Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013 Questions - Chinese Tree Peony Seeds Sprouting

I received this question from Gayle in zone 5:
"Just wondering if you have had any success germinating your Chinese Peony seed order? I ordered the same packages and just sowed them. I hope to get a few new plants from the order, however, it is not as easy to germinate seeds as they say. Do you have any secrets for a successful germination rate?"

Honestly I am relatively new to planting peony seeds. Although I have been growing seeds I've harvested from my own garden since 2007, I have only started growing purchased seeds in the last 3 years. I am a very laissez faire gardener, and generally prefer to let Mother Nature do her thing. So all of my peony seeds are sowed outdoors in beds of topsoil. I usually do not add any fertilizer to these beds.

Chinese Tree Peony Seeds Sowed in Peony Seedling Test Bed

I have noticed so far that the seeds I have harvested myself do seem to germinate at much higher rates than any that I've purchased. I'm not sure if this is a factor of age of the seeds, handling conditions of the seeds, or suitability to my growing zone. The seeds I've raised, harvested, and planted myself are mostly lactiflora hybrids. The seeds I've purchased are mainly various types of species peony seeds and the above mentioned Chinese tree peony seeds. So their origins are far and wide around the US and the globe, and really there's no way for me to know the length of time since the purchased seeds were harvested. Whereas when planting my own seeds, I generally plant them the same season they are havested. I definitely want to give these Chinese Tree Peony Seeds some more time to sprout since it's only been a few months since they were planted. I am curious to see if and how many of these tree peony seeds sprout this coming spring. I will keep you posted on their progress. As you can see, they are all nicely labeled and waiting to germinate!

Monday, July 29, 2013

2013 Manual of the American Peony Society First Edition

First Edition of the American Peony Society Handbook, 1928

I was lucky enough to find a copy of the first edition of the American Peony Society Manual on Ebay for about $30. Unfortunately, the book binding is not in the best condition. However, the print is still legible, and I have started reading it. It tells how the American Peony Society was originally formed, with their original purpose being to straighten out the rampant problem of mislabeled plants, duplications of names, and trying to determine which peonies should be kept in commerce and which discarded. It also gives a finalized list of these peonies with descriptions once they'd been properly identified, condensed, and approved. The next section is about growing the peony. Interestingly enough this section starts out with personal letters from growers all over the North American continent from Canada to Georgia, with all of the southern gardeners mentioning how they don't understand why northern gardeners always say that peonies don't do well in the south. It seems we southern gardeners are still trying to disprove this enduring myth! :-P

APS Handbook - Color Plate of Peony 'Solange'

APS Handbook - Color Plate of Peony 'Walter Faxon'

APS Handbook - Color Plate of Peony 'Mikado'

Thursday, July 25, 2013

2013 Monrovia Itoh Peony 'Misaka'™ 美 (Beautiful Blossom) & Itoh Peony 'Takara'™ 慈悲 (Treasure)

Today I got an email from one of my favorite local garden centers saying that select annuals and perennials were 50% off. I called them since I was just there on Monday, and the peonies were only 30% off then. They said they would give me 50% off of the peonies even though there weren't yet marked to 50% off. So I went to the nursery right away and picked out another one of the Monrovia Itoh peonies from their Japanese heritage collection. They had two varieties left that I didn't have yet. I'd purchased 2013 Monrovia Itoh Peony 'Keiko'™ (Adored) a little over a month ago, and one other variety was already sold out. The two they had left were Peony 'Misaka'™ (Beautiful Blossom) & Peony 'Takara'™ (Treasure).
'Misaka'™ 美 (Beautiful Blossom)
Itoh Peony
'Takara'™ 慈悲 (Treasure)
Itoh Peony

I first selected the Peony 'Takara'™ since it was the largest plant, the foliage looked the healthiest, and it had a seed pod on it (so I knew it had bloomed this spring). I also wanted a Peony 'Misaka'™, but the only two they had left were in bad shape, and even 50% off didn't seem like enough. So I asked the staff member if it were possible that they might take more than 50% off for one of those two since they looked so bad. One had very sparse foliage with some blight, and the other one had lots of stunted yellow foliage, which looks like it might have been from over fertilization. The staff member didn't think they would take anything more off, but agreed to check with the management to be sure. When he came back, he said they would take more off of the plant, 75% off! I was very happy at the news, and decided to purchase one of each Peony 'Misaka'™ & Peony 'Takara'™ to put in my Japanese garden. I can't wait to see how lovely these three peonies look next spring when they are all in bloom!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

2013 Purple Tree Peony Seedlings From Ebay UK

Purple Tree Peony Seedlings for Sale on Ebay

I was lucky enough to happen upon these purple tree peony seedlings for sale on Ebay a few weeks ago. Purple is my favorite color, and I couldn't believe how cheap these peony seedlings were selling for. I don't know if these new plants will be true to seed, but I am definitely interested and excited to see what kind of plant and flower these seedlings will turn out to have. I purchased two of these seedlings on July 14th, and they arrived in the mail yesterday - Royal Mail! :-) These plants are from Blandford, Dorset, United Kingdom. It seems they don't get as cold there in the winter, and they also do not get as hot in the summer. Their temperatures are much more stable than they are here in NC. So I'm curious to see how the plant adjusts to our weather here.

Purple Tree Peony Seedlings from the UK

The plants were definitely stressed from their international voyage, and I'm sure the summer weather here didn't help them much. However they were still a bit moist even though the soil was a bit shaken up. The leaves started to turn brown on the edges, but even if they go dormant now, I think they will still survive. At least I hope they will. That's why I bought two, just in case! I did get a good look at the roots on these since the soil was shaken up quite a bit, and the roots on at least one of them looked really healthy. On one of the plants I noticed the seed was still attached to the peony root where it sprouted, and I have never seen a peony seed this BIG before!!! I put a ruler next to it and another normal sized tree peony seed next to it for reference. The peony seed from this purple tree peony looks a little over 5/8", where the normal peony seed looks a little under 3/8". That's a big difference! Well I guess we'll see what these giant seeded peonies can do!
Purple Tree Peony Seedling
Purple Tree Peony Seed

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 RHS Peony Bloom Color Chart Coding

I have been working on collecting data on my peony blooms' petal color for 4 years now. I use the RHS Mini Colour Chart for the bloom color groupings. I think I have a pretty good start on this project by now, so I can start posting some of my data, and will continue to update it in the future. I am dedicating a new page for this information called Peony Bloom Colors. Hopefully this information will help people in identifying unknown peonies, creating gardening and landscaping plans for their properties, and selecting just the right color of peony for their gardens.

2010 Peony Bloom Color Coding
2012 Peony Colors

RHS Mini Colour Chart for Peony Bloom Coding

The first year I collected data, I had 84 peony varieties color coded. This year I have 139 peony bloom colors documented. Please keep in mind that there is undoubtedly a margin of error in this information since it is all subjective. However these categorizations should be mostly accurate, and hopefully helpful in describing and grouping these peony bloom colors. Also please note that these color codings were taken on the first day of the open bloom, as peony bloom colors tend to fade over time. Some favorable controls in this information are that these peonies are all grown in the same location and the data was all collected by the same person. Also the standard disclaimer applies about the display of the color on different monitors. So please use these peony bloom color groupings as a general guide. :-) If you notice any variety that is grouped in a wildly different color category that what it should be listed in, please notify me, as I may have received a mislabeled peony from the grower. Thank you!

Friday, July 12, 2013

2013 Peony 'Grace Root' Adventitious Bud Stem Flower

Peony 'Grace Root'

Peony 'Grace Root' definitely is a beautiful plant. This peony was hybridized by Saunders and registered in 1940. According to the registration for this plant, it is a lobata hybrid: "Single - Pink - Hybrid. Clear light salmon pink, cut shaped single. Albiflora x lobata. Lists in Bulletins 91 and 129." Peony 'Grace Root' is beautiful not only for her lovely neon coral-pink blossoms that stand out in the early peony bloom season, but also because of her rare ability to generate new plants from her roots.

Peony 'Grace Root' Plant
with Adventitious Bud/Stem Growing From Root

This curiosity is called adventitious bud development. These adventitious buds develop in an unusual place on the plant, the roots, instead of the usual location for bud development, the crown. This small plantlet can be separated from the mother plant by root division. Normal peony division would require a crown and root division to obtain a viable plant. However this new peony plantlet will develop its own crown when separated and planted out on its own.

Peony 'Grace Root' Adventitious Bud/Stem Growing From Root

This particular adventitious peony bud / plantlet is actually in its second year, and it also developed a bloom this year. It assumably benefited from still being attached to the mother plant, which allowed it to use energy from the mother's plants storage roots to develop a flower bud so quickly. When grown from seed, peonies can take 3-5 years to flower or more! I plan to separate out this adventitious bud / plantlet this fall. I'll keep you posted on how it does. I'm curious to see how well it grows, and how long it takes to make babies (adventitious buds) of its own!

Peony 'Grace Root' Flower on Adventitious Bud/Stem

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2013 Companion Plants for Peonies

Peonies and Oriental Lilies

I was thinking about how lovely these oriental lilies looked next to my peonies when I decided that might be a great topic to share - companion plants for peonies. Some other plants that I like to plant near my peonies are spring bloomers like irises, if you want to get some complimentary blooms. Or if you want to add some color to accent the gorgeous green summer foliage of peonies, tall summer blooming bulbs like lilies and gladioli are perfect complements to the medium height foliage of the peonies. I like to plant the lilies in between the roots of two peonies and maybe slightly behind. This has two purposes. One to give the lilies some support with the peony foliage in front of them, and two to hide the emerging lily shoot from the deer! I can't say this works all of the time, but in my yard it does work most years! I think that's the only reason I have lilies and hostas in my yard (because I surround them with peonies and hellebores!)

Peonies and Fairy Roses

Another summer blooming option for a companion plant to peonies is roses. One of my favorites is fairy roses. They're almost like knockout roses, except miniature. They bloom for months, and have several color options. I also like to plant daylilies near my peonies, just not too close. Daylilies form large storage roots underground just like peonies. So they would definitely be in competition if planted too close. Hellebores are another great companion plant to peonies, blooming at almost the opposite time of the year when peonies are in their rest cycle of winter. Hellebores would provide nice companion foliage during the peony bloom season and while they are going dormant, and lovely blooms while peonies are still asleep. These two should not be planted too close to peonies since they develop an extensive root system. So there are lots of plants that do well in the same light and soil conditions as peonies to keep the interest and color coming all year long!

Peonies with Daylilies and Hellebores

Saturday, July 6, 2013

2013 Peony Disease Stem Wilt

Peony Stem Wilt

This poor bud was so close to opening, but unfortunately it was affected by a fungus causing the peony stem to wilt. This stem was infected with botrytis blight which can affect the plant in several ways like stunted growth, Bud Blast, Spotty Foliage, and stem wilt. As you can see from the close up photo below, the infected stem is covered with small reddish black sores or spots. These spots will turn darker as they age and the infected tissue rots. These spots are the evidence of the botrytis fungal disease on the stems. Unfortunately the only thing that can be done for this problem is removal, and the sooner the better. The botrytis blight needs to be removed from the plant as soon as possible to interrupt its reproductive cycle and prevent it from creating spores that will infect next year's foliage. The stem should be pruned back to remove all of the visible blight to just before the next clean leaf on the stem. Once the infected stem segment has been removed from the peony plant, it is imperative that the diseased tissue be removed from the area by trashing it and never composting the infected foliage. Careful, consistent, and timely sanitary practices should improve the health of your plant over time. Good luck!

Close Up of Peony Stem Wilt

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

2013 Intersectional Peony Garden in Bloom First Year

This is an update on the progress of my newest intersectional peony garden. My original intersectional peony garden is in partial shade/partial sun. This new one is in full sun. Last summer I first started with Soil Solarization. Then I added lots of New Dirt underneath. In the fall I Planted the intersectional peonies. Since several of these peonies were moved from partial shade to full sun, it didn't take long for them to get Toasted. However all of them came back this spring, except two of the Intersectional Peonies on Ebay I'd purchased. That was kind of disappointing, but that's a lesson on trying to buy things cheap! Anyway as you can see I did get some blooms in my intersectional peony garden this year, with the star of the show being Peony 'Sonoma Amethyst' that I'd purchased from an actual peony grower, Adelman. Another beauty near the back of the bed is Peony 'White Emperor' with which I was also quite impressed. As you can see it wasn't much to look at this year, but I'm very hopeful for next year. We have had so much rain this summer, it's just amazing. I think our rainfall this is going to break a record or come close! I just checked, and our local weather report says we are more than 10 inches ahead of last year's rain totals. So it has really been wet this year so far. I don't think the plants have had any opportunities to be thirsty this year at all! So hopefully that translates into bigger and better peony plants next year!

Intersectional Peony Garden in Bloom (May 2013)

Intersectional Peony Garden in Bloom (May 2013)