Peonies are a bit like the hats worn by ladies attending the Royal Ascot or even the Kentucky Derby races.
Glorious, large, definitely out there and yet absolutely marvelous! The lush beauty of the peony graces the springtime garden and doesn’t just say spring but usually shouts it from the rooftops, with panache. Peonies symbolize wealth, honor and romance and also bashfulness. Peony is a plant steeped in tradition and myth and if that wasn’t enough, it’s beauty and often fragrance make it one of my ‘Must Haves’.
There are a large variety of these beauties and many are native to South Eastern Europe, China, Russia and Northern India and according to Wikipedia Western North America. They are often found growing on rocky gravelly south facing slopes. This is a good indicator of the main keys to peony growing success; well draining soil and sun!!
Though there are a few such as the Peonia tenufolia which may like a little protection from afternoon sun (and unfortunately no, I am not saying it likes shade for all of you out there with shade gardens) if you are in a hot area according to one grower.
Peonies like a sandy loam and prefer a neutral soil possibly even tipping to the alkaline side a tiny bit. You can topdress the area each year with some well rotted manures or compost. When peonies are moved or disturbed they often sulk for a bit. Sometimes taking a few years to flower again.
Keep your peony flower bed clean. Prune out and remove fall foliage and do not compost to prevent Botrytis – a disease that affects peonies in areas that might not have the best air circulation or drainage.
Peony plants do not attract ants, some peony flower buds however exude a sticky sap that ants like to eat. Ants do not harm your peonies. Some believe that ants may be a pollinator of the flowers or that they help them to open. When they are in bud, I have ants on my peonies, they seem very industrious. I have heard that ant-less peonies open just fine as well. My only beef with the ants happens when I want to cut the blossoms and bring them in. I usually do it the evening before, give the blossoms a shake, and then let them sit outside overnight. The ants are generally gone by the time I put the bouquet on my table. Gardens and insects come hand in hand. Some help, some eat and some are just passing by. Deal with it as my aunt says.
Most peonies fall into to the three main groups:
- Tree Peonies
Herbaceous peonies die back to the ground each winter.
Tree Peonies lose their leaves in the winter but have woody stems that remain.
Intersectional Peonies are a cross between the two with the tree peony style flowers and leaves but also die back mostly to the ground. The Itoh's tend to keep some woody growth, but are deciduous. All peonies are long lived perennials some living 60-80 years or more. Find the perfect site and leave them to do their job.
Here are my Favorites:
Sarah Bernhardt Peony
Pink like a stick of cotton candy, about as fluffy and the fragrance!
Bowl of Beauty Peony
Pink outer petals and a center of cream, white and yellow. Lovely and fragrant.
Keiko (Adored) Itoh Peony
A lovely almost two toned softer pink edges, deeper pink centres. Double. Very sniff worthy!
'Yumi' Itoh Peony
Large double yellow flower reaching 8 inches across. Very pleasant fragrance.
Takara (Treasure) Itoh Peony
Semi double, delicate looking soft pink with dusky pink centres.
Raspberry Sundae Peony
How can I not love this?! Double, fragrant, white with hot pink splashes.
Jan Van Leeuwen Garden Peony
Single, white, sunshine yellow centre, fragrant. Delicate and elegant.
Peonia tenuifolia ‘Flore Pleno’
The double form of this spectacular fern leaved variety.
Any of them. Amazing, huge. I have my eye on a bright yellow one.
We have a huge selection this year - drop by and have a look!
Enjoy and happy gardening!!