay, 2018 Ebay Peony Seller Reviews). I can't seem to find it anywhere! If anyone knows of a source for that Intersectional Peony 'Impossible Dream', please let me know! I think I may have a way to get an Intersectional Peony 'All That Jazz' (more on that later...), and I don't know what the name of Mr. November is, but I certainly would like to find out! ;-)

2020 Intersectional Peony Calendar

Intersectional Peony 'All That Jazz'

Intersectional Peony 'Impossible Dream'

Intersectional Peony

Thursday, March 26, 2020

2020 Intersectional Peony Seedling Pops Up!

Intersectional Peony Seedling Pops Up! (3/19)

Every year I get nervous waiting for my intersectional peony seedlings to pop up. The first one popped up on 3/19 this year! Finally! The rest of them have not shown up yet. So I'm still a little nervous - wondering if a critter got to them, a disease, or perhaps the weather. Who knows? For now it is still a waiting game to see when or if the rest of them will show up. Hopefully they do. When I looked back, it seems like the intersectional peony seedings didn't show up until almost mid April last year (4/10), 2019 I Finally DID IT! My First Intersectional Peony Seedling-s!. So I guess this lone seedling popped up early, and I'm guessing the others will show up when they feel like it (sometime next month).

Intersectional Peony Seedling Sign
'Martha W.' X Nate Bremer's Rainbow

This particular seedling is a cross of Peony 'Martha W.' and what I've nicknamed Nate Bremer's Rainbow. Nate was kind enough to allow people to collect pollen from his gorgeous tree peony garden when the APS convention came to tour it in 2016. I was not prepared so was gifted a few envelopes to collect pollen from Don Smith. Since I didn't have enough envelopes to collect the tree peony pollen all separately, I put several different varieties of pollen from Nate's garden in an envelope and labeled it "Nate Bremer's Rainbow" (since I put so many different colorful tree peony pollens in it). If you'd like to know more about Nate and his hybridizing program, check out our interview with him, 2016 Peony Hybridizer Interview - Nate Bremer.

Intersectional Peony Seedling Pops Up! (3/26)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

2020 How to Tell if Your Tree Peony is Happy!

Tree Peony Paeonia Ostii

Not sure if your tree peony is happy? Does it seem to be growing leaves each year, but no flowers? Does it still just have 1 or 2 stems? If so, your tree peony might not be very happy. There's a saying that says tree peonies don't like to be moved, which is probably true for very mature and established tree peonies that are quite large shrubs. However if your tree peony isn't happy, moving it is probably a good idea. If you can't tell if your tree peony is happy, here's a little secret to help you figure it out. Check out the base of your tree peony. Do you see any new growth popping up from the base of it? Not just leaves - but new stems!

Tree Peony 'Shimadaijin'

These new stems won't be woody. They will be fleshy and coming up from the dirt/mulch/base of the plant. The new stems will eventually become woody (by the next year), but when they first come up, they look very herbaceous. Now the appearance and the coloring of these new stems may look different on each tree peony variety. Some new stems may be red, some may be purple, some may be green, and many may exhibit a combination of these colors. The important thing to note is, do you have new stems coming up from the base of the tree peony plant? If you don't and you haven't for more than 2-3 years, then your tree peony is not happy. It is not becoming established in the area you've planted it. Now part of it could be the planting location, but there are many reasons your tree peony might not be happy.

Tree Peony 'Sahohime'

If your tree peony isn't happy after 2-3 years (and it is still alive), I would recommend moving it. If it does not become established, it will eventually die. Where to move your tree peony? Examine the area it's planted in now. Does it receive enough sun? Does it have even moisture throughout the year? Is it planted deeply enough? The biggest keys to making sure your tree peony will grow and establish itself in the landscape are: sun, moisture, and stem access to soil. Let's talk about each of these 3 areas.

Tree Peony 'Yao Huang'

1. Sun - Tree Peonies like a sunny location in the garden, they can take a small amount of shade, but ideally you don't want too much competition from large trees. So sunnier is better. Partially shaded or sheltered by a structure for half the day, like the side of a house, a pergola, a fence, etc. may be beneficial.

2. Moisture - Tree peonies like even moisture, but not too much moisture. The soil should be well draining and rich in nutrients. Planting near a structure also helps conserve soil moisture.

3. Stem Access to Soil - This is most important if you are purchasing a named tree peony variety. (If you are growing tree peonies from seed, you can ignore this one.) Most tree peonies sold today are grafted. (Maybe one day they'll be clones growing on their own roots!) Grafted means you cut a stem from an existing tree peony and merge it with the root of a different peony (usually an herbaceous peony). Since most tree peonies sold commercially are grafted, it is really important that a large part of the stem section of the tree peony be planted under the soil. This will give the tree peony the opportunity to grow its own roots - which is really important for helping the tree peony become established.

Tree Peony 'Angel Emily'

So if you do decide your tree peony isn't happy and decide to move your tree peony, make sure to take into account those three things when replanting it. Try to give your tree peony "the best spot in the garden" not some off to the side, right next to a tree trunk kind of spot. Also it wouldn't hurt to mix in a cup of organic fertilizer into the soil while you are replanting it - and remember - plant it deep! Way deeper than you think. Most people probably try to plant their tree peony with the "roots" underground and the "stem" above ground. I would say you really want to plant it with about half of the stem underground (about 3-4 inches). You really want some of those "buds" on your tree peony stem to be underground and some to be above ground.

Tree Peony 'Angel Emily'

Once you've gotten your tree peony "happy", it will go from just a couple stems to more stems than you can count - like these last 2 photos of Tree Peony 'Angel Emily', which I highly recommend. Tree Peony 'Angel Emily' is an American Peony Society Gold Medal Winner and a Southern Peony Best Performer! :-)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

2020 Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' Grows Intersectional Foliage

Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' on 3/19

I am happy to report that my Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' plant I ordered from Spring Hill Nursery, 2020 Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' at Spring Hill Nursery, is growing intersectional peony foliage! So that actually bodes well in my opinion to the end result being favorable for the peony being the actual cultivar purchased. If you were holding out to see how these fared in my garden before deciding to purchase one, now might be the time to snag one (or two like I did) of these intersectional peonies. Uh oh, too late. I just checked the Spring Hill web site, and it looks like these are out of stock. I hope some of you were able to get one before they sold out!

Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' on 3/11

These were originally small potted plants without any actual foliage when they arrived, 2020 Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' Arrives from Spring Hill Nursery, just a small pinkish bud on each of them that was ready to pop! However as you can see from the photos, a hint of their foliage was apparent. The tiny folded up foliage appeared to show the signature jagged edges of intersectional peony foliage (a trait they receive from their tree peony parent), which is quite different than the rounded edges of herbaceous peony foliage. As the foliage unfolded the leaf structure become more and more apparent. Now it is obvious that these are certainly intersectional peony plants.

Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' on 3/13

Also notice the structure of the stem. The stems on these are much shorter than immature herbaceous peonies, and they have a sort of "stacked" appearance, whereas new herbaceous peony foliage tends to send up a longer, taller shoot. Now both of the plant I purchased from Spring Hill have grown into small, healthy intersectional peony plants. I can't wait to see how these look when they bloom. Now the waiting begins... This is definitely going to take a few years. I hope these peonies are worth the wait, as I haven't seen this cultivar offered anywhere else yet!

Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' on 3/16

Intersectional Peony 'Duchesse de Lorraine' on 3/18

Saturday, March 21, 2020

2020 Planting Herbaceous Peony Seeds from Peony 'Faithful Dream' & Peony 'Lemon Chiffon'

Peony 'Lemon Chiffon' & Peony 'Faithful Dream' Seeds
Planted in Pots

Yes, I know it's not the right time of year, but I get to things when I can get to things, and these peony seeds will eventually grow. This time I decided to plant them in some plastic pots instead of in the ground. I keep noticing seeds disappearing or not reappearing the next year. I don't know if it is critters, insects, or our long summers, but lots of them seem to keep going missing! So I'm hoping that these pots will help keep them a bit safer and give me the opportunity to see these seeds grow to maturity.

Planting Peony 'Faithful Dream' Seeds

I put 5 Peony 'Faithful Dream' seeds in one pot and 7 Peony 'Lemon Chiffon' seeds in another pot. These are the seeds I'd found in the garden earlier this year, 2020 Peony 'Lemon Chiffon' Open Pollinated Seeds Found During Winter Cleanup. 2 of the 7 Peony 'Lemon Chiffon' seeds looked small and malformed. So I'm thinking only 5 of those really have the capacity to sprout, but we shall see. I mixed up the soil for the pots containing mostly peat with a little bit of top soil mixed in. I filled the planters about 2/3 full, put the seeds in, covered them with a bit more of the peat mixture, then topped with a little bit more top soil. Now just water & wait...

Planting Peony 'Lemon Chiffon' Seeds

Friday, March 20, 2020

2020 First Tree Peony Blooms of the Year!

Tree Peony Paeonia Ostii

The first bloom of the season opened today! It's the second day of spring, and the tree peonies are already starting to bloom! It seems a little early to me, and I looked back over my records from the last 15 years, and this is the earliest peony bloom I've ever had! By almost a week! It looks like the previous earliest bloom start date was March 26th. Now this year in 2020, the blooms are starting on March 20th! Wow! I don't know if this is global warming or that groundhog Phil, but whatever it is, spring is here!

Tree Peony Paeonia Ostii

Do you remember that peony covered in snow this year, 2020 First Snow of the Season @ Southern Peony? This is the same peony pictured above with all buds fully intact. Sure enough this tree peony shrugged off that snow and continued to grow and develop several buds that were already growing. It has been in the 80s yesterday and today. Quite warm! Some plants are a bit sad during the heat of the day. The ground still has a lot of moisture, but we could really use a little bit of rain especially for new plants and to help wash off all of this yellow pollen! Yes, that's here too, but all of these flowers are the things that makes spring so happy!

Tree Peony Paeonia Ostii

Thursday, March 19, 2020

2020 Tree Peony 'Joseph Rock Double' from Song Sparrow

I'm not sure if any of you have seen the news, lol, but there's a pandemic out there. Since we can't spend any money at the stores, we might as well buy more peonies instead! I couldn't help but notice that this Tree Peony 'Joseph Rock Double' was not sold out yet at Song Sparrow Farm & Nursery. Many of their other tree peonies are sold out. I've been wanting this peony for a while now and have seen it auctioned at the APS Annual Banquet a few times before. It usually goes for higher than its retail price on the Song Sparrow web site, at the auction. So I just decided that this year is the year to get it. Also the nice thing about tree peonies from Song Sparrow is they sell them as potted plants. So this tree peony will ship now in the spring. So you don't have to wait until next year to see your tree peony grow, and it's possible you might even get a bloom from your tree peony this year! Here's hoping!! :-)

Tree Peony 'Joseph Rock Double' @ Song Sparrow

The description of this Tree Peony 'Joseph Rock Double' on the Song Sparrow web site says, "More petallage than Joseph Rock, but same vigor, lush foliage and staggering blossom beauty. Radiant white with purple inner flares. Rare and seldom offered. A strong plant with fragrant blooms." I am interested to see how vigorous this one is. Some grafted tree peonies struggle to get established here. However it seems that tree peonies that grow from seed and become mature seem to be very vigorous here. Also it may depend on the quality of the graft for grafted tree peonies. There are only 2 tree peonies on the Southern Peony Best Performers list so far. So I am eager to see how this one grows!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

2020 Black Purple Emerging Foliage of Peony 'Dark Chocolate' to Die For!

Peony 'Dark Chocolate'

I couldn't help but notice (again!) the foliage on herbaceous Peony 'Dark Chocolate'! Even if the flowers weren't super cool, the foliage on this bad boy would be awesome enough of a reason to grow it! As you can see the foliage is a purple-black color, and even with a flash photo and lots of fill light, the color of the foliage is still quite dark. It is very different than your normal pink/green emerging foliage. The leaves will eventually turn green, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying the rare color of the foliage. It is really cool to see all of the different emerging foliage colors.

Peony 'Dark Chocolate' (Flash Photo)

Peony 'Dark Chocolate'

I don't have any peony flowers open here yet. So it is nice to have some cool things to entertain you in the garden while we anticipate those large, colorful blooms. It is fun to watch the new foliage emerging on all kinds of garden plants. It always looks so clean, bright, and fresh - free from disease, fungal infections, or pest damage. Spring is definitely the best season! I hope you have lots of peony foliage colors popping up in your garden. If not, now might be the time to add some peonies with cool foliage colors to your Peony Wish List to order and plant this fall!

Peony 'Dark Chocolate' (Flash Photo)

Sunday, March 15, 2020

2020 Free Mulch for My Peony Beds!

Free Mulch for Peony Beds

Looks like Friday the 13th was my lucky day! I got a call while I was working that day from Tony, my favorite mulch guy, to see if I wanted any mulch. Of course I did!! I had been thinking about calling my favorite tree service to see if they had any, but have been quite busy lately and had not made the call. He must have known I needed it. :-) He said it was only a small half load. That's fine with me! I'll take what I can get (especially when it is free)! Here in the South mulching is an important part of growing peonies! We have a much longer, hotter, and drier summer than many other parts of the country where peonies are grown. So protecting the plants from the stress of extended droughts and high heat during the summer months is essential.

Free Mulch for Peony Beds

As you can see some of the mulch fell on top of my grass, which is not good for the grass. I have had my grass die in the past when I've gotten an especially large load of mulch directly on the grass or partially covering the grass. If you don't get the mulch off the grass quick enough, it will die from lack of sunlight and overheating (large mulch piles can get quite hot!). Luckily, I was able to get all of this mulch spread out yesterday. After 31 loads in my Gorilla Cart, my husband came back from playing soccer with my son and volunteered to load up some mulch for me. I gladly accepted his help, as I was pretty tired by this point. He helped me with the last 3 loads, and we were able to finish it all! I put a large part of it on my front garden bed, which contains a magnolia tree, tree peonies, herbaceous peonies & double daylilies. I think it turned out pretty nice. :-)

Front Garden Bed with New Mulch

Saturday, March 14, 2020

2020 Tree Peony Seeds from Luoyang, China Grow!!

Tree Peony Seedling #2 on 3/9

I was beginning to give up on those tree peony seeds from China, 2018 Planting Tree Peony Seeds from Luoyang China, but it looks like they are starting to germinate this year! I stared at some empty dirt and kept picking weeds out of the area last year hoping to find a sprout, but never did. After not seeing anything pop up yet this year, I thought there was no hope for them this year, until I saw a seedling pop up in that area a week or so ago. Even then I was suspicious whether that seedling came from one of the seeds from China or just some random lost or rogue seed in the bed. When I looked for that first seed a few days later the bed was empty - no seedling. I began to wonder whether some underground (or above ground?) critter got the roots and/or seedling. I imagined some animal just sucking it underground, since the tree peony seedling was nowhere in sight.

Tree Peony Seedling #1 on 3/9

After spending some time pulling some miniature weeds from the seedling bed, I finally discovered that first seedling (Tree Peony Seedling #1 pictured above). As you can see it was either killed by some low overnight temperatures (which we did experience) or some kind of fungal wilt. The cold temperatures can also cause the wilt. So it is really hard to say what the culprit was in this case (but some corroborating evidence may exist for the cold theory, as I've noticed some selected tips of other new plants with burnt - dried & blackened - tips). So I think this tree peony seedling may have experienced cold burn/freeze damage. That's very sad. This is the first year this peony tried to grow a leaf, and it got knocked down. I don't think this one will be able to come back next year. I guess that is just part of nature's selection process.

Tree Peony Seedling Signs

Tree Peony Seedling #2 on 3/12

I guess you could say the biggest fail with these seeds are the signs. I took a lot of time to figure out how to plant these seeds with their signs since the peonies I purchased had no names on the flower only pictures. I even purchased some special Black & Decker UV plastic laminate to laminate them with. As you can see that laminate was not really UV protected. Too bad about the false advertising on those laminating sheets. These signs didn't even last 1 full year before fading. The flowers photos were all so beautiful and colorful when I put them on there. Oh well, at least I took a photo of them and scanned them into the computer before I put them outside in the sun to fade! LOL

Tree Peony Seedling #3 with Signs

These tree peony seedlings are definitely having some challenges. As you can see Tree Peony Seedling #3 (pictured below) looks like it had 2 tiny stems originally, and one of them looks like it has already been bitten off. I hope some of these Chinese tree peony seedlings make it through Mother Nature's wrath into adulthood in a few years, so that I may see their beautiful blossoms. I'm just hoping that they aren't all single, white Paeonia ostii seeds/seedlings. Only time will tell...

Tree Peony Seedling #3

Friday, March 13, 2020

2020 Peony Experiments - Adventitious Roots Results, Peony 'Grace Root'

Peony 'Grace Root' Sign

Well, I guess you could say this Experiment is a failure. It's been almost 5 years since I planted those Peony 'Grace Root' root tips, 2015 Peony Experiments - Planting Adventitious Roots, and nothing has grown from them. Maybe next time I will try actually cutting pieces close to the crown of the plant and/or cutting larger pieces. The root tips I planted for this experiment were just small pieces that happened to break off from the Peony 'Grace Root' plant when I was digging it to be divided (so that I could donate a root to a local arboretum). I can also say with confidence that I did not pay those root pieces any special attention - no watering, no fertilizing, no nothing - just time. Upon digging in the soil I found no traces of those root pieces either. So I'm guessing they dried up and disintegrated. Oh well, on to the next!

Peony 'Grace Root' Adventitious Root Test Bed

Thursday, March 12, 2020

2020 Bye Bye Imposter Itohs, Hello Favorite Intersectional Peonies!!

Intersectional Peony 'Yumi' in Japanese Garden

I got tired of every year hoping the intersectional peonies I had right outside my back door were going to be beautiful intersectional peony plants filled with lush, full double blossoms. They were supposed to be Intersectional Peony 'Impossible Dream' and Intersectional Peony 'Yumi'. Both were imposters, intersectional peonies - they were, but the named cultivars they claimed to be - they were not. I purchased both of them from the same seller on Ebay, atskor8, 2018 Ebay Peony Seller Reviews, and they both turned out to be mostly single, yellow intersectional peonies with a very small number of flowers of small size and unimpressive qualities. It was especially disappointing since I had these planted in some of the most prime real estate in the garden, with partially protected, mostly moist, sunny locations!

Intersectional Peony 'Yumi'

Every year I keep thinking that I've already ripped out the imposters and replaced them with "real" cultivars, and every spring I am disappointed again. So this year before they bloomed, I finally remembered that I still needed to take those lame peonies out of my best spots and put in something good! I had already ordered a replacement for Intersectional Peony 'Yumi' from a different vendor on Ebay in 2016, garden*breeze, whose product turned out to be authentic. So I just needed to get rid of that imposter, which ended up in the compost pile, and put the real one in its place. Easy peasy.

Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella' in Deck Garden

As for the imposter Intersectional Peony 'Impossible Dream', that one too went to the compost pile. In keeping with the yellow theme in that area, I decided to put a division of Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella' in its place. Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella' really is one of the best intersectional peonies there is. It is an APS Gold Medal Winner and has also been awarded the APS Award of Landscape Merit. It is also a Southern Peony Best Performer and consistently puts on a show every year, 2012 Peony 'Bartzella' Best Performer - Week 5. I am excited to see both of these gorgeous intersectional peonies take off in their new spots!!!

Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella'