Articles about Peony growing
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Friday, May 22, 2020

2020 How to Make a Peony Support Ring from a Tomato Cage

Peony 'White Cap' in Dire Need of Support

Day after day, I just couldn't take looking at it this way anymore. This Peony 'White Cap' just kept blooming and blooming. I thought at some point it would just quit blooming and I wouldn't have to watch the blooms keep opening on the ground, but it just kept blooming and blooming. Even days after I went to the store to purchase a tomato cage did I finally get around to messing with this plant, and it was still blooming (granted it was almost finished, but still blooming).

Carefully Putting Tomato Cage on Peony 'White Cap'

I thought I might need to trim the bottom of this tomato cage to make it a suitable support for my Peony 'White Cap', but this peony was so tall and my tomato cage was so short, that it worked out just right! I purchased the 33-in Galvanized Steel Wire Round Tomato Cage from my local home improvement hardware store - Lowe's. This particular tomato cage came with 3 support rings on it, which did make it a little tricky to get on my plant, but I was able to finally get it on there. First I gathered up all of the stems, and put them as close together as possible so that I could fit the flowers through the bottom ring of the tomato cage, then the second ring.

Peony 'White Cap' Fully Supported

After that the foliage was kind of in the way. So I had to wiggle and jiggle the tomato cage on a bit, carefully putting each leaflet through the bottom ring of the cage. I was able to start pushing the cage into the ground a bit, adjusting the leaves up through the cage, pushing the cage down a bit, adjusting the leaves, repeating until the tomato cage is at the desired height needed to support the peony. I must say this Peony 'White Cap' does look so much better when the flowers are up higher, making them easier to see their lovely contrasting blooms and smell their fragrance!

Peony 'White Cap' The Next Day

I will also admit that this was not the most ideal time to add support for this peony. Next year I will put the support out before the foliage emerges so that it can grow into the support rings naturally (and I can help make sure that it does). The peony seemed to work great in this size tomato cage, but it looks like Lowe's also sells a short 30" version with only 2 support rings if you think that might be more to your liking. As you can see I took a photo of the plant the day after I added the support and some of the foliage had started to adjust to the correct positioning (after being on the ground so long, the foliage was also growing sideways). I also captured this gorgeous bloom photo of Peony 'White Cap' which looked like it had regained some moisture overnight.

Peony 'White Cap' Bloom

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

2020 Peony 'White Cap' Has Loads of Blooms, But They're All Over the Floor

Peony 'White Cap'

The blooms on this Peony 'White Cap' are just gorgeous, and it seems to be a very vigorous and floriferous bloomer here in the South. However it definitely does not stand up well. The stems actually seem pretty strong, but the problem seems to be at the very base of the stem, which is where they all seem to bend. Each stem carries multiple, multiple buds and blooms, with 3 buds or more on each stem! I will definitely try to put a peony ring on this plant next year to see if it is happier and more presentable next time. If you're willing to stake and support this Peony 'White Cap', the color combination on these blooms is quite striking, a bold hot pink tone with a (mostly) white center!!

Peony 'White Cap'
Stems Spread Flat on Ground

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

2020 Tree Peony 'High Noon' with 2 Kinds of Foliage?

Tree Peony 'High Noon' with 2 Kinds of Foliage - 3/27

Have you ever noticed your tree peony have 2 kinds of foliage? If so, you really need to remove one of them. Which one? The one that's not growing from the woody stems. You see, tree peonies are mostly grafted plants, meaning they take a branch from a very large and mature tree peony and graft or meld it to the root of an herbaceous peony. Usually those herbaceous peony roots are grown from some random no-good herbaceous peony seed. They just grow lots of those herbaceous peony seeds to get a large crop of very young (and hopefully vigorous) peony roots on which to graft their tree peony stems.

Tree Peony 'High Noon' with 2 Kinds of Foliage - 3/27

Tree Peony 'High Noon' with 2 Kinds of Foliage - 4/13

Still not sure which foliage to remove? Take a look at the photos. The herbaceous peony foliage is very shiny and slick. The tree peony foliage is more dull and softer. Also take a look at the leaves on each branch of the foliage. The herbaceous peony leaves are more pointed and usually come to a defined tip. The tree peony leaves are more spreading and usually have small cuts in them. Hopefully you've been able to identify which foliage is herbaceous and which foliage is tree peony now. So now all you need to do is cut the herbaceous peony stem or stems all the way down, right at or just below the soil surface.

Tree Peony 'High Noon' with 2 Kinds of Foliage - 4/16

Tree Peony 'High Noon' with 2 Kinds of Foliage - 4/16

If you're curious to see just what kind of flower that herbaceous peony nurse root might make, I have saved you the trouble. I decided to let the herbaceous nurse root bloom this year since it had an obvious bud on it that looked like it would mature. As you can see the flower is nothing to speak of at all. It is very small, very tiny, with very short petals, kind of sad actually. If you think about it, no one is going to graft a beautiful herbaceous peony (and valuable - that they could otherwise sell) to the bottom of a tree peony. So it is really best to remove this herbaceous peony foliage from your tree peony as soon as you notice it, so that any energy stored in that herbaceous root is not lost to the herbaceous foliage, flower, or seed development. You really want that herbaceous nurse root to use all of its energy to help the tree peony grow and become established. Happy Growing!!

Tree Peony 'High Noon' with 2 Kinds of Foliage - 4/21

Tree Peony 'High Noon' with 2 Kinds of Foliage - 4/21

Friday, April 24, 2020

2020 Solarize Peony Bed Soil to Sterilize It

Solarize Peony Bed Soil to Sterilize It

As you may know, it appeared to me that my Intersectional Peony 'Callie's Memory' died of root rot, 2020 Intersectional Peony 'Callie's Memory' Dies of Root Rot? I have no way of knowing for sure, but there weren't any roots left on that peony. There could have been a host of factors that caused its demise. Regardless, it must have rotted in at least some way. So I decided to solarize the soil to kill any pathogens that might still be present there before replanting the area.

Solarize Peony Bed Soil to Sterilize It

To do this I simply placed a clear sheet of plastic over the area and weighted it down with bricks on the edges. After 6-8 weeks the soil should be ready for planting. However I will probably wait much longer than that to replant, most likely until fall to plant my replacement potted Intersectional Peony 'Callie's Memory', 2020 Potted Up Intersectional Peony Roots for Fall Planting. You may remember when I originally started this intersectional peony bed, I solarized the subsoil, 2012 Peony Bed Soil Solarization, before bringing in some 2012 New Dirt for New Peony Beds. I never solarized the new dirt I put on top as top soil. So I suppose now's the time to make sure I solarize it now too. ;-)

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, June 22, 2019

2019 Questions - How to Grow Peonies in Zone 10A

I received this question from Roseann in zone 10A:

"Hello Adriana, I really enjoy your blog. Thank you so much for all the wonderful information. I would love to grow Herbaceous Peonies. I've tried once to grow three herbaceous ones, and none of them took. Do you have any advice for how I can grow them here in Southern California Zone 10A? Or if you even think that it's possible. I would really appreciate any advice and help you can give me."

USDA Growing Zones Map
How to Grow Peonies in Zone 10A

I have heard of people dumping ice on their peonies during winter in hotter growing zones, but I don't have a lot of specific information on how they did it (how often, how much ice, how many days/weeks/months?). Also that sounds like quite a bit of trouble to me to grow a flower. So I would probably not recommend that approach.

I would really recommend trying to grow an intersectional peony. They are a cross between an herbaceous peony and a tree peony, and they are able to grow in a bit warmer growing zones (just like their tree peony parents). Tree peonies may be another option if you are interested, but I really think intersectional peonies will be easier to grow. Intersectional peonies are grown on their own roots, while tree peonies are normally grafted and can take longer to become established (which may be hard to do in a challenging climate).

No matter which type of peony you choose (herbaceous or intersectional), I would recommend planting them very shallow. You want to cover the roots, but the pinkish "eyes" should be at ground level, and seeing them over winter is perfectly fine (even suggested in warmer growing zones). Those "eyes" need cool temperatures during the winter to set bud.

If you choose a tree peony, plant them deep. Their "eyes" or growth buds need to be buried beneath the soil. The deeper a tree peony is planted, the better. The roots of the plant should be deep in the soil, with the actual stem (woody) part of the peony planted 3-5 inches beneath the soil surface. This will (hopefully) allow the tree peony to start growing more of its own roots from the buried tree peony stem.

A great intersectional peony to try if you are interested is Intersectional Peony 'Bartzella', an American Peony Society Gold Medal Winner. It is a stellar performer for me, always loaded with buds and flowers, and the flowers are just gorgeous - bright, full double standout yellow blooms! You can get it for a decent price nowadays too (since it has been around for a while now). Check out my intersectional peony price list for places to buy it... 2019 Intersectional Peony Catalog Price Comparison List.

I hope this information helps, and I'd love to hear more about your garden in the future. Please keep me posted on how growing peonies works out for you!

Friday, May 10, 2019

2019 Peony 'Many Happy Returns' Has a Hard Time with Wilt from Fungus

Peony 'Many Happy Returns' Deformed by Fungus

I keep thinking it's going to get better, but it's not. I've had this peony 'Many Happy Returns' for several years - since 2007 to be exact, so 12 years almost. Almost every year it is diseased, with wavy stems, stunted growth, and spots. Somehow it still manages to bloom most every year. Don't get me wrong sometimes it has okay years, but most of the time is doesn't. That's why this peony can never be a Southern Peony Best Performer because I mean, come one, who really wants a peony with wavy stems (and sometimes wavy foliage too)? I'm not sure if the fungus will ever kill this plant or not, but I don't think it will ever be pretty unless you spray it (and I don't spray anything for fungus in my garden). What you see is what you get. Luckily this is the only plant in my garden with this problem. Good thing there are several other red cultivars to choose from that don't have this issue.

Peony 'Many Happy Returns' Deformed by Fungus

Peony 'Many Happy Returns' Deformed by Fungus

Peony 'Many Happy Returns' Deformed by Fungus

Peony 'Many Happy Returns' Deformed by Fungus

Peony 'Many Happy Returns' Deformed by Fungus

Peony 'Many Happy Returns' Deformed by Fungus

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

2019 White Peonies En Masse in Front of the House

White Peonies, Dianthus, Lamb's Ear in Front of House

Well, I must say that my project 4 years ago, 2015 Move Single White Peonies to Front of House, has been quite successful. I don't quite yet have the solid mass of flowers that Don Smith had amassed, but I do think my peonies are getting larger each year, and I'm sure I'll have another update with even more blooms in future years. The first year I planted these peony divisions, not all of them even bloomed the next spring. So we are steadily seeing growth and progress in these peony plants each year with more and more blooms. I can say that I really enjoy coming home and seeing my house at the end of each day. It is so nice to appreciate being home, and these bright white single peonies are quite the welcoming sight! Welcome home!

White Single Peonies and Lamb's Ear

White Peonies, Dianthus, Lamb's Ear Beside Front Walk

Dianthus and White Peonies

White Peonies, Dianthus, Lamb's Ear on Front Sidewalk

Friday, April 26, 2019

2019 Herbaceous Peony 'Lake o' Silver' Achieves Explosive Growth From 8 to 40 Buds!

Peony 'Lake O Silver' Achieves Explosive Growth

It's hard to believe how fast this Peony 'Lake o' Silver' has grown! It went from 8 buds in 2018 to 40 buds this year in 2019! I first purchased this peony during the 2016 American Peony Society Convention. We went on several tours during the convention, and this peony was one of my 2016 Peony Purchases from Klehm's Song Sparrow Tour. Going from 8 buds to 40 buds is a 400% growth rate!!! I don't think I've ever seen any other peony in my garden grow quite that fast! If you are looking for a peony that will grow well in the South and grow fast, I would definitely check this Peony 'Lake o' Silver' out! I can't wait to see it in full bloom!

Peony 'Lake O Silver' Achieves Explosive Growth

Peony 'Lake O Silver' Achieves Explosive Growth

Peony 'Lake O Silver' Achieves Explosive Growth

Monday, April 22, 2019

2019 Severe Thunderstorms Damage to Peonies

Peony Damaged During Severe Thunderstorms

Luckily there wasn't much damage to the peonies here in the severe thunderstorm we had this weekend. I guess you could say we got off lucky. Two of our neighbors had large pine trees come down. One of them crashed through a standalone garage and really busted it up. Luckily no one was hurt. The worst we had here were some small sticks and dead branches that fell, nothing major. This is really the only damage to a peony that I found, and I'm sure that this peony will be fine. The peony stem was not broken, only smashed to the ground. So really all we needed to do was some minor cleanup, pick up an overturned potted tree, blow off the deck and driveway, and pick up lots of sticks!

Tree Peony 'Angel Choir'

Tree Peony 'Angel Choir'

Also it was nice to see this beautiful peony bloom after the storm was over. This is the first time this peony has bloomed for me. I planted it in 2017, as a fairly small division. I'm glad the "Angel" came out to sing after the storm. :-) I can't wait to see how this peony will look as it matures. It was my favorite peony in bloom when we toured Kris Casey's garden during the 2016 American Peony Society Convention. It looks like I never wrote an article about that garden tour. Perhaps I'll get back to it one day! You can tell from this photo how beautiful the plant looks when mature, with nice foliage cover, the blooms held high above the bush, and covered in huge, gorgeous white blooms!

Me with Tree Peony 'Angel Choir'

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

2019 I Finally DID IT! My First Intersectional Peony Seedling-s!

I can't believe it. I think just when you finally give up on something, it actually happens. Self doubt creeps in, you start second guessing all of your steps, trying to figure out where you went wrong, and begin to wonder if you will ever reach your goal. You start to think it may never happen, and then it does. All of the hard work you've put in all along begins to pay off. Those thoughts of failure suddenly turn into realizations of success! As soon as that goal is reached, the next one starts to materialize. There is always something new to strive for...

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

Peony Seedlings 2017 Sign
'Martha W.' X Nate Bremer's Rainbow

Somehow after years of trying, an intentional peony cross of mine finally succeeded. These two particular intersectional seedlings started out as just a happen chance idea in 2016. During the 2016 APS Peony Convention Tour of Solaris Farms, I was learning quite a lot from Don Smith, and he asked Nate if he would allow him to collect tree peony pollen from his farm, and Nate graciously invited us to collect as much pollen as we liked. Don shared a few of his envelopes with me, and I went to work, following his lead. My eyes and heart led me towards the lavender and purple colored tree peonies. Tree Peony 'Wisteria Reflections' was blooming at the time of our visit, and this was one I collected pollen from and saved it in a separate envelope. Since Don Smith didn't have many envelopes to spare, I collected lots more pollen from a wide range of tree peony colors and put it all in one envelope, which I later labeled "Nate Bremer's Rainbow". :-)

Intersectional Peony Seedling - 'Martha W.' X 'Wisteria Reflections'

Intersectional Peony Seedling
'Martha W.' X 'Wisteria Reflections'

Since my bloom season was over by the time I got home, I froze the pollen in my freezer for use the next year. That was almost 3 years ago now, and I am just now seeing the fruits of that pollen. Also it looks like I planted the seeds a bit late that year in late November, 2017 Intersectional Peony Hybridizing Efforts. So maybe if I'd planted them sooner they would have sprouted a year earlier, but who knows? I am just happy I actually got it right this time, unlike the first year I got a seedling to sprout. The only thing that sprouted that year was an accidental herbaceous peony, 2017 First Intersectional Hybrid Seedling Sprouts!. The foliage of that first sprout and these is very obviously different. That 2017 sprout had very rounded foliage with a few "pest" notches where something had eaten a few bites out of each leaf, whereas these 2019 sprouts clearly have deeper cut notched foliage that is reminiscent of tree peonies. The coloring is also different. The 2017 seedling had more red colored foliage upon sprouting with a thicker substance. These 2019 seedlings have a very intersectional grayish colored overcast to them. Very exciting! Also you never know what that first herbaceous sprout from 2017 might be good for, perhaps a good future parent. Sometimes things happen for a reason...

Friday, February 15, 2019

2019 It's Starting! Herbaceous Peonies are Growing!

I can't believe it is starting already. I found a few of my existing herbaceous peonies that I've had for years that have decided to start growing. Spring will be here before we know it! The first three I've found so far this year are Peony 'Tropicana', Peony 'Pink Hawaiian Coral, and Peony 'America'. Also the Peony 'Glowing Candles' that sprouted super early, 2019 Peony 'Glowing Candles' Tries to Grow Again in January, has been hanging on for a while now. It is very determined and even has two foliage shoots now! However I'm not sure yet if I will see a bloom from it this spring or not. It is just so exciting beginning to see the first signs of spring. My hellebores are coming into full bloom now, and the daphnes have been heavily perfuming the air - what a gorgeous and good smelling preview of what's to come!

Peony 'Tropicana'

Peony 'Pink Hawaiian Coral'

Peony 'America'

Peony 'Glowing Candles'

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

2019 Peony 'Glowing Candles' Tries to Grow Again in January

Well, the first sprout on my newly planted Peony 'Glowing Candles' has already died. Back in November, shortly after I planted this peony root (in October), it sprouted the first time, 2018 Song Sparrow Peony Root Sprouting in the Fall. Now it's January, and it is sprouting again. We always have weird winter weather here in NC. You never really know what you're going to get, like the 2018 7 Inches of Snow on Southern Peony Gardens! we got this December. It was 71 degrees on January 1st for the high and 31 degress on the 21st for the high. It's mostly been in the 50s, 60s, or 40s for the high, but we've had some much colder weather so far this week. The 17 degree overnight temperatures we've had this week have surely done it in again. I just hope this thing has some eyes left (and energy) come spring!

Peony 'Glowing Candles' Growing Again in January

The more I think about this, the more I feel sure this root must have been refrigerated for some time (maybe even an extended period of time). I bought this root from the 2018 Fall Peony Sale @ Song Sparrow where they had 7 select peony varieties on sale for $19.95. The varieties they put on sale were 'David Harum', 'Glowing Candles', 'Green Lotus', 'High Adventure', 'Honey N Cream', 'Jubilee Pink', and 'Scarlet O'Hara'. I'm guessing those 7 varieties must have been overstocked and were in need of being sold, thus the price markdown. I couldn't resist buying Peony 'Glowing Candles', though, because it just looks so lovely. I'm wondering if anyone else who bought a root or two from this sale has had the same experience as me with having them sprout early (just curious)...

Monday, December 24, 2018

2018 Mulch for Peonies from Tree Removal

Free Mulch from Removed Trees

So I've been a little busy since I had the trees removed, 2018 More Light for Tree Peonies, Sweet Gum Ball & Poplar Trees Gone! I had a little something left in my driveway after they trees were removed, a giant pile of gorgeous mulch! Usually I am able to get a load of free mulch from someone's else trees, but this time I got a load of free mulch from my own trees. The largest pieces of the stumps were not able to be shredded. So those were hauled away to the dump, but the tops of the trunks and all of the branches were all shredded to leave me this beautiful bright colored mulch. I really took for granted how many tree were removed for all those loads of mulch I'd gotten in the past. They took out seven very large trees on my property just to create one load of mulch!

Free Mulch on Tree Peony Bed

So anyway I've been busily spreading my (kind of) free mulch all over my yard in whatever beds needed it most. I was able to cover my children's playground and the dogwood trees and planting beds around it, my intersectional peony bed, my Saunders peony bed, and my tree peony bed already. I have been using my gorilla cart to put the mulch out, and I still have a few loads left to put out. Hopefully I can finish putting it out this year. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas (or Happy Holiday) and a Prosperous New Year! May your hearts be filled with the joy of the season, while we all look forward to the next (peony) season (Spring!) with great anticipation! Take Care & Warm Wishes - Adriana