Caring for your Tree Peony

Tree peonies.

The loveliness that’s inspired many beautiful art pieces through the ages.

And you can have one of these charming muses living in your very own garden.

They are sure to make a real statement in a sunny garden border, growing up to 2-3 metres, although they respond very well to pruning and can be kept at a more manageable 1-1.5m.

Tree peonies are long-lived, deciduous shrubs with large, sometimes dinner plate size, flamboyant, often fragrant flowers in a variety of colours. They range from white through pink to dark red and purple; yellows are also available, along with the more unusual apricot shades.

They are happiest in a sunny or lightly shaded, location sheltered from strong wind to prevent foliage and flower damage and although they can take up to four years to get settled and start flowering the rewards outweigh the wait!

You can plant containerised tree peonies at any time in the year - just remember to water it well when you plant it.

Planting Pointers

Some planting tips:

  • Tree peonies are often grafted onto herbaceous peony rootstock so the graft union will need to be planted about 15cm below soil level. This encourages it to form its own roots
  • Once in, water generously to settle the soil

 

TLC for the Tree

Technically, tree peonies aren’t trees but rather sub-shrubs so they need much the same care as herbaceous varieties.

This is how you can help your tree peony stand the test of time:

  • It is best to water regularly during the first summer especially during dry spells
  • Mulching well in late Autumn to late winter with organic matter helps keep moisture in but leave a dish around the base of the plant which is clear of any mulch as that can lead to root rot
  • Prune in the Autumn and either take back the top growth by about 1/3 in stages or, if you have a multi-stemmed tree peony, cut back every 3rd stem to about 2cm, removing the oldest stems first
  • After hibernating happily through the winter chill you’ll want to give it a little boost with a feed come Spring time

 

Want one?

So! If you are thinking about adopting a tree peony into your peony family have a look at these lovelies (pictured right):

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kokuryu Nishiki’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Japanese tree peony with large semi-double incredible dark burgundy/purple flowers with white veins/flashes on the outer petals

Paeonia ‘High Noon’ AGM (Japanese Tree Peony) Fragrant (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Stunning semi-double to double, large yellow lemon scented flowers with a red basal flare. Will often flower again in the autumn. Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit so it is a very reliable tree peony

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Shichi Fukujin’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Japanese tree peony with large papery thin striking double pink flowers with a raspberry basal flare. Often with a crinkled edge

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kuro-Ageha’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid Season Flowering)

A romantically deep red bloom with large golden stamens in the centre of this semi-double peony

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Fuso-no-tsukasa’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid-Late Season Flowering)

An absolutely stunning, elegant Japanese tree peony with large, pure white double flowers

Peony of the Month – Morning Lilac

Does your garden need some purple in its life?

Do you want to add an intersectional and/or a midseason bloomer to your peony collection to compliment your early and late flowering varieties?

Well, this unusual and rare purple princess– Paeonia ‘Morning Lilac’ – may just be the perfect addition.

With its huge, semi-double, strong purple flowers with a darker purple edging it’s no wonder it nabbed that RHS Award of Garden Merit. And that finely cut divided green foliage provides excellent Autumn colour and interest, turning a beautiful red in both Spring and Autumn.

‘Morning Lilac’ was created by crossing extremely rare Lactiflora ‘Martha Washington’ and Lutea Hybrid ‘Golden Era’ in 1990 by Anderson and registered in 1999. It is a fragrant and floriferous variety that produces myriads of large blooms – up to 15cm across - all over its top and sides.

Sound like a welcome guest? We thought so too.

Intersectionals really are the best of both worlds with their massive flowerheads, richly coloured foliage and compact growth habit. They can grow up to 90cm tall and are tough – more tolerant of cold weather than tree peonies and also not bothered by the heat. On mature plants you can expect to see between 40 and 50 flowers over flowering season. And the flowers last twice as long as other peonies – going on for four to five weeks with lots of small side buds.

So if you’re set on adding some of this purple peony love to your garden to perhaps compliment your ‘Coral Charm’ and lovely yellow ‘Bartzella’, this one would fit in rather nicely.

Nothing like a pop of purple to jazz things up a bit!

Just make sure to implement these top tips for growing your intersectional successfully:

  • Buy a well-established, mature peony plant
  • Plant in a sunny or part-shaded sheltered position in any free-draining soil
  • Don’t plant your intersectional peony too deep – ensure the crown is no more than 25mm below the surface
  • Feed your peony once a year in the Spring, Summer or Autumn
  • Cut back intersectional peonies in the Autumn
  • Water your peony consistently while buds are forming in the Spring but take care not to over water as peonies don’t like having wet ‘feet’ or roots

With this little bit of care you can expect to enjoy gazing at these beauties in your garden for many years to come.

And that’s what we love about peonies – they just keep giving back so much more than we put in.

Enjoy your gardening and let us know how it goes!

Peonies that Symbolise Love

With Valentine’s Day coming up are you wondering what peonies to send to a loved one? Which peonies symbolise love?

Peonies symbolise many different things, depending on the colour. In China, red is a symbol of royalty. Only emperors and their families used it, so red peonies came to embody wealth, prosperity, honour and respect. Peony is a traditional flower symbol in China and is called 牡丹 (mǔdān) which means “the most beautiful”.

In Western culture red flowers are generally associated with love and red peonies have come to symbolise love, romance and passion.

Pink peonies are commonly used in wedding bouquets as they symbolise lasting love, good fortune and prosperity. They can also depict love at first sight.

FLOWERS SPEAK A THOUSAND WORDS

These days most of us don’t think very deeply about the specific meaning of flowers when deciding what flower to pick. We usually just go with a colour or form we like, don’t we?

But there was a time when flowers spoke volumes.

Communicating with flowers dates back to the 1700s in Turkey but the Victorian era was a time when this form of communication really took off. This happened after Lady Mary Wortley Montagu visited Turkey and discovered the way harem girls communicated with each other – sending coded messages via flowers.

She wrote:

“There is no colour, no flower, no weed, no fruit, herb, pebble, or feather, that has not a verse belonging to it; and you may quarrel, reproach, or send letters of passion, friendship, or civility, or even of news, without ever inking your fingers.”

 

It was the ideal vehicle for expressing thoughts and feelings that were considered taboo at the time. And in the Victorian age full of rules and restrictions, that was just about anything to do with expressing emotions.

Assigning meaning to specific flower types to communicate feelings or desires is known as floriography and it became not only a craze but one of the main ways anyone was able to get their untoward thoughts across without uttering or writing a single word.

So if you received a bunch of flowers like this:

White Peonies (bashfulness) + Red Peonies (true love) + Magenta Ranunculus (dazzled by your charm)  + Pale pink Sweet Peas (meet me)

You can be sure potential love is on the horizon!

GIVE THE GIFT OF A PEONY

So why not send a peony? You never know what could happen…

Some options of appropriately named and coloured peonies you could go for are:

'Love Affair'

Unusual, rare and highly sought after. A mid season flowering 'Itoh' semi-double, white, bowl-shaped bloom with a beautiful fragrance

'My Love'

Herbaceous perennial with striking double blooms in blush with small red flares fading to white

'Bowl of Love'

A short version of 'Bowl of Beauty' with carmine pink outer petals and pale cream petaloids. An exquisite fragrant, mid season bloomer

'Pillow Talk'

A gorgeous, sweetly scented, large double peony with soft, creamy cameo pink rose-type flowers. Makes an excellent cut flower.

'Berry Berry Fine'

Unusual and highly collectable, mid season ‘Itoh’ with finely cut foliage on sturdy framework and incredible fragrant, single to semi-double, deep lavender pink flowers highlighted with darker pink streaks and plum basal flares

'Pink Parfait'

A late flowering, herbaceous perennial with double, deep pink highly fragrant blooms that make excellent cut flowers

'Red Charm'

An indulgent, sturdy, early flowering, herbaceous perennial with large, fragrant, deep ruby red cup-shaped flowers with ruffled centres

'Blaze'

An early-mid season, strong and reliable herbaceous variety that’s a floriferous grower. It has beautiful fragrant, semi-double bright red flowers with golden centres

'Peter Brand'

A heavily scented herbaceous perennial with divided foliage, erect stems bearing deep pink-red double flowers, with ruffled inner petals

Which peonies would you choose?

Click on a pic to take your pick!

Planning a Garden for Retirement

Planning a Garden for Retirement

As you grow older it makes sense to plan a garden that will cope with the downsides of aging so that you can continue to enjoy it and not have to work quite so hard to keep it up to scratch.  At the same time, one of the pluses of retirement means that more time can be devoted to creating the garden you’ve always wanted.

Look for plants that are easy to look after and that stimulate the senses.  Bright colours, strong scents such as herbs and different foliage in dramatic shapes and sizes provide a contrast for failing eyesight and a weakening sense of smell.   Contrast the planting between light and dark as your eyes start to fail so you can see where the edge of the border and path is and use strong colours such as hot yellows and reds to help with this.  In particular look for vibrant Crocosmia George Davison, or Liatris spicata, even marigolds and the long-flowering and colourful Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Sunray’ and, of course, lilies.

Raised flowerbeds give character to the garden, are kinder to aching backs and can be used for vegetables or flowers. View your garden in retirement as a journey.  You may start with vegetables in these beds but, in time, they can also be turned over to less intensive usage such as shrub borders which will supply regular flowering all year round.

Wider paved paths – not gravel – with gentle curves are low maintenance and easy to get around.  Gravel requires raking regularly to keep it weed-free which can be time-consuming.

Adding seating areas in different locations is not just kinder on the eyes they also enhance your enjoyment of the garden and provide regular resting spots. Include wider edging of raised beds or ponds so that you can take a break and perch there to enjoy your plants or fish more closely without having to bend down.

Ponds and water features are also excellent in retirement, providing interest and variety. Add flowers that attract wildlife too such as Lavender and Sedum matrona for bees and Buddleja ‘blue chip’ for butterflies.

As you age, it is wise to reduce the amount of lawn in the garden and increase paving areas, adopting gently sloping paths as they are easier to maintain and better for mobility.  That said, if viewing a verdant green lawn is your pleasure, then stick with it.  A lawn is still a great economic and forgiving surface – even in drought – but edge it with paviours or natural stone so that the mower can go straight over the top and you avoid the need to clip the edges.  Locate these seating areas so that they have a clear view of the wildlife and then create activity areas with bird tables and bird baths, feeders or coconuts.

Lighting is not just an aesthetic but an essential feature, especially as you age making it easier to get around. It also extends the garden’s use allowing it to be admired from within the house at night-time and even highlighting the wildlife in the garden at night.

It’s important to make sure that there’s plenty of shade as well as sunny areas in the garden as we are less tolerant of heat as we age.  Cultivate trees and bushes add a pergola or create a shady cool area for hot uncomfortable days with the use of plants in cool blues, purples and whites to sit and read and do the crossword.  Bushes and tree requiring little attention include viburnum bodnantense Dawn, box and Lonicera lemon beauty and great small trees such Amelanchier canadensis or Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis rosea

Drought tolerant plants will also make the garden easier to maintain. Look out for the almost totally green Euphorbias, grassy santolinas or hydrangea petiolaris.  Don’t forget alpine and low growing plants which often don’t grow too big and which will flower for ages providing they have plenty of sun and well drained soil. Look out for Erodium bishops form, Primula auricula or sedum voodoo.

If one of the joys of retirement will be time spent with grandchildren, you may wish to create special areas for them. Open spaces whether paved or lawned are perfect for outdoor games or for erecting climbing frames or trampolines.