A few months ago I attempted to create analogies between certain plants and actors/actresses. Looking back, some of my comparisons may have been a stretch, but one that really worked was comparing a peony to Meryl Streep. Peonies are reliable performers each and every year and Ms.Streep continues to astound with each of her performances (although I vow to never watch Mamma Mia). Peonies are classics, never go out of style and the same can be said for Mary Louise Streep (have you seen Doubt? A performance like no other). Have I lost you? Sorry about that ... we move on.
Each and every spring, I can be found on my hands and knees desperately searching for the emerging "fingers" of the peonies:
My personal favorite peony is "Bowl of Beauty". The pink blooms with their creamy white center are otherworldly:
Some facts for you, because I'm that kind of guy, even if it was all lifted from other web sites (at least I'm doing the heavy lifting, right?):
- Survives in zones 3-8, although I have read that it can survive to zone 2
- Prefers full sun but I've been successful in the past growing these in partial sun
- Bowl of Beauty (or BOB) matures to a size of 3' x 3'
- BOB blooms for only 2-3 weeks in late spring but what a display it is.
- When planting, and especially if bare root, make sure to plant in the fall if possible - this allows the plant to send out feeder roots, even during the winter, to help it get established. Spring plantings may encounter stress if they've missed the chance to establish these all important roots.
- When planted in the ground, the highest crown bud should be no more than 2 inches below the ground. This makes it easier for the plant to go dormant, which is a must for all peonies. Also, like with most plants, do not cover the crown with mulch as it can cause root rot rather easily.
- This is one tough, maintenance free plant once it is established. They totally dig being neglected (a specialty of mine) and there are many on record that have survived for more than 100 years
- Peonies prefer well draining soil and despise wet feet. Mine are in heavy clay that does not drain all that well though and they still thrive.
- While peonies are easy to care for, they do require some patience since they may not bloom for the first few years after they've been planted. Mine have taken about two years on average - but hot damn it's worth the wait.
- I'm not a big cut flower guy, but from what I've researched, you shouldn't cut the blooms on plants 3 years old or younger. When cutting, do so in the early morning and choose those where the petals are just starting to separate from the bud. Like the ones seen below:
- The cut stem should be at least 18 inches long and submerged into cold water immediately. Then, only the leaves near the bud should be kept on the stem.
- Good companions for peonies are those plants that bloom both before and after the peonies do. These include hellebores, campanula, daylillies and ornamental grasses. Bulbs planted at the base work real well as they cover up the emerging foliage in the earlier part of spring. I've got my BOB's planted next to Campanula 'Joan Elliot' and in front of a large Panicum:
- There is a belief, old wives tale, that in order for peony blooms to open, they must first be covered with ants as they are responsible for initiating the bud to open. I put my detective hat on and from all that I've read, it is believed that the ants are drawn to the nectar secreted by the buds but do not have any impact on whether or not the bud actually opens. Personally, I enjoy the "about to open" buds almost as much as the flowers themselves. It is like a promise of what is yet to come:
I hope to add some additional cultivars next season (as always, where is the question) and may even invest in a large sized tree peony. We'll see.
For now, I'll just continue to dream about better days as we're inundated with rain and wind.
Stay thirsty my friends.