The Peonies are so welcomed at this time of Spring – the most dramatic, show stopping plant with blooms and sweet scent that make a beautiful addition to any bouquet or garden. This true perennial can come back to your garden for 75-80 years – they can out-live you!
Although pink is a fan favorite, peony colors also include white, red, yellow, and orange. The plants may look delicate, but with the proper conditions, they prove themselves to be quite hardy and easy to grow. Peonies come in three main types: Herbaceous garden, tree and Itoh. The most common is the herbaceous with hundreds of varieties to choose from. They usually have scented flowers that come in the above colors and as the name suggests, herbaceous peonies don’t form wood stems. Instead, its stems stay green and flexible so they may need to be staked to keep them from flopping over, especially when the flowers get wet in the rain.
Garden Peonies produce fresh growth from the plant’s crown in spring, which all dies back to the ground after frost similar to most other perennial plants. They grow 2-3 feet tall.
The tree peony grows from a trunk-like base also called deciduous peony. They are the most expensive and grow at a slower pace but can eventually reach to 5 feet tall. They don’t need any staking because their woody stems stand up to the weight of their huge flowers. And, I do mean huge! We had a “Seidai’ tree peony that produced double flowered pink blooms that reached 8” in diameter.
The Intersectional peonies, also known as the Itoh peonies, are a hybrid of the first two types. Itoh peonies offer more unusual colors such as orange and yellow. They grow to a mid height; between the garden and tree types, usually about 3 feet tall.
The garden peonies send up a reddish stalk and leaves in early spring, followed by large fluffy blooms in May to early June. This old-fashioned garden favorite is attractive to use in flower arranging. Most peonies need full sun, a minimum of 6 – 8 hours of day planted in fertile soil.
A favorite variety of the herbaceous peonies, is ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ – it is outrageously beautiful in bloom. This variety was bred in 1906 by French breeder Monsieur Lemoine who named it after the famous French actress. The blooms gets 8 “ wide, its delightfully fragrant with three color of rose-pink with delicately ruffled inner petals occasionally flecked with raspberry will take your breath away every spring!
If a peony bush is not blooming, it’s might be it is not getting enough sun or planted too deep.
For support for the plant, the best is the peony grid support to hold the blooms up. A medium Grow Through Grid is a 16” grid with 24” legs. It is helpful for plants with large, heavy blooms. The grid is vinyl-coated for durability. This grid is good in the garden for healthy blooms all season.
Leave the foliage growing as it will help to regenerate the tuber to bloom heavily next year. Once the foliage has turned brown you can cut that back because it regenerates that tuber to bloom heavily next year.
There’s nothing quite like the beauty of a peony in May.
Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.