1 The peony is any plant in the genus Paeonia. My herbaceous peony collection includes 11-double rows of peonies, and 22 different varieties of peony plants - two varieties in each row. I selected them for their colors, shades, foliage, growing habits and blooming schedules.
2 These peonies are from Roy Klehm's Song Sparrow Nursery, in Avalon, Wisconsin - a plant source I have loved and used for many years. When I planted this garden, I focused on pink varieties, and planted 35 plants in each of the 11-rows. http://www.songsparrow.com
3 Peonies are considered rich in tradition - they are the floral symbol of China, the state flower of Indiana, and the 12th wedding anniversary bloom.
4 Peonies are long-lived plants that produce a variety of bloom colors, shades, and forms. Flower colors come in pink, white, yellow, red and coral and the various shades and tints of each. I knew the soil at my farm would respond well to growing peonies - it had a pH of 6.5 to 7.0, which was ideal, and the area I chose for planting was in full sun.
5 'Mischief' features bold lightly scented pink flowers with golden stamens in the center. It has a rounded form with a medium texture. It will grow to about 24-inches tall at maturity, extending to three feet tall with the flowers.
6 Look at all the rows of beautiful peonies. The peony's fragrance can vary, but most have sweet, clean scents. And, do you know... pink peonies tend to have stronger fragrances than red peonies? Double form white peonies are also very aromatic.
7 'Beautiful Señorita', a Japanese variety, has a double row of deep, pink guard petals and a creamy center. It also has pink on stigma tips and occasional deep pink petaloids. If you're new to peonies, refer to our Peonies 101 story on our web site. http://www.marthastewart.com/271024/peonies-101
8 The peony is a perennial flower. The majority of peonies are hybrids, and classified as herbaceous, or as deciduous tree peonies. The peony is showy, frilly, and incredibly fragrant, with thick, large green leaves and tuberous root systems.
9 Herbaceous peonies grow two to four feet tall with sturdy stems and blooms that can reach up to 10-inches wide. When planning your peony garden, be sure to give them room to grow - space plants about three to four feet apart and away from competing roots.
10 If the soil is well-conditioned, fertilizer is not necessary; however, if needed, peonies should be given a balanced perennial fertilizer. Peonies love potassium. It is essential for stem strength and disease resistance, but also helps to promote strong flower production. For more information on how I planted my peony garden, read my story on my web site. http://www.marthastewart.com/266627/from-my-home-to-yours-peonies-in-profusi
11 Peonies are native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America, with an estimated number of species ranging between 25 and 40.
12 The peony is known to have some medicinal qualities. Peony plants are said to enhance brain function, increase memory and lower cholesterol.
13 Peonies make wonderful sentinels in the garden, or lined on walkways. After the bloom fades, its bushy clump of glossy, green leaves lasts the rest of summer.
14 Peonies are considered northern flowers, primarily because they tolerate, and even prefer, cold winter temperatures. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, herbaceous peonies are hardy in zones 3 through 8. They need more than 400-hours of temperatures below 40-degrees Fahrenheit annually to break dormancy and properly bloom.
15 Peonies are easy to maintain - for the most part, they are disease resistant and they do not require any pesticides. They do, however, take some time to get established, so be patient.
16 Peonies are plants that can be enjoyed for many years - they can live up to 100-years and still produce magnificent flowers.
17 Plant peonies away from trees or shrubs, and provide them with shelter from strong winds. My herbaceous peony bed is surrounded by a double row of boxwood. In winter I wrap the boxwood in burlap, which protects the entire area from the harsh winters.
18 Both herbaceous and tree peonies need full sun, rich soil and consistent moisture in order to perform their best.
19 Peonies usually bloom quite easily, but if your peonies aren't blooming, it is usually because of one of two reasons: improper planting or insufficient light. Be sure to always plant the eyes, the point at which new growth emerges, no more than two-inches deep. Also be sure the plants get at least six hours of full sun per day.
20 'Star Power' has numerous pure white, large blossoms with bold red guard petals and red tipped stigmas. It looks so dramatic in the garden.
21 For those with newly planted peonies - plants do not usually flower the first year. The initial year is concentrated on developing a good root system and foliage. The second year should prove more successful.
22 Peony blooms often weigh heavily and flop over. To support them, I stake the plants with natural twine and metal uprights.
23 If you happen to see ants crawling on your peonies, don't worry. The insects are attracted to the sugary syrup produced by the buds. Once the flower opens fully, and the sucrose has been finished, the ants disappear.
24 'Praire Moon' is a soft creamy blossom with golden stamens. The blooms can reach about six to seven inches in diameter and have a light floral scent. It is long-lived with strong stems that hold up well to rain and wind.
25 This lush, sturdy stemmed Japanese peony, 'Cora Stubbs', shows off raspberry pink and white flowers with rich pink guard petals surrounding a center of cream and pink petioles.
26 Peonies make dazzling, fragrant floral displays. They also make magnificent cut flower arrangements - alone or mixed with other blooms.
27 'Brother Chuck' is a classic showy peony. It is a very strong peony with dark green foliage and full and double white flowers with slight hint of pink in the center.
28 When using peonies for cut flowers, gather them early in the morning, and cut those whose buds are beginning to show color and feel similar to firm marshmallows. Always cut the stems at an angle and change the water daily.
29 The only disadvantage of peonies is that each field yields one crop of cut flowers for a couple of weeks only once a year. These should last another week or so, and then we'll all have to wait until next season to witness their splendor once again.