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Peonies

How to grow Peonies

Peonies bloom from late Spring to early Summer.  They come in an extensive range of colours including many pink shades as well as red, fuchsia, peachy-pink, yellow and white.  They also differ in form; from fully double bomb types to the delicately simple singles and many unique forms in between; such as Peony 'Sorbet' which looks like a delicious scoop of sorbet ice cream on saucer-shaped petals. The lacy foliage of peonies is also quite lovely, enhancing the garden throughout the summer, and finally turning shimmery plum shades in the fall.  Peonies are extremely winter-hardy and deer resistant.

There are three main groups of peonies:-

Garden Peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) these are your granny's mind-blowing, beautiful peonies that grow between two and three feet tall and die back to the ground each fall. Granny would be impressed to see the range of colours and forms available today. All gorgeous! Garden Peonies also make excellent cut flowers so be sure to have a few extra to cut and bring indoors.

Tree Peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) grow between five and six feet tall and form a permanent trunk that remains through the winter only dropping the leaves in fall. The flowers on tree peonies are huge and can be single or semi-double. Tree Peonies are notoriously mislabeled worldwide for colour so whenever possible choose these in bloom.

Itoh Peonies are the third type and are a cross between Garden Peonies and Tree Peonies. Itoh Peonies have the large loose flowers of the Tree Peonies usually semi-double, but like Garden Peonies grow only two to three feet tall. One of the best things about Itoh Peonies is that they bloom profusely and were breed to bloom for a longer period. Itoh Peonies are more costly than Garden Peonies, but those who grow and love them say they are worth every penny.

Choose a full sun location with well-drained soil and amend your soil with bonemeal and manure. An annual spring fertilising of equal parts rock phosphate and organic mix is an excellent way to promote vigour and flowers.  Spacing is also important as Peonies don't like competition for moisture or nutrients.  Give each plant an area of at least 2 feet in diameter and once established try not to move your peonies.

My sisters and I all love peonies, and I always think of at least one of them when I plant new peonies or when I cut the flowers to enjoy indoors. I can't help it!  It is not something that I set out to do; it is simply that at some point during the choosing, planting or cutting our love of peonies comes to mind, and they become a part my time in my garden. 

I think it is wonderful, a bit of whimsy, to wander through a garden that brings those that are precious to mind and I strongly recommend it!