I am re-posting from this time last year, as the Peonies are in full bloom!
I once read that the peony is like the floozy of the garden. Is this politically incorrect to say? – I’m not sure, but the peony with it’s enormous multi-layered flowers, always seems a little overdressed, happy, sometimes the perfume is overwhelming, and too soon the petals fall and make a mess. The peony is without a doubt my favorite flower. Overdressed, and sloppy she may be, but the sudden bloom that happens across my garden makes me happy.
More than 20 years ago, the Dominion Seed House closed down near my then new country home. My beautiful mother and I trekked to the site, towing my then toddler son in a wagon, for a peony dig. The fields were to be cleared for a development, and we were able to dig as many peonies as we could for a bargain price. We took at least 15 light pink, dark pink and white peonies for my new garden before we wore ourselves out.
There are about 30 odd species of peonies or paeony (if you like scrabble words with lots of vowels) (genus Paeonia, family Paeoniaceae if you like even more). Peonies can either be herbaceous perennials with soft stems, or woody shrubs. They can apparently be 1-5 feet, but mine are all about 3 feet when in bloom.
These lovely fat pink peonies had a lovely fragrance, and needed much support. All of my peonies have been the herbaceous sort, they bloomed suddenly and all at once in late June in our old zone 4 home. These peonies eventually became so large, that I never quite was able to capture all of them in peony cages before they bloomed.
In our new home, I took several pieces of my old home’s plants, and planted them in sunny locations around our garden, last June when we moved in. I also divided some lovely dark pink and yellow peonies that were planted in the shade of our new house. I was disappointed last year to be away during the bloom of these peonies in mid-June. (This year, the dark pink ones bloomed just before we left – but the transplanted light pink ones I missed!) I was also disappointed that none of the new/divided pieces of peony have bloomed this year. I was however able to capture these small plants of 2 or 3 shoots in tomato and peony cages, in anticipation of their bloom.
Peonies can be divided, but they don’t need to be – unlike so many other perennials. I have found it best to divide in the fall, but spring is also possible. I don’t believe the plants really benefit from division, but if you need to move them, or need more – peonies are worth the effort. I typically take a few of the pink buds at ground level from the backs or side of each plant. My peonies enjoy the sun, and will not bloom if the buds are buried too deeply. Although none of my new plants have bloomed in their first year after planting, the plants seem to be healthy, so I will continue to water and fertilize, perhaps expose a bit more of the bud, and look forward to next June. Sometimes it takes 2-3 years for a transplanted peony to bloom. They are worth the wait!