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Archive for May 26th, 2010

Flower Power – The Beautiful Peony

At the beginning of June everyone is looking forward to fresh cut peonies coming into the flower stores.  You can usually pick them up for around $4 a stem or they come in lovely bunches of different colors which usually range from white, cream, ivory, pinks and deep reds. You can enjoy a single stem in a small vase or a big bunch adorning your bedside table. Trim the ends when you get them home from the florist with a sharp knife and change the water daily as they are big drinkers.

Peonies are very popular with brides at this time of year too, as they make spectacular bouquets and inexpensive centre pieces as you don’t need as many stems to fill the container. A room full of peonies at a wedding looks and smells beautiful.

If you are thinking of planting a peony bush to bloom this summer now is the time to do it, otherwise it might not bloom until next year.  They are much happier planted in early fall, but can still do well right now. Peonies grow best in cool climates, because they will only bloom well if they experience a pronounced period of winter chilling.  They grow and flower best in full sun, but will tolerate some light afternoon shade.

They definitely benefit from the addition of organic material and compost into the planting hole. They should be planted away from large trees or shrubs because they will compete for root space and nutrients. Peonies do not respond well to transplanting, so make sure you choose your planting location carefully.

The planting hole should be at least 18 inches deep and 15 inches in diameter. At the bottom of the hole add a 4 inch layer of organic matter such as compost or well aged manure. Half a cup of good plant food or bone meal should also be added to this layer. Fill the hole half way with a mix of garden soil and compost and set the roots division in place with the eyes facing upwards; spread the roots outwardly and evenly and water thoroughly. Make sure that the eyes will be no deeper than two inches when planting is completed or your peonies may fail to bloom. If potted peonies are being planted, plant them at the same level as they are growing in the pot. When it is placed, work the soil in and around the roots, finish filling the hole and then water again.

During the dry summer months, peonies require regular deep watering and leafy organic mulch around the soil, it will help conserve the water and keep it cool.

If you are thinking of planting peonies at your cottage, consider the tree peonies, which are deer resistant.  This one is the national favorite of China and can measure as much as 10 inches across and 3-4 feet tall and in some cases in China they have been known to live for two hundred years. They enjoy more dappled sun or afternoon shade, and come in different colors such as yellow, orange and maroon. Be careful not to cut the tree peony back or prune to the ground as they will not regrow.

A lot of people ask why their peony bush just won’t flower, and here are some of the reasons why.

  • Being too young or too small
  • Planting too deeply
  • Late freeze
  • Overcrowded
  • Too much nitrogen or too little phosphorus or potassium
  • Disease

Even though they may seem like a lot of trouble, once they are established and happy, they can live as long as 20 years in your garden.

Mark your calendars for the Peony festival which takes place on June 12th & 13 th at The Oshawa Botanical Gardens.

Enjoy this stunning June, July flower. I know I will.

Nicola Bishop

bishop4086@rogers.com

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