August 24, 2011

Time to Order Peonies

Along with bulbs, autumn is the time to plant bare root peonies. I have a few on order already: the herbaceous 'Kansas' from White Flower Farm and two 'Capital Red' tree peonies from Cricket Hill Garden. Last year I planted several from Swenson Gardens. Above and below are pictures of the first bloom from 'Paula Fay', which I picked up in a pot at Home Depot this spring. Once the plant matures, the blooms should show more of the yellow anthers in the middle.

I've gone peony-crazy in the past year. For a while I held back on buying any because I thought they all flopped over while blooming. But then I spent some time on the Swenson Gardens website and picked out a bunch of herbaceous peonies that don't need staking to stand up straight. I also splurged on a couple of herbaceous-tree hybrids, known as Itoh or intersectional peonies, and these plants don't need staking either. Finally, I decided to attempt some tree peonies (no staking!) from Cricket Hill. I've enjoyed looking at the gorgeous peony pictures at Peony's Envy and might order a few tree peonies from them in a few years. The floppy peonies that friends have given me will grow in the cutting garden and be enjoyed in vases. Oh, and I brought home a couple of potted peonies from my local nursery this spring. Yeah, totally peony-crazy.

Besides the staking problem, the other drawback to peonies is that they only bloom for a few weeks in late spring/early summer (they are hardy in USDA zones 2-8). But I've realized that everblooming plants with large flowers require A LOT of deadheading. I don't have time to keep up with too much of that, so I'm going to plan my gardens to enjoy different flowers at different seasons. Long-blooming plants that don't need deadheading (like 'Rozanne' hardy geraniums) are certainly welcome, too. Above is a no-name red peony that came from my husband's grandmother's garden after she passed away.

Peonies make fabulous cut flowers, lasting a week or so in the vase. Above is a bloom from 'Petite Elegance', one of those non-staking herbaceous peonies from Swenson Gardens. Peony foliage is a nice addition to the garden even after the flowers fade. During the summer, peonies are somewhat drought tolerant (though they'll grow more leaves and flowers with regular water, especially during the first few years). Peonies live a long time without needing dividing, so they're a great addition to the garden of a lazy or overwhelmed (ahem) gardener! They do take a few years to fully settle in and bloom heavily, but after that you can neglect them a bit and still enjoy a show.

These last two photos show the first bloom from 'Casablanca', also from Swenson Gardens. You can see that the giant flower is very upright without a stake. Swenson Gardens recommends that you cut the buds off for the first year or two to allow the plant to establish itself better, but I was too impatient to see the flowers. Eventually this plant will be 40" tall by 48" wide and covered with fragrant, pure-white flowers in June. Then it will provide pretty green leaves as a background for my summer-blooming flowers. Divine!

Here is the slightly out-of-control list of peonies in my yard. Many were purchased within the last year, and some of those haven't bloomed yet. Several have come from friends or relatives. Even the older ones have been set back by transplanting (sorry plants). But in future years I should enjoy an abundance of peony flowers in May and June.

Herbaceous Peonies
Casablanca (white)
Cindy's Pink
Cindy's Red
Coral Supreme (coral)
Felix Supreme (magenta)
Grandma Margaret's Red
Grandma Margaret's White
Guidon (mid pink)
Kansas (magenta)
Kathy's Pale Pink
Kathy's Pink
Paul M. Wild (crimson/magenta)
Petite Elegance (pale pink)
Pink Parfait (mid pink)

Itoh/Intersectional Peonies
Keiko (mid pink)
Kopper Kettle (copper/peach/rose)

Tree Peonies
Capital Red/Luoyang Red (to be planted this fall)


  1. Będziesz miała piękne piwonie w przyszłym roku, ale ich nie przesadzaj w inne miejsce, bo tego nie lubią i nie kwitną jakiś czas. Pozdrawiam

  2. Hi VW,

    Lovely photos; I've never been a fan of Peonies but you really are tempting me to get some. I especially love the white one and may just have to search for it over here.
    My mum has a Peony that she wants me to have/a cutting off because it was her great grandfather's and is around 100 years old, so they certainly do last a long time!

  3. Isn't it funny how a plant can grab our heart and we just have to have more? Peonies don't do well in our heat, but yours look fabulous. I would grow them too, if it were worth it for me. Have fun with your peony obsession. They are a beautiful plant in which to be enamored.

  4. Peonies are a favorite of mine and if I had the room, I too would go Peony crazy. I love everything about them, even the industrious ants and wasps they attract. Mine are all singles, but I love the doubles too.

  5. Wow! Your peonies are gorgeous! Unfortunately I couldn't grow them here. I'll just admire yours.

  6. I love peonies! I only have two and that's about all the space I have. Your garden is going to be full of them soon. I didn't realize there were ones that didn't need staking. I've starting just leaving the grid hoop up all year so I don't forget.

  7. You've inspired me to find some new peonies... love the idea of non-staking.

  8. I can't wait to see your garden next year. You've got such a lovely collection.

  9. Peony is one of my favorites. A very nice blog.

  10. Lovely! If you haven't gotten around to reading Henry Mitchell yet, be sure to check out his first collection of columns, "Earthman". Some great essays on peonies. Are you avoiding the classics 'Festiva Maxima' (double white, red flecks) and 'Msr. Jules Elie' (double silvery pink) as potential floppers? I slide those metal supports around them as they come up. P.S. I heard great things about Klehm's. Wonder if they are still in biz?

  11. I love peonies and so wish they were available here in south Africa. I have only one which I am carefully caring for in the hope that it thrives. I'll be following you for all the tips I need to get mine to grow :)

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