Sunday, April 15, 2012


Peonies--I have a love affair with them!  They have not returned my love.  My Mother has dozens of peonies which bloom every year.  They don't just bloom, the blooms are so large they fall to the ground.  Mother has red, white and pink peonies.  The peonies thrive in my Mothers garden.

In 1991, Martha Stewart released a book entitled Gardening Month by Month.  The book was about Martha's garden at Turkey Hill in Westport Connecticut.  Martha writes:  "Without any conscious thought on my part, the garden at Turkey Hill was planted to be at its best in May."  Her garden is bursting with bloom in May with poppies, Clematis, Irises, and Peonies. 

When AppleJack and I moved to Thistle Manor, I was determined to have peonies.  I admired Mother's and the photos of the peonies in Martha's book were beautiful.  I read about peonies, I studied their growing habits, I dreamed about peonies.  I purchased two peonies and set them in one of my long perennial borders.  The first spring, they came up, the foliage looked good, but no blooms.  Mother told me, "it takes them awhile to get established, they don't like to be transplanted."  The next spring, they came up, the foliage looked good, but no blooms.  This went on for a few years.  Finally, many years later, one of the two peonies had two blooms.  Each year for several years, the plants would come up in the spring, the foliage looked good, and one plant would produce two blooms.  Remember, I said the plants in Next Year are on the get tough or die program.  I showed great restraint and patience in allowing the peonies to remain in the long border and not moving them to the great compost pile in the sky woods. 

I have had lengthy conversations with gardeners about my peonies and their performance.  Here are a few of the things which my fellow gardeners said could go wrong:

  1. Planting too deeply
  2. Immature plants
  3. Excess nitrogen
  4. Inadequate sunlight
  5. Overcrowding
  6. Phosphorus and/or potassium deficiency
  7. Insect or disease problems
  8. Competition from roots of nearby plants
  9. Late freezes
I would call this an inclusive list!  Because the peonies always had beautiful green foliage, I did not move them to the compost heap. 

The peonies have finally rewarded me with blooms!  Don't ask me what is different with them this year, I have done nothing differently.  Here is what Martha writes about peonies:  Peonies like neutral soil that is well drained in a sunny location; they also bloom well in partial shade.  Once established, peonies can grow for more than a decade without division.  Feed them annually with a topdressing of bonemeal in early spring.  Don't know how many of you use bonemeal, it is so stinky stuff. 

I'm glad I did not give up on the peonies.

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