Thursday, July 19, 2007

Next Year's Peonies

Thursday, July 19, 2007

9:15 PM and it has been a long day and a long time since I have appeared as The Vermont Gardener. In the past days I have met hundreds of new gardeners I never knew before and I have shared lots of information about growing hostas and peonies. As the faces of happy gardeners whiz through my mind, the rain is pounding off the standing seam metal roof like it has been since early July. It doesn't seem to stop.

I never did find my rain gauge this spring but I know it's in the cellar some place. It doesn't matter as the past three weeks have only offered a couple nice days and a lot of wet ones. Noah didn't need a rain gauge to be reminded to start hammering on the ark and I guess I don't need one either.

This weekend we kind of ended our Hosta Days but not because the hostas don't look great. The weather has been perfect for them all season and although the slugs and snails are out in force now, keeping good company with black weevils, the hostas look super and are growing as fast as the jewel weed. I expect that with the prediction of warmer weather by tomorrow afternoon and through the weekend, the hostas, super saturated with water, will be unable to maintain their vascular system and will droop and cry for a few days. This is not uncommon when there is lots of rain but the behavior causes a flurry of questions from concerned hosta growers.

If you have not visited our hosta gardens or traveled the walk through the +180 varieties we still have for sale, get in the car and head out this weekend. It's worth the trip. And by the way, if you have questions about growing great hostas, fire off a few questions. Often the answers you receive help others with the same question. Good gardeners are like barred owls--they are always listening!

The peonies have about faded into seed production and I have to get some kid busy pruning off the seed pods so the strength goes to the roots, not seeds. I do not aspire to be a great peony hybridizer like Alan Rogers or Don Hollingsworth although I have studied a bit of their work. Those very talented, dedicated folks can deal with creating new peonies for us.

We had a great year with the peonies and although people seem reluctant to part with the cost of a good potted root, some come back each year to add to their collection while some just come to see the bloom. Ours were exceptions and will only get better.

I always leave folks with a couple tidbits of info and I'll repeat myself here for newcomers to The Vermont Gardener. Peonies must be planted not more and 1.5 to 2 inches below the surface. Planting the roots deeper will bring on some good foliage but limited or no bloom. They are hungry plants so plant them well to begin with and feed them again in the spring. And finally, in mid-August in the years when New England is not involved internationally in The Great Monsoon Contest, water your peonies well. Peonies set buds on the rootstock for the following year at this time and water encourages good bud development. The way things have been going here in Marshfield, we'll likely have a bumper crop of scapes next year. Watch your weather, water in mid-August in New England, earlier in other peony areas, and you'll note the difference.

With this last picture of the night, Topeka Garnet, I'll say good evening to all. Despite the rain we have a beautiful weekend projected. Today started Daylily Days at the farm and with that comes more of Gail's baked treats, and an incredible display of hundreds of daylilies, potted or for sale from the gardens. The weather has been kind to the daylilies and the plants are robust and waiting for a new home.

If you do stop by, consider helping Gail with a raffle she is sponsoring to benefit a fall conference on transition for young adult Vermonters with autism. This is a topic that is dear to Gail and me
and your help would be most appreciated. The winner will be announced on Labor Day for a $100 gift certificate for shopping here at VFF. If you can't stop by but want to help, send in your name, phone number and $$ and Gail will take care of the rest. One in every 150 newborns is diagnosed on the autism spectrum so we all really need to get involved.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where hard rain pounds the roof and the critters outside hold up, patiently awaiting a chance for dinner.

Best gardening wishes,

George Africa

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