Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 Newly Planted Peony Sprouting in Fall

As you can see this peony is a little confused. Yes, we have been having a quite mild winter so far this year, and yes it was 70 degrees this weekend. Nice weather for me, but confusing weather for the new peonies I just planted this fall. They think it's spring! I wish. :) Unfortunately this is not good. The weather here is definitely going to get colder, and there's no way the buds on these two sprouts will ever open. That's not good for this peony root either. The plant is going to waste a lot of energy from it's storage roots to try to grow these sprouts, the colder weather here will kill the sprouts, and the roots will have to send up more sprouts in the spring. The waste of that much energy will probably set this plant back at least 1-2 years in it's development.
Fall Sprout on Newly Planted Peony 'Pink Parasol Surprise'

This has happened to me several times previously. The problem is caused because these roots are used to a much cooler climate (since this root was purchased from Song Sparrow - a Wisconsin climate - zone 5a vs zone 7b here). For this peony root to see these kinds of temperatures, it thinks it is spring. This is not always a problem for every root I purchase, but it has happened several times in the past. My hopes is that in the future there will be more commercial southern peony growers so that southern peony aficianados can orders their roots from growers with a climate similar to their own.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2012 How to Cut Back an Herbaceous Peony

Herbaceous peonies should be cut back each year to create a pleasing aesthetic in your peony gardens, maintain good air circulation, and prevent the spread of disease. Diseased, dying, and dead peony foliage isn't very nice to look, and cutting back your peonies will definitely present a cleaner and neater appearance in your peony beds. Old foliage from the previous year is going to prevent air circulation around the base of the plant which would create a moist environment ripe for the growth of foliar disease. Also any diseased foliage left in the peony bed gives the disease a chance to infect the newly emerging foliage in spring.

Herbaceous Peony in Fall

Cut Back Herbaceous Peony at Base of Stem

Using sharp clippers cut each of the peony stems back at the very base of the stem, even with the ground. Take care to avoid clipping any pink buds (peony eyes) that may be showing. These are the beginnings of the peony's growth cycle for the coming year. These pink buds will develop into next year's shoots. So be careful to stay away from those buds since they will become next year's foliage and possibly blooms as well!

Hollow Stem of Cut Peony and Pink Bud (Peony Eye)

Remove the Cut Peony Foliage

After cutting back all of the peony stems, make sure to throw all of the stems and foliage away. Do not compost the cut back peony stems and foliage. It is best to completely remove all of the cut peony foliage from the garden. I usually keep a plastic bag with me in the garden while I am cutting back the foliage, and I will put the cut foliage in the back as I go. Also examine the ground after removing the cut foliage to see if there are any peony leaves that were left behind. Take care to remove any loose peony leaves that you find.

Short Stem of Cut Peony

Some people will leave a short 2-3 stem on all of their peony shoots when cleaning up in the fall as shown on one stem in the picture above. I think some people like to keep the short stems to help them remember where their peonies are planted. However here in my growing zone, I can almost always see the pink buds (peony eyes) showing through fall and winter. I also make sure to keep my plants labeled and mapped, so I know their location and variety. I always cut my peonies back even with the ground. I figure if you are cutting back the plant to remove the green plant parts to prevent disease, the more you cut back, the less surface area for the disease to use as a host.

Herbaceous Peony Completely Cut Back

Sunday, December 2, 2012

2012 Cut Back Fall Foliage on Peonies

I can't believe it's December already, the last month of 2012. On Friday, the last day of November, I got a start on cutting back some of my peonies. That is the earliest I've started cutting them back in a few years. In the last couple of years, I've just been so busy that I haven't gotten around to cutting them back until after the new year. I actually cut back a few of them that still had some color on the foliage. Most of them were already brown, however. Here are the before and after pictures from cleaning up and cutting back my Saunderss peony garden. I also took the time to record the stem counts for any peonies I hadn't yet recorded the data on, and I also made sure to bag up all of the old peony foliage to try to prevent the spread of disease. Everything looks so much nicer now. Having a nice clean peony bed makes me long for spring when their soft pink tendrils will once again emerge from the soil!

Saunders Peony Garden with Dead Foliage

Saunders Peony Garden Cleaned Up