Garden Clippings for June 29, 2019
Why won’t my Peony bloom?
It’s a question I get asked often in June. “I have several Peonies and have had them for many years, but for some reason this year one has failed to bloom.”
Most often the answer lies in planting depth. Peonies hate to be planted deep, and it is a mistake that is often made. When planting new Peonies gardeners will feel sorry for the plant and tuck it nicely in bed.
I recommend planting Peonies with your foot rather than your shovel. Dig a shallow hole with your boot, toss the Peony in the hole and use your boot to backfill. Water well. Peonies don’t want more than half an inch of soil covering their tubers or roots.
Old established Peonies that have been growing for decades in the same garden will eventually want to be dug up and lifted. Over the years, mulch and even grass clippings will accumulate at the base of the plant causing roots to become deeper over time.
Sometimes, although seldom, Peonies will fail to bloom because they are too young or planted in too much shade. Newly planted Peonies may take a year or two to produce blooms. Peonies are quite shade tolerant, but they need at least a few hours of sun for good bud production.
Peonies are tough as nails and demand little from the gardener. They don’t have fussy soil, fertilizer or moisture requirements, although the don’t want to be planted in waterlogged soil. Once established, Peonies will flower faithfully year after year. Flower buds form in May and open in June to produce huge flowers at least 6 inches in diameter.
Peonies are interesting in so many ways. Rookie gardeners will often be alarmed when they see ants feasting on the sugars on Peony buds. But seasoned gardeners know that ants have no impact on the growth of Peonies. As soon as buds open, ants will leave in search of another food source.
Peonies make wonderful cut flowers. For fun results, cut the stems just before buds open and watch them open in a vase on the kitchen table. If you want to enjoy the cut flowers in July or August, cut the stems in spring and you can keep them in the fridge for up to two months. If you are leery about ants coming indoors when you cut Peony buds, dunk the stems in water for 5 minutes prior to putting them in a vase. Keep an eye on water level in the vase because Peonies can be thirsty.
Peonies come in many varieties with colours ranging from red, to pink to white. ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is popular for its large, double, bright pink blooms. ‘Charles White’ is pure white and contrasts nicely with adjacent green foliage.
Lovers of Peonies might want to try growing a Tree Peony in the garden. These beauties are misnamed as trees because they are more like a woody shrub, growing up to 4 or 5 feet. My Tree Peony is bright pink with monster sized blooms about twice the size of regular Peonies. The fact that their blooms are short lives only adds to their interest.
Fringed Peony or Fern Leaf Peony is a shorter plant with attractive fern-like foliage. Blooms are lower, smaller and longer lasting. Despite its fine texture, Fern Leaf Peony is just as hardy as the regular Peony.