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Mary Oliver* knows the magic of peony...

Common Name : Peony

Science-y Name : Paeonia

A Few Other Varieties : P. officinalis, P. × suffruticosa

Native or Non : Two variety of peony are native to the western coastal region of North America; the californica and browni. Any peony found in a garden in the north east is most likely to be a cultivated variety from Asia or Europe.

Characteristics : Peony are another one of those showstopper flowers for a garden. Blooms of white, pink, and sometimes red, peony flowers are a cumulus cloud of petals atop of a tender stem with eye-catching compound leaves shaped like a fat trident. They pull you in with their ruffled and full blooms, and then hook you with one of the sweetest scents in the garden. We’ve seen gardeners get lost in peony as they practically hug the blooms to their face and inhale to enjoy every part of the flower. (Check for bees before doing this yourself.)

These are the flowers that neighbors comment on, and that look great in a vase arrangement. Cut blooms only last a few days in water so your timing has to be right on the mark if you plan on having these grace the inside of your house for a special occasion.

With all of their beauty, peony are also a bit of a garden diva. Blooms weigh heavy on the stems and a good rain will send that cloud of petals down to the garden bed. Sometimes before getting a chance to truly enjoy them. Japanese beetles also love to eat the leaves.

So peony are a labor of love. But when they bloom and the blooms survive they are glorious.

Fun Fact : A peony tree in Taiyuan China is said to have been planted during the Ming Dynasty, which means the original tree was planted sometime between 1358 and 1644 AD. This is approximately the time of the renaissance in Europe and the beginning of European exploration to the Americas. Taiyuan is the capital and largest city of Shanxi Province, and the peony tree is on the grounds of the Twin Pagoda temple. Every April around when the peony blooms the temple holds a Peony Flower Festival.

Some peony are starting to bloom in April in New England, so it’s a perfect time to celebrate your own peony. Maybe even find a small pagoda to place nearby.

*And I had to get one link in. Read Mary Oliver's poem Peonies here

Care Considerations : Over the course of a few seasons a peony can grow so full that it will crowd itself out. You can tell a plant is crowded because it will have more leaves than flowers. RAG Thyme gardeners will try splitting a plant up first to see if it will come back next season with more blooms. It may take 2 seasons for a transplanted peony to come back to its full glory as they can be sensitive to being moved around.

Peony are prone to brown spot where the leaves become covered in crispy yellow-brown spots and look sickly. Proper pruning can help control the spread of brown spot and RAG Thyme gardeners can trim a plant appropriately. They are also prone to powdery mildew, which is a white powdery substance that can be rubbed off the leaves with a bit of persistence. If caught early enough RAG Thyme gardeners can treat the leaves to reduce the infection and help keep it from spreading to other plants.

Other than that, find a nice sunny spot in the garden and set those peony to growing. A peony ring is also usually a good idea to help the tender stems hold up those big, puffy blooms.

Contact us to get an estimate on RAG Thyme services for your yard and garden! We’ll help existing plants stay brilliant, or suggest alternatives with as much beauty and personality.

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