1 Fernando packed the trailer with plants to go to Skylands, my home in Maine.
2 Smaller plants sat on the top shelf of the trailer. They were packed very carefully to prevent any injury to the plants during the long drive.
3 These were the larger plants I took up to plant in pots and planters for the summer.
4 They were carefully positioned and secured on the floor of the trailer - I can't wait to do some spring gardening up in Maine.
5 Meanwhile, at my Bedford farm, the tree peonies, also known botanically as Paeonia suffruticosa, looked beautiful this week. Tree peonies are actually woody shrubs that reach an average of four to five feet in height.
6 There are few plants that can compete with the tree peony when it's in full bloom. Tree peonies flower anywhere from late April to early May.
7 Tree peonies come in a range of colors and and shades including pink, red, white, yellow, and peony. When planted in dappled shade, tree peony blooms last longer.
8 Tree peonies can be single or double flower forms and many varieties have fragrant flowers.
9 Look at the bold pink color of this tree peony. Tree peonies thrive in fertile, well-drained soil. They favor a neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Clay, chalk or sand is okay as long as they don't get too dry in the summer or too wet in the winter. Tree peonies also do best with at least four to six hours of direct sun or all day in dappled sun.
10 The best locations for tree peony plants are those that face north, south or west.
11 Pure white peonies are so exquisite. Tree peony plants will grow about four or five feet wide - keep this in mind when choosing the planting location. Try to plant tree peonies at least eight feet away from other large trees.
12 When planting peonies, space the plants at least three to five feet apart. The planting hole should also be about 12 to 18 inches deep and 18 to 24 inches in diameter.
13 The soil for tree peonies must be rich and loose with a pH between 6.5 and 7.
14 The root collar of the plant should be level with the ground or no more than two-inches below the surface.
15 It isn't necessary to fertilize the same time you plant the tree peony. Starting in the second year, fertilize up to three times with a completely organic formula. Fertilize in early spring, soon after blooming, and again in late fall to early winter.
16 Once established, tree peonies are relatively drought-tolerant. Don't over water them as this will suffocate the roots and cause the plant to fail. Don't water until soil is dry below the surface.
17 And, when watering tree peonies, avoid getting the leaves wet to prevent fungus. Be observant - soil can feel dry on top, and still be moist below ground.
18 When the soil is dry below four-inches, and the leaves appear to be drooping, water the roots deeply. Tree peonies kept in climates where summers are hot with little to no rain will need a little more attention than those in areas that get rainfall.
19 If a tree peony's leaves droop in the first warm days of spring, this could be caused by an imbalance in the root system, which should clear on its own once the plant is settled. The most important note is to check the soil - if it's moist, don't water.
20 The deep reddish purple of this tree peony bloom was so striking against the medium green foliage.
21 Tree peonies are slow growing, but long-lived. They produce woody stems and do not die back to the ground like herbaceous peonies. Depending on the size at planting, flowering can start happening any time from the first year to the fourth, so don't be discouraged if there are no blooms right away.
22 Even when they start to wilt away, they still look beautiful.
23 Some flowers in the tree peony collection are still opening up.
24 And some are still wee buds just waiting to burst open with color.
25 Come summer, the hot weather is really a time of dormancy for the tree peony - there is little or no leaf growth at all. During this time, plants are storing energy in the roots.
26 Once a tree peony is settled in its location and growing well for several years, it may be necessary to cut out extra growth in the interior of the shrub. This will allow more light and air to circulate through the plant.
27 Tree peonies are hardy through zone-4, but they do need protection from winter winds. In winter, I surround the tree peony garden with burlap secured to the ground with stakes.
28 And, come spring, these hardy plants provide beautiful, vibrant blooms.