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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!

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


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

2020 Tree Peony 'Koukamon' Blooms in Week 5 Late Mid Season!


Tree Peony 'Koukamon' 皇嘉門 (Floral Gate)

The weather must be really confusing the peonies this year. My Tree Peony 'Koukamon' 皇嘉門 (Floral Gate) bloomed in Week 5 this year! I have never had a tree peony bloom this late (that wasn't a brand new spring planted addition to the garden). Regardless, I am really enjoying the spacing out of this peony season. I kind of wish it could be like this every year! It looks like this tree peony first bloomed for me in 2018, and it bloomed in Week 2 Early season! So you can see what a difference it has had in the bloom season this year, almost 3 weeks later than normal! Regardless of when this Tree Peony 'Koukamon' blooms, I am grateful for it. This is such a gorgeous tree peony and an awesome shade of purple!


Tree Peony 'Koukamon' 皇嘉門 (Floral Gate)
Blooms in Week 5 Late Mid Season


Tree Peony 'Koukamon' 皇嘉門 (Floral Gate)


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

2020 Tree Peony 'Renown' Blooms in Week 4 Mid Season!


Tree Peony 'Renown'

Either I don't grow enough tree peonies yet, or this tree peony is really mixed up this year. Tree Peony 'Renown' bloomed for me this year for the first time, with 3 blooms, and it bloomed in Week 4 - Mid Season! I couldn't believe it. I just tried looking it up in the APS database to see what season it is supposed to bloom in, and it didn't say, but it did say this, "Reblooms in July – August" Wow! I had no idea that some tree peonies reliably rebloom! I am very curious to see this. I also checked the Adelman Peony Gardens web site where I originally purchased it, and it says it blooms "midseason". So maybe this is the right time for it to bloom. The tree peony had only 1 stem for me last year (the first year it grew), and this year (the second year of growth) it has 4 stems and 3 blooms! I am just blown away!! I can't wait to see what this one does later in the season and how well it grows next year too!


Tree Peony 'Renown'


Tree Peony 'Renown'


Tree Peony 'Renown'


Tree Peony 'Renown'

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

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! :-)

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!

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

Saturday, February 22, 2020

2020 Southern Peony RHS Color Matching


Peony Color Matching Tree Peony 'Lavender Hill'

I was able to capture some new peony colors this past bloom season. You can find the results of these new color codings on our Southern Peony Colors page. It takes good timing, a good "to do list", a good memory, and a handy RHS Color Chart to make this happen. It is really easy to miss the bloom on a particular plant on just the right day. Luckily, I was able to capture 13 new color codings last spring for my Southern Peony Color chart. We now have 226 peonies color coded!!! Wow! If you are looking to design with color, whether it be for your garden or for a bouquet, I hope you find our peony color chart useful! Enjoy!!


Peony Color Matching Tree Peony 'KC Red'


Peony Color Matching Intersectional Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

The new peony color codings completed in 2019 and just added to our Southern Peony Color Chart are:

Autumn Harvest - 4A Yellow
Canary Brilliants - 8C Light Yellow
Coral Sunset - 48C Red Pink
Faithful Dream - 38B Light Red Pink
First Arrival - N74C
Krekler's Red - 58A Purple
Magical Mystery Tour - 38B Light Red Pink
Nippon Beauty - 58A Purple
Skylark - 58B Purple Red
Sonoma Apricot - 8C Light Yellow
Sonoma Blessing - 38D Light Red Pink
Tropicana - 52A Dark Pink Red
Zuzu - N155B White



Peony Color Matching Tree Peony 'Shimadaijin'


Peony Color Matching Tree Peony 'Lavender Grace'