Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 Soil for New Peony Beds

Well I finally got the mountains of new dirt raked out into nicely shaped beds for my peonies. One peony bed will be for seedlings. The other peony bed will be for intersectional peonies. I'm kind of excited to see how these grow in the spring. With such nice soil to grow in these should do really well! The intersectional peony bed turned out to be 9ft X 12ft. The peony seedling test bed turned out to be 7ft X 8ft. They're not huge, but they're pretty good size. I'm sure I'll be able to squeeze lots of intersectional peonies and peony seedlings into them for now - and I'm sure the beds will grow in size later! ;) The next thing I need to do is figure out the layout. Then when my fall shipments arrive, I'll know where to plant them. :)

Intersectional Peony Bed Soil

Peony Test Seedling Bed Soil

Monday, September 3, 2012

2012 APS Bulletin Article - Peony Weekend Panoply

Yay! I got the latest issue of the APS Peony Bulletin - September 2012 with my article in it. How exciting! Here's a reprint of the article. Enjoy!

The 2012 American Peony Society Convention was held in Omaha, Nebraska this year, and despite the lack of a local ‘host’ peony club, the convention was well organized, had a great showing of flowers, and had lots of extra activities to keep you busy!

On Friday we visited Joslyn Castle. The grounds of the Joslyn Castle were rich, well landscaped, and nicely manicured. However their beauty did not rival that of the castle. Though it lacked the company of its original furniture, the castle was finely appointed in detail and craftsmanship. From the tiny mosaic inlaid tile to the hand carved mantels and archways, the time and attention to detail was obvious. One of my favorite features was a set of 3 stained glass windows nestled above a comfy cushioned window seat overlooking a tiny yet full and lush conservatory of moisture loving plants including ferns, tropical foliage, and orchids. It also contained a small waterfall and pond, with the noise from the water feature bringing an element of the outdoors inside which, I’m sure, was enjoyed with even greater pleasure in the winter months. Unfortunately the peony bloom season had already passed. So the century old peonies boasted only bare foliage and cut flower stems.

After visiting the castle we headed to Mahoney State Park to visit the Sass Memorial Gardens. The flowers came super early this year to the Sass Memorial Gardens. So we missed them by about a month. However the lack of a distracting abundant floral display gave additional opportunities for the APS members to socialize and discuss the drastic difference in the weather this year and how it affected their own peony bloom seasons.

After visiting the State Park, we headed to Lauritzen Gardens for lunch and a tour. Lunch was simple, but delicious, and a welcome break. The catered lunch was held in the Lauritzen Gardens indoor atrium which was filled with lush tropical plants including beautiful hot pink bougainvillea tree. The Award of Landscape Merit training meeting given by Don Hollingsworth immediately followed the lunch. APS members had their choice of the ALM meeting or additional tour time in the garden. Lauritzen Gardens was a beautiful garden with a contrasting mix of nicely manicured, carefully landscaped areas and fields of wildflowers and open natural areas. In addition to a peony garden, there was also a rose garden, a Victorian garden, a miniature train garden, and much more.

The 2012 American Peony Society flower show was huge even though most of the growers complained about their seasons. I think they were just trying to set the judges' expectations a bit low so they could shine. Everyone was busy with preparations on Saturday morning trying to get ready for the cut off before the judging of the show. The color of Peony 'Hephestos' must have captured the hearts of the judges this year. What a rare and dark color, which is fitting for the god of blacksmiths. It won the Court of Honor for Best Red Lutea Hybrid, and also the Grand Champion Peony, Best of Show ribbon.

The social hour started early and lasted long. The room was cold, but the hearts were warm as everyone socialized and waited for the business meeting and banquet dinner to begin. The business meeting was short and sweet with three new board members elected. The buffet dinner was tasty with beef, salmon, mashed potatoes, veggies, salad, and bread. We all listened to a presentation on the Sass Brothers’ hybridizing feats including all of the medals they’d won over the years. One of the highlights of the talk was the announcement that he’d brought the actual 1943 APS Gold Medal that the Sass Brothers had been awarded (for Peony ‘Elsa Sass’) for everyone to view. The APS Editor, Claudia Shroer, made sure we all had our dessert, and it was very good, a red velvet cake. However the peony auction may have been even better. Lucas Hudson, the APS Secretary, conducted a lively APS peony auction as usual, and there were lots of rare and prized peony varieties to bid on.

If you didn’t make it to the convention this year, make plans to attend next year which I’m sure will be even bigger and better! :-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

2012 New Dirt for New Peony Beds

Woo hoo! I got my dirt for my new peony beds today! I am so excited. As you can see there are two mountains of dirt for me to work on. One mountain of dirt is for my new intersectional peony bed, and the other is for my new peony seedling test bed. Now that my Peony Bed Soil Solarization project is complete, I had my new dirt delivered this week. This new dirt is much better than the clay subsoil beneath it. So this should make for a nutrient rich mix of soil for my new peony beds. Now I just need to spread it out and mix it into the subsoil a bit. You can see my APS Gold Medal peony garden and Saunders' peony garden in the background of the intersectional peony bed picture. In the background of the peony seedling test bed picture, you can see the old peony seedling test bed. I am so excited about this new dirt. I have brought good soil in for my vegetable garden before, but never for my peonies. All of my current peonies are just planted right in whatever zone 7 dirt happens to be in my garden, and they grow and bloom just fine. So I can't wait to see the difference this good quality dirt is going to make!
New Dirt for Intersectional Peony Bed

New Dirt for Peony Test Seedling Bed

Monday, August 6, 2012

2012 Carolina Country Old Peonies for New Gardens

I was delighted to see an article on peonies in latest issue of Carolina Country magazine. Carolina Country is a free magazine that's published by my electric cooperative and has several features every month. One of the feature sections is on gardening, and this month there is an article called 'Old Peonies for New Gardens' by L.A. Jackson. It goes over several tips for planting peonies in our area like planting peonies in September, growing them in 6 hours of sun, a planting hole at least 18" deep X 12" wide, and planting no more than 2 inches deep. I agree with most of what he says. However I never plant my peonies 2 inches deep. I plant them pretty much even with the surface, with their pink eyes just barely peeking out. He also mentions, "Setting peony divisions too deep is one of the main reasons these beauties fail to flower.", with which I wholeheartedly agree! That's probably the most important thing in the whole article! It is very important to plant peonies as close to the surface as possible. He also mentions some "time-tested" varieties for southern gardens: Peony 'Felix Crousse' (raspberry red double), Peony 'Festiva Maxima' (white double), Peony 'Flame' (red single), Peony 'Monsieur Jules Elie' (pink double), Peony 'Nymphe' (pink single), and Peony 'Sarah Bernhardt' (pink double). I grow all of these selections, and they have all bloomed for me here in my zone 7 southern garden. So these are all probably safe bets. :) Happy Gardening!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

2012 Peony Bed Soil Solarization

Wow! I just came back home to find the sun had done a great job not only solarizing my soil, but also my plastic sheeting! I put down a clear plastic sheet to solarize the soil for my Intersectional Peony Bed Preparation in the middle of June. The plastic sheet I used for the intersectional peony bed was not new. It was a few years old. It held up pretty well until last week when it started to get a few tears in it, but when I came back and took a look at it yesterday, it was half gone and in shreds! So I guess the bed is officially solarized! The ground looks pretty sterile, and it has been a little over 6 weeks now since I first put the plastic sheeting down. It usually takes about 4-6 weeks to complete the soil solarization. So I guess the plastic sheeting held up just long enough! Now the planting bed should be ready for the new, good soil to go on top and get mixed in - after I have fun picking up all of the plastic bits, of course! ;-)

Intersectional Peony Bed Soil Solarized

I also started another soil solarization project a couple weeks after the first one for a new peony seedling test bed. I used a newer plastic sheet, and this one seems to be holding up much better. As you can see the weeds and grass underneath the plastic are all dead and brown. So this bed should be ready soon too. Maybe I can get the dirt next week!

Peony Seedling Test Bed Soil Solarization