Sunday, June 30, 2019

Peonies: Pretty & Pink

Warm June days brought bold-colored blooms to my garden… but of all the blooms I enjoyed, none compared with the biggest and boldest of all:  PEONIES!

Since I do small space gardening on a quarter-acre property, I can’t often accommodate plants with a huge footprint, nor plants that spread aggressively.  But the genus Paeonia offers several well-behaved cultivars and deserves a dedicated space in my garden.  It expands gradually over time, but remains in a tight clump.

For years I have enjoyed the hot-pink petals of cultivar ‘Raspberry Ice’ which opened its first blooms on June 17 this year.  (Although the fresh growth of peonies usually emerges in April, the blooms typically appear in June.)  Now at the end of June, many of those bodacious blooms have expired.  It is a short—but dramatic—engagement, performing every year.  (Repeat performance, expected next year in mid-June!)

The rose-pink petals of ‘High Adventure’ complement the bolder pink hue of ‘Raspberry Ice’ so these peonies appear side by side in the southeast exposure garden, adjacent to our house.  Peonies thrive there since they are somewhat protected from prevailing western winds and storms… harsh winds and rain are the demise of all peonies during bloom time.  As mentioned, the Peony Performance is a short, engagement during June—but so very special! 

The Paeonia genus is native to Asia, Europe and parts of North America.   It is a deciduous perennial shrub that dies back to the ground in fall.  When bloom time has passed, I prefer deadheading expired blossoms to prevent seed pods from forming.  (Too much of the plants resources are used up for seed production, but this energy is conserved if expired blooms are cut with a sharp scissors or pruner.) After blooms are removed, I enjoy its green, shiny foliage consisting of pointy compound leaves. Peony foliage generally remains clean and attractive until frost.

Gardener’s tips:  Suggest placing a wire support cage over each plant while stems are just a few inches long; it is awkward to install a support cage after foliage has formed. If you wish to divide a large plant, September is ideal in Wisconsin.  Dig deeply around section to be transplanted; plant in rich organic soil in sunny area.  Maintain same soil level around stems—do not add too much soil on top.

M. Lynn Schmid,  Certified Master Gardener
A.A.S. Landscape/Horticulture/Arboriculture