Peonies

Branching Out

Deeply Rooted
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I have a peony bush that is close to 15 years old and has gotten quite large. The stems can't even be tied up anymore, there are just too many flowers, and they're too heavy. I guess cutting the plant in half with a shovel is probably the best bet to get the plants upright again? At this point, I can't even remember if it ever stood up straight...?
Rather than tying up peonies my strategy is to harvest the stems before the blooms open. This also reduces plant disease as fallen peony petals like to stick to peony foliage, and are vectors for botrytis. It is important to pick the flowers when the bud begins to show colour, and feels like a fresh poofy marshmallow. You place your hand facing up with two fingers under the ping pong ball shaped bud, and press down gently on the top of the bud with your thumb. If you pick too early the bud will not open; after a few goes you get a feel for it. And single varieties need to be just a little more open than the big doubles; look for a petal or two beginning to lift off the bud. With this approach I do not need to use any kind of supports to keep my peonies upright, given that they do not bloom on the plant. Bouquets of peonies picked at this stage will open once placed in a vase with water, and also keep well for several weeks in a plastic bag lying down in the fridge. There is a bit of work involved, but it allows you to enjoy your peonies for months instead of just for weeks! Each year I mail a few bouquets to friends; they travel well in cardboard shipping boxes if harvested at the marshmallow stage. (Tip: buy the box first, and then cut the stems as long as possible to fit the box).

If you do wish to divide the plant, that may help reduce the weight of the blooms as there will be fewer of them. Just make sure you wait until October or November to divide it, once the leaves have died back.
 
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Branching Out

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The peony blossom that opened on May 18th is changing colour as it ages, and once fully open it is really stunning. Kind of hard to imagine that it is the same flower!
 

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Branching Out

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Several years ago I splurged on seven special (read: expensive) peony varieties, and heeled the roots in until I decided on a permanent home for them. I finally found the energy to move them today, liberating them from the constraints of a nearby shrub that was encroaching on their space. Good chance they will thrive in their new locations where they have room to grow freely, and if not I'll just move them again (and good chance of that, because with a couple of them I did not respect the minimum spacing of 4' that I know is necessary for peonies). There are still a lot of other less notable peonies to either divide and share, move, or cull-- but most of that will have to wait for next autumn. Short days and cold wet weather is making it difficult to be efficient in the garden these days, so it's hard to get much done outdoors.
 

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