Tuesday, December 28, 2021

2021 How To Cut Back a Tree Peony

Tree Peony with Dead Foliage

After a while that beautiful tree peony goes from gorgeous to gross, and you just want to erase it from your landscape. In order to get it looking decent again (and ready for spring), you need to cut it back. Cutting it back also removes parts of the stem that won't be needed next season and all of the dead foliage, which could harbor disease. The parts of the stem you will want to remove are any bloom stems that either bloomed or failed to bloom, but you don't want to cut off too much, as you don't want to lose any growth buds, which is where the peony will start to grow from in the spring.

Cut Tree Peony Bloom Stem 1" Above Top Bud

There are different ways you can cut back your peony stems and different methods of removing the foliage. I'll go over both of them here. The first way of cutting back the bloom stems is to cut the bloom stem back to 1 inch above the top growth bud on the stem. Using your pruners cut the stem at an angle (to prevent water pooling/damage) 1 inch above the leaf joint that contains a rounded, sometimes pinkish growth tip.

Tree Peony After Bloom Stem Cut 1" Above Top Bud

Tree Peony Bloom Stem Cut Back

After the bloom stem has been cut off, next the foliage stems should also be pruned. The foliage stems can be cut back to about 2 inches to leave a pointy, pokey hardened foliage stem to protect the growth bud, while the dead leaves will be removed and thrown away. These hard stems can be useful if you have a problem with animals that like to browse your tree peonies (like deer). It is not a huge obstacle, but an obstacle nonetheless, and may help protect your peonies from hungry animals.

Cut Tree Peony Leaf Stems Down to 2"

After one foliage stem has been cut back, continue cutting back all of the foliage stems on that main stem to 2 inches as well. As you are cutting the foliage, make sure you are placing it in a bucket or bag for disposal. Don't leave the dead stems and foliage on the ground underneath the tree peony. This will help with plant hygiene and health.

Cut Tree Peony Leaf Stems Down to 2"

Dispose of Tree Peony Stems & Foliage

Cut Tree Peony Bloom Stem Just Above 1 Segment Higher than Top Bud

Another way to cut back the peony bloom stem is to make your cut a little higher on the tree peony stem, one leaf segment above the top bud. This may be a useful method if you are concerned about severe cold or dieback in your peony stems. Here in my garden in the South, we don't usually have to worry about temperatures that cold. Some Northern states keep snow cover all winter to protect the peonies. However if you live in an area with extreme cold and no snow cover, you may be a bit more concerned about stem dieback. Or perhaps you've experienced stem dieback in the past, in which case this maybe the method that you choose.

Tree Peony After Bloom Stem Cut
Just Above 1 Segment Higher than Top Bud

Remove Foliage Stems
from Tree Peony

Pull Down Tree Peony Foliage Stem to Pop Stem Off

Another method of removing tree peony foliage stems is pretty easy and doesn't require any clippers. You simply pop them off by pressing the foliage stem in the opposite direction than it was growing. The entire foliage stem removes cleanly. I like to use this method for any foliage segments that do not have a growth bud in them. Since there is no growth bud that needs protection, the entire foliage stem can be removed, leaving the tree peony a bit more clean.

Tree Peony After Foliage Stem Popped Off

You can then continue cutting back any foliage stems with growth buds at the base. Keep repeating these processes until you have cut back all bloom stems and removed or cut back all foliage stems as well. After you are finished with the entire tree peony plant, it will be back to stems only, be so much cleaner, and ready for spring!! Happy Garden Cleaning!!!

Cut Back Foliage Stems to 2" to Protect Growth Buds

Tree Peony Cleaned Up & Ready for Spring!

Monday, December 27, 2021

2021 Southern Peony Colors Page Updates

While working on updating the colors for the Southern Peony Colors page, I noticed that some of the colors I was adding didn't accurately match the swatches in my RHS Mini Color Chart. I was previously (until this month) using the color RGBs listed in the RHS Color Fans from the Azalea Society of America, which have some noted flaws listed here on the Azalea Society of America Color Systems page, if you are interested in a bit more depth on color matching theory. I had noticed this in the past on a couple of the colors and tried adjusting the brightness on them manually to get them to match the swatch a bit better. Since I felt the color swatches I was creating were too manual of a process and open to a bit more error, I decided to search for a different RHS RGB color chart.

Southern Peony Colors Page Navigation Bar
So I found this PDF of an RHS RBG chart from the International Lilac Society - Lilac Color Groups by RHS, which I have downloaded for future reference as well, as I add new colors in the future. This RHS RBG chart seems to be much more accurate than the Azalea Society RGB charts. RGB is the numerical representations of the amount of Red, Blue, and Green that are needed make up any color in our visible color spectrum. This RGB number can be represented as either 3 separate 3-digit numbers or a single hexadecimal number. Anyway, enough color nerd stuff, the point of all this is I used these updated RGBs to remake all of the color swatches on my Southern Peony Colors page.

Don't worry, the peonies themselves haven't changed, their relationship to other peonies classified in the same color haven't changed. The only thing that has changed is that you should get a more accurate color representation on your device when you view the Southern Peony Colors page. Hopefully this all make sense and helps readers find the peony colors they are looking for, for their garden! Also while I was updating the Colors page, I also decided to update the navigation bar at the top to have a small color swatch underneath each color name (as shown in the photo above) - hopefully making the navigation a bit quicker too!  🙂

Friday, December 24, 2021

2021 Cutting Back Peony Stems

Merry Christmas Eve!! 🎄 I spent some time in the garden yesterday afternoon cutting back dead peony stems. So if you've still got some dead stems in the garden, please know that you are not alone! Sometimes I don't even get them cut back on in the same calendar year! So I'm considering myself lucky to at least have gotten a start on clearing out the dead foliage from this year.

Cutting Back Peony Stems

I am actually doubly lucky this year since my little boy offered to help me in the garden yesterday. I have learned by now that you never refuse help (especially from a child)!, as they might not offer it again if you turn them down. Even if kids don't do things exactly as you would do them, it is an awesome opportunity to have them be useful and teach them something! He actually did a great job, not only helping me cut back several peonies, but he also helped me clear out all of the dead vinca that was growing in the middle of my peony garden bed (another great Peony Companion that I'll have to write an article on later).

Putting Dead Peony Foliage in Bags for Garbage

If you, like me, are still clearing out the dead foliage and you want a pointer or two on "how to", please check out our Peony How To section. We have articles on How to Cut Back an Herbaceous Peony and How to Cut Back an Intersectional Peony. Even if you don't get it all done in one day, it will be okay. I will be spreading my work out over weeks (or maybe even months!!) 😉 And those gorgeous peony blooms will be here again before we know it!!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

2021 Peony Companions Dianthus

Peony 'Lady Alexandra Duff' and Hot Pink & Red Dianthus

Dianthus are a great companion for peonies, especially here in the South, as most of my dianthus come back every year. Sometimes one or two of them will give out (usually from the hot summer heat), but most of the time they are perennial flowers for me. Dianthus seem to keep their roots pretty shallow, so they won't compete too much with the super deep roots of the peonies. Dianthus also come in so many colors from solid fire engine red to white to pink (hence their nickname "Pinks") to even pinky lavenders! There are also many varieties of bi-color Dianthus, with pretty patterns on the petals too!

White Single Peony and White Dianthus

Another great thing about Dianthus is that many garden centers sell them each spring as annuals, for a relatively inexpensive price! If you live in the South and haven't given Dianthus a try yet, you should definitely consider planting some this upcoming spring. In my garden my dianthus plants usually have a huge spring flush of flowers on the plant, but then the blooms keep coming (although fewer of them) all the way up to frost for me. (Although the plants do look a bit more worn as the season goes on, it is still nice to see some continuous spots of color in the garden!) You may remember the white peony and white dianthus from my 2019 White Peonies En Masse in Front of the House article. Writing this post makes me think where else can I tuck a few more "Pinks" (aka Dianthus) into my own garden this spring? ;-)

Peony 'Lady Alexandra Duff' and Hot Pink & Red Dianthus

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

2021 RHS Color Codes for Peony Blooms

Intersectional Peony 'Chief Black Hawk'

I managed to collect a few more peony bloom color codings this year despite mostly taking a break from peony "responsibilities" this year. There were 2 new RHS colors that I added to my Peony Colors page this year. Dark Purple Brown 59A and Yellow Orange 18C were the new colors I hadn't recorded for blooms before. When this happens I have to create new PNG images of the colors to add to the Peony Colors page, so that all of you know what the color "looks" like. I decided to update the RHS Color images codings from the Azalea RGB to the Lilac RGBs, which seemed to be more accurate to me. Look for an upcoming post on that!

Dark Purple Brown 59A Chief Black Hawk - Dark Purple Brown 59A *
Purple 58A Houki - Purple 58A
Pink Violet 75C Lavon - Pink Violet 75C
Pink 68C Pietertje Vriend Wagenaar - Pink 68C
Yellow Orange 18C Scrumdidleyumptious - Yellow Orange 18C *
Purple Pink N74C Shimane Cho Juraka - Purple Pink N74C
Light Yellow Green 2C Viking Full Moon - Light Yellow Green 2C
Dark Pink Red 51B Yankee Doodle Dandy - Dark Pink Red 51B

Also in case you hadn't noticed, I also added Intersectional Peony "Chief Black Hawk" to my Peony Photos page (and it's also the featured peony for this month on our Southern Peony front page!)

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

2021 Peony 'White Cap' Southern Peony Best Performer - Week 5

Peony 'White Cap'
Southern Peony Best Performer

I must say that this peony 'White Cap' does have one flaw, its stems like to lay flat on the ground. So if you don't mind staking it, and you love the colors, then this is one peony you'll want to grow. This Peony 'White Cap' is growing in some of the most unamended, unloved soil in my garden, and it is still growing like there's no tomorrow! There aren't a lot of peonies that have the kind of rapid growth and tenacity of this peony while growing here in the South. With a huge number of blooms on every stem, making an explosion of color, this peony is a hit!

Peony 'White Cap'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Peony 'White Cap'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Peony 'White Cap' is an herbaceous lactiflora peony, hybridized by Winchell and registered in 1956. The blooms just keep coming and coming on this peony due to the numerous side buds it produces. The bi-color anemone form of the bloom creates an eye-catching color-contrasting combo (hot pinky/purple & white) that really grabs your attention. If you want a peony that stands out in the garden this is it!

Peony 'White Cap'
Southern Peony Best Performer

As you can see from the photos, I have this peony staked up, and it seems to be very happy with the additional support. Some of you may remember last year, I decided to add this article on How to Make a Peony Support Ring from a Tomato Cage (specifically for Peony 'White Cap' as it neared the end of its bloom period). This year as it grew I just tried to make sure I tucked the peony stems into the tomato cage as the stems grew. As you can see it made a huge differnce!

Peony 'White Cap'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Peony 'White Cap'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Monday, December 20, 2021

2020 Peony Blooms Colors on RHS Colour Chart

This is a post that I drafted back in May of 2020. I was able to collect quite a few color codings last year (and a few this year too - look for that post coming soon!) I figured I'd sneak in a couple photos of Intersectional Peony 'Berry Garcia' from 2020 since it was the first peony on this alphabetical list. There are several new colors here that I'd not seen before and needed to add a category for on my Peony Colors page. Some the new colors added for 2020 are: Light Yellow Orange 19D, Pink Purple 72B, and Purple N79C.

Intersectional Peony 'Berry Garcia'

Berry Garcia - Light Yellow Orange 19D
Carl G. Klehm - White N 155B
Chiffon Clouds - Light Pink 56C
Glowing Candles - Light Pink 56C
Gordon E. Simonson - Pink Purple 72B
Joanna Marlena - Light Yellow Orange 19B & Red Pink 49A
Koukamon - Purple N79C
Lake o' Silver - Pink Purple N74B
Leda - Purple Red 55B
Lois Kelsey - White N999D
Lunar Glow - Light Yellow Green 2D
Mock Orange Yellow - Light Orange 26D
Renown - Dark Pink Red 51B
Sarah Bernhardt - Pink 70C
Shimane Cho Juraka - Purple Pink N74C
Smith Family Jewel - Red Pink 48C
Sonoma Welcome - Light Yellow 8C
Super Gal - Purple Pink 68A
Ursa Minor - Purple 71A
Victoire de la Marne - Purple 67A
Westerner - Pink Violet 75C & Light Yellow 8C

Sunday, December 19, 2021

2021 Peony 'First Arrival' Southern Peony Best Performer - Week 4

Peony 'First Arrival'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Peony 'First Arrival'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Intersectional Peony 'First Arrival' was supposedly the first ever intersectional peony that bloomed for Roger Anderson from his intersectional peony breeding attempts. It sure is a beauty, and I don't think I've seen another intersectional peony on the market with a color quite like this one. It has a very nice pink color with a bit of a lavender tint. Intersectional Peony 'First Arrival' was hybridized by Roger Anderson and registered with the APS in 1986.

Peony 'First Arrival'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Peony 'First Arrival'
Southern Peony Best Performer

This intersectional peony will fill up the bush with buds, which bloom over a few days giving a fresh set of blooms, while the old blooms fade cleanly from the bush all on their own. This Intersectional Peony 'First Arrival' grows well here in the South. My plant took a few years to settle in, but it really seems to be taking off now. The bush gets larger and has more blooms on it each year! The blooms on this plant are quite variable in number of petals and form, but most of them have a pleasing symmetrical shape with rounded petals. The very center of these blooms have small dark pink/purple flares, giving the blooms a delightful inner glow of color!

Peony 'First Arrival'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Peony 'First Arrival'
Southern Peony Best Performer

Saturday, December 18, 2021

2021 Year in Review

Wow, I can't believe it's almost Christmas already!! 1 week from today! Where has the year gone? I hope all of you are doing well. I know that this global pandemic has been hard on all of us. I hope that each of you has taken the time to take care of yourselves and find some time of peace, respite, and relaxation in your gardens. Even in the fall and winter, it is still nice to get outside, take a stroll, get some fresh air, and see what Mother Nature has been doing.

Intersectional Peony 'Keiko'

I'm not sure what the American Peony Society has been up to, but I am really hoping that I am able to join all of my peony friends again at next year's APS Convention. I recently changed jobs this year, and I am hoping for a better work/life balance in 2022. I think many people have been searching for the same thing. As the world has met the challenge of covid and all of its variants, people have reexamined what is most important to them in life.

Even though I didn't post anything the rest of this year, it doesn't mean I didn't take any peony photos in 2021. I actually have over 2,500 photos from 2021 (which is a lot less compared to 2020 - 9,250! - I might have overdone it last year! HA :-D) Anyway, I'm hoping to see what I can get put out at the tail end of 2021. I'm almost on vacation for the rest of the year, Monday will be my last working day in 2021. So I'm hoping to have some time to devote to my peony passion to round out the year.

I have some Southern Peony Best Performers I'd like to tell you about, plenty of nice "head shots" to add to my Peony Photos, and some new Color Classifications that I managed to collect! :-) And that photo above? Intersectional Peony 'Keiko' - one of my favorites!!! Can I nominate her every year for a Best Performer? So consistently beautiful! LOVE IT!!! 💗