Peonies, Perennial Perfection
By Jos Van Hage
Saturday, June 09, 2012 03:45 AM
Gay Paree peony
Peonies have been cultivated for over 2000 years and will continue to be a favourite for years to come.
The lightly fragrant flowers are large and showy, and come in shades of white, pink, red, maroon, coral and yellow and combinations of these colours.
This beautiful perennial is easy to grow, low maintenance, deer, tolerant, somewhat drought tolerant and very hardy, making it a must for any landscape that is looking for some early summer blooms. It also has large attractive foliage that adds to the landscape for the rest of the season.
There are many different varieties to choose from. Flowers can be double, semi double, or single. If you are just starting out you may want to try one of the more common varieties such as 'Nippon Beauty' a single dark red, yellow and red stamens flower that blooms later. 'Duchesse De Nemours' an early, double creamy white flower. ''Sarah Bernhardt' a late double, fragrant rose pink flower. 'Bowl of Beauty' early single, fuchsia-pink bloomer. 'Inspecteur Lavergne' mid season bloomer with double red with white petal edged flowers.
For those gardeners who are looking for something a little more rare perhaps you would like to plant one of the following. 'First Arrival' has large lavender pink flowers with dark veining. 'Cora Louise' blooms are white with red veining.
'Smith's Family Yellow' is a large double yellow flower ( shown in photo at right) .
'Pastel Splendor' has huge single pink edged flowers. 'Gay Paree', dark pink flowers with creamy white centre. 'Sorbet' has unusual pink and white double, fragrant flowers. 'Kansas' is known for its large, double carmine red flowers. 'Coral Charm' is a different as it has semi double coral peach flowers.
The different varieties also have different bloom times, so if it was planned carefully you could extend the blooming period by planting several different varieties of peonies that bloom at different times.
Another nice feature about peony flowers is that they are good for using in fresh floral bouquets. They can be placed in a vase or the flower itself can be used in a floating bowl.
Peonies are grown from a tuber which is a root. The tubers can be purchased in the spring at the garden centre, or you can buy potted peony plants that are tubers that have planted and are already growing. Plant peonies in a sunny location, in a fertile, well drained soil. They can tolerate some drought once they have been established but perform better if they are given water during dry spells. They also do not like 'wet feet' so keep them out of poorly drained areas where it is too wet.
One other thing to consider when choosing a site is to keep them away from other large trees and shrubs where they will have to compete with tree/shrub roots. It is important to choose the right site because once they are planted, peonies prefer to stay in the same spot. They do not like to be moved too often, which could cause them to stop blooming. They can stay in the same place for many years.
After 10-15 years they can be dug up and divided and this is done in the fall. Planting depth is important for flower blooms. If the tuber is planted too deep the plant will not produce flowers. The tubers have eyes and the upper eye should not be any deeper then 5 cm in the ground. Potted plants should be planted to the same depth that they are in the pot.
Once a peony has been planted and is established it does not require a lot of care. Fertilize around the crown of the plant in early spring with a flowering plant fertilizer that has a higher middle number as this will produce the blooms. It is also a good idea to stake the plant as the stems can get quite heavy when the plant is in full bloom.
After the flowers are finished they should be removed before seed pods develop as this takes nourishment away from the plant. In the fall, cut the stems back to 10-15 cm. Ants are often found on peony flowers. They enjoy the sweet drops of nectar that exudes from the blooms, and are not harmful to the plant at all.
Peonies are a long living perennial that have been known to live for over 50 years making them a great investment. Many gardeners start off by having one variety and love them so much that they tend to add to their peony collection every year!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road
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