Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > September 2015 > BONNIE'S GARDEN--Peonies


Fresh locally grown peony roots have just arrived.  I’ve always loved peonies.  My mother’s mother, had big white ones with red flecks in the middle (I now know that is a variety called Festiva Maxima) by her screened porch.  When they bloomed, the fragrance was awesome. 

The size of the flowers alone is amazing—up to 10” in diameter.  Marco Polo is said to have called peonies “roses, as big as cabbages.”  Me, I just call them beautiful.  They come in almost every color, except a true blue and are winter-hardy in zones 3 to zone 8.  They not only don’t mind our cold winters, they love them.

Peonies get their name from Paeon, a student to Asclepias, the Greek god of healing.  Myth says that Asclepias was jealous of his pupil and was planning to kill him so Zeus turned Paeon into a large white flower to protect him from Asclepias’ wrath.  Peonies are native to Asia, southern Europe, and, northern America.  In China, they are called “huawang” or King of Flowers.  They are a symbol of good fortune and a happy marriage.  In Victorian times, it was said fairies hid in the huge flowers, so was also a symbol of shyness.

To plant peony roots, dig a hole about two feet in diameter and work in a little compost—our grower does not recommend manures at this stage.  Plant the roots with the eyes covered only one to two inches deep.  If you plant roots too deep, the plant will come up but will not bloom well, if at all.  Try to plant peonies is a spot where they can live for years, because they really resent being transplanted or moved.

Feed peonies with a lower-nitrogen fertilizer (I use Bulb-tone) when the foliage begins to unfurl in the spring.  Feed again, lightly, in late summer.  Never remove peony foliage until it dies back on its own.  It needs a chance to send all its energy to the roots for next year’s flowers.  To prevent any problems, keep the base of the peony plant free from debris, remove the leaves in the fall as soon as they die back, leaving a three inch stem.  Avoid overhead watering, if possible.  Once a plant is established, they can live for a century or more.

Ants love peony flowers.  They eat the nectar the buds produce.  Garden legend says that the ants eat the waxy coating on the buds so the flowers will open, but this is a myth.  The buds open with or without help from the ants.  However, in order to protect their nectar sources, the ants may well fight off other insects which might damage the buds, so just leave them alone.  If you want to cut flowers for indoors, simply dunk the just opening bud into a glass of cold water for a couple of minutes.  That will quickly get rid of any ants. 

Remember, not only are peonies beautiful, they are tough, durable and (drum roll please) DEER RESISTANT!!!
Posted: 9/21/2015 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: Bonnie's, Garden, Peonies
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