Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Planting Peonies

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A foggy morning here at the flower farm. Traffic on Route 2 is picking up as people head more west than east to work for the day. An Army convoy is heading east and it looks like the one I saw last week with chalk-marked numbers on the doors that commenced with ME---for Maine I surmise.

Last night's rain was enough to dampen the ground but the 1/10th inch did little more. I'm heading back  into the lower daylily garden today to dig more plants for Gail to pot up for next year's sales. She has a few more peonies to plant this morning and that will be it on them. Peonies are a great flower and one which often seems to be misunderstood.

Peonies have been around for thousands of years and they come with a list of misinformation. People seem to have been taught that they can only be planted in the fall, that they have to be planted deep, that they must have ants on them to ever flower---the list goes on and on. Peonies are easy to grow if you just remember a few things.

Peppermint--See thin red stripes?

Peonies grow from a thick root such as the ones pictured here. These are three year old roots from a wonderfully fragrant, pink peony named Dr. Alexander Fleming. (Dr Fleming discovered penicillin). Look closely and you will see the pink and white eyes. These will become the stems from which the flowers grow. In the commercial production of peony roots for sale, the plants are dug and divided every three years so that the roots at that time can easily be divided to this size with each root containing 3-5 eyes per root.

Peonies should be planted in full sun in well-amended soil in a dry location where springtime water is not a problem. The most important planting fact is that peony roots should never be planted deeper than 2". When I explain this to customers I use the "two digit rule" The top of the peony root should be no more than 2 finger digits below the surface.   With roots such as those pictured, find the eyes and adjust the root so the eyes are growing upward. When planting potted peonies, check the depth inside the pot with your finger. Press a finger down alongside a stem, checking for a root depth of 2 finger digits.
In garden settings, peonies sometimes become covered by grass clippings or leaves and other debris blown into the garden. Every few years check to see that the roots have not been covered deeply as long term that will have an impact on root bud production and the number of flowers you can enjoy.

In New England, peonies set buds for next year's flowers in mid August--a time known for hot, dry temperatures. If it's dry in your area then, water you peonies well. You'll notice increased production the following year.

We wish peonies would bloom all season long but they do not. By mid-July, the flowers have bloomed and all we have left until next year are leafy green plants, pictures and memories. You can extend your enjoyment by about 30 days if you cut peony stems when the buds are tight and just showing some color. If you simply lay cut peonies in the bottom of your refrigerator, they will keep surprisingly well. Take them out, trim the bottom off the stems a couple inches and put them in a vase with water. In a couple days, you'll be asking "Why didn't anyone ever tell me that before?"

In recent years, peonies have become a very important floral crop in Alaska. That's because the season there begins later than it does in the east. Having peonies available for the cut flower trade in August and September meets a growing demand. We wish ours would last that long in our gardens!

Have other peony questions? Want to know which peonies we have potted for sale? Give us a call at 802-426-3506 though Columbus Day or at 802-426-3505 year round. Peonies are special to us and we are sure they will be to you too!

Writing from the flower farm this morning where the fog has risen above the road but still holds tight along the river. A beautiful day is in the making!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens and also as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Downy mildew victimized peonies, cut it out and dispose away from the garden.