Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 Peony obovata willmottiae Red & Blue Seed Pods

Wow! I said it once about this peony when it bloomed, First Bloom on Peony P. obovata var. willmottiae, and I'll say it again! If you want a peony that's going to brighten up your shade garden in spring and in fall, then Peony P. obovata var. willmottiae is definitely the peony for you! The white blooms with a burgundy and gold center really brighten up the shade garden in the spring, but the eye-popping fuchsia, red, and blue seed pods are like watching a brightly colored fireworks display in early fall! So if you were thinking you needed another reason to grow this shade loving beauty, then you've definitely got one!

Peony obovata var. willmottiae Seed Pod

Monday, September 15, 2014

2014 Questions - Brown Peony Leaves in Late Summer

I received this question from Kay in zone 7:
"My hybrid peony (I only have one so far) is looking scorched and burned. Is this typical this time of year??? I guess it could be rust. Not sure. Here is picture and it is a hybrid Keiko (adored) Itoh Peony. It has been in the ground since early spring. Please give me some guidance as to what you think. It is appreciated."

Kay's Peony 'Keiko' (Adored) with Browned Foliage

Actually late summer is just the time of year that the foliage gets a little tired and starts to die back for the winter. Some varieties do die back earlier than others. It looks like the foliage on your Peony 'Keiko' does have a little bit of blight as well as some die back on the foliage. However I wouldn't worry about it too much. It really is a personal gardening preference of how you'd like to deal with it. I try to stay as natural and organic with my peonies as possible. So I don't usually apply any chemical fungicides. As long as your plant is increasing in size and blooms each year, I wouldn't worry about it. Peonies are a special type of plant that only get one set of leaves per year. So as the year progresses, the foliage naturally tends to get more ragged, bitten, browned, and spotted. Some peony varieties are more resistant to disease than others. Also some peony varieties experience foliage die back at earlier times in the year. For example all of the foliage on my coral peonies has died back by this time of the year, while the foliage on most of my other herbaceous peonies is still alive. It is important to leave the foliage on the plant in the fall since the roots store the energy from the leaves to help the plant survive the winter. Also these storage roots generate the energy needed for the plant to grow and bloom next spring. So fall is a great time to fertilize peonies. I would recommend an organic fertilizer around the plants drip line or a thin layer of compost. I do see you have an automatic watering system. If the foliage on the peony stays wet all the time, the leaves will be more susceptible to the blight, as the wet conditions create a favorable environment for the blight to multiply. So deeper, less frequent waterings are recommended. Once the leaves are completely brown, you can remove them and throw them away in the trash. Do not compost them or leave them on the ground over winter to prevent the blight from multiplying. I hope this information helps, and good luck with your peony!

Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 Peony Seeds for APS Seed Distribution Program

Peony Seeds for Donation

I finally got my peony seeds packaged up that I am donating to the American Peony Society Seed Distribution Program. I am donating peony seed from 5 different peony varieties (Peony 'Golden Frolic', Peony 'Miss America', Peony 'Pink Luau', Peony 'Pink Princess', and Peony 'Roy Pehrson's Best Yellow') of my 2014 Collected Peony Seeds. The rest of the varieties I have already planted to see what nature has created. Since I donated 5 varieties of seed, that means I can select 2 packets of peony seeds from other growers for FREE! That's cool! For every two varieties of peony seed you donate, you can select one packet of free seeds. If you'd like more information on how you can get your own free seeds, check out the American Peony Society Seed Distribution Program. All of the donated seeds go to Scott, the newly elected APS President, who runs the APS Seed Distribution Program. I can't wait to see what varieties of seed will be available from this year's harvest!

Peony Seeds Packed for Shipment

Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014 How to Plant Peony Seeds

The first step in planting peony seeds is soaking them. This step is not required depending on how fresh your seeds are and whether you feel like soaking them. I usually soak purchased peony seeds just because I'm not sure exactly how they've been handled, and I really have no way of knowing how old they are. If you do decide to soak them, I would recommend soaking them overnight in individual containers separated by peony variety.

Soak Peony Seeds

Next when you're ready to plant your seeds, gather all the needed materials to do so. You'll need the seeds separated by variety, some sturdy plant markers to mark the seeds, and something to poke (pen or pencil) or dig (trowel or shovel) into the soil with. If I don't have very many of a variety, then I will just plant them by poking small holes in the soil rather than digging.

Materials Needed to Plant Peony Seeds

If you have lots of one variety (like more than 10 or 15), then you will probably want to use a trowel or small shovel to make a shallow hole where you'd like to plant your peony seeds. I usually plant my peony seeds about 1 inch deep to make sure they don't get heaved, scratched, or eroded out of the soil. I also usually plant my peony seeds about 1-2 inches apart. This is too close to grow peonies. However all of your seeds may not germinate, and you can always move them to a different location after 1 or 2 years when they start to get larger.

Dig a Shallow Hole for the Peony Seeds

Plant Peony Seeds in Soil

After you have a flat shallow hole dug for your peony seeds, you can scatter them in the bottom of the hole or arrange them neatly in rows and/or columns according to your preference. Next cover the peony seeds with the soil you removed from your shallow hole.

Cover the Peony Seeds with Soil

Poke the Soil to Make a Planting Hole for a Peony Seed

An alternate method of planting the peony seeds would be to poke a hole in the soil for each seed and plant them individually. This method is good when you only have a few seeds of each variety to plant. I usually use a pen, pencil, or marker to make a small hole in the soil. Then I drop the seed into the hole, and use the writing implement to press the seed into the bottom of the hole. Then cover the seed with the surrounding soil.

Plant Peony Seeds

After your peony seeds have all been planted, make sure to water them and keep them moist! This is a very important step! I usually use a watering can with a rain drop head to lightly sprinkle the water over the seeds. This will prevent the soil from washing away and uncovering your peony seeds. Now just keep them watered and wait for them to sprout! Fresh peony seeds may germinate the next spring if planted promptly after they are ripe. However older seeds may take another year before they germinate. (That's why it is super important to have a sturdy seedling label that won't be heaved out of the soil in the winter.) Be patient and you will be rewarded!

Water Peony Seeds

Monday, August 25, 2014

2014 Carolina Gardening Peony Tip of the Month

I noticed a peony tip in my Carolina Country magazine this month. This is a free magazine sent out by my electric cooperative. It covers a Southern region and usually has gardening tips or a gardening section in it each month. This month the peony tip caught my eye, and I thought I'd share it with all of you.

Carolina Country Tip of the Month

"Late summer is prime peony planting time. Since peonies need a proper duration of chilly weather to bloom satisfactorily in the spring, look for older varieties such as 'Teresa', 'Sarah Bernhardt', 'Felix Crousse', or 'Festiva Maxima' that require less cold for bud set, or ask your local nursery for newer peony selections specifically bred for mild Southern winters. In addition, bury the crowns only about 1½ inches below ground so they will be less insulated from the cold weather. Finally, for stronger, sooner flowering peonies buy divisions that have at least three to four "eyes"."

I've never heard of the peony variety 'Teresa', and actually there is not one registered under this name. However I do grow all the rest of the varieties - 'Felix Crousse', 'Festiva Maxima' and 'Sarah Bernhardt', and they do grow and bloom well here in the South. There is one part of the tip I do disagree with however, and that is the planting depth. The author of this peony tip suggests planting your peony "eyes" 1½ inches below ground. However I would not plant them that deep. I usually plant my peonies even with the ground and put a tiny bit of mulch on top (½ inch or less). Even ½ inch would probably be okay, but 1½ inches would be too deep especially if you live even farther South than I do (zone 7). The depth of the peony directly affect how many chilling hours it receives, and as the author notes the more shallow they are planted the "less insulated" they are from the cold weather. Peonies need this cold weather to bloom and grow properly. It is definitely possible to plant your peony to deep and prevent it from blooming. So if you have your peony planted too deep or buried under too much mulch, dig it up and plant it much shallower or remove most of your mulch. This is a common problem in the South, and one I made myself (planted too deep) as a little girl growing my first peonies. I also visited my neighbors peony at their request this year to determine why it was not blooming. They had it buried under 4 inches of pine straw. The leaves still grew beautifully, but there were no blooms. I suggested they remove most or all of the pine straw so that it would get enough chilling hours this winter to hopefully bloom next spring!