May 12, 2016
The Tree Peony Garden at My Farm
I simply adore tree peonies and have been collecting them for quite a long time. As many of you know, I have a long tree peony border planted in a semi-shade of giant maples near my Summer House. Many of the specimens were transplanted from my Turkey Hill garden in Westport, Connecticut and continue to thrive here at my Bedford, New York farm.
The tree peony season is so short - just seven to 10 days, but these unimaginably large, and often fragrant, white, pink, yellow, red, and burgundy flowers are some of my favorites in the garden. Here are photos of what is blooming now. Enjoy.
1 I love my curving border of tree peonies, Paeonia suffruticosa. There are very few plants that can compete with a tree peony in full bloom. They flower from late April to early May but the season often varies from year to year.
2 Unlike the more common herbaceous peonies, which flop over if not staked, tree peonies bloom on graceful woody stems.
3 Native to Europe and Asia, peonies were brought over to England by the Romans in the year 1200. In ancient times, peonies were used for medicinal purposes including curing headaches, relieving pain during childbirth and for the treatment of asthma.
4 Peonies are the floral symbol of China. Paintings of peonies are often seen hung on the wall in order to bring good luck.
5 In Japan, the peony is looked upon as the humble king of flowers and is a symbol of strength, courage, and future good fortune.
6 Marco Polo, famous merchant and explorer, described peonies as "roses as big as cabbages".
7 When planting tree peonies, choose a well-drained location, with four to six hours of direct sun or dappled sun and shade all day. A place with protection from drying winds is also helpful.
8 Keep in mind that most tree peonies will grow four to seven feet tall and about four to five feet wide, so select a spot that can also accommodate a mature plant.
9 Tree peonies prefer airy, reasonably open spaces as air movement around the plant helps prevent fungal diseases like peony wilt.
10 It may take two to three years for a plant to settle in before blooming heavily, but the wait is worth it to any gardener.
11 A mature plant can have in excess of a hundred flowers and each bloom can reach 10-inches or more in diameter.
12 The soil for tree peonies must be deep, rich and loose, with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0 - they prefer a slightly alkaline soil.
13 Once established, tree peonies are drought tolerant plants. Excess water will suffocate the roots, so do not water until the soil is dry below the surface.
14 Here is a perfect pink tree peony bud just waiting to open.
15 The flowers of the tree peony are usually much larger than its herbaceous peony cousins, but both are available in single and double forms.
16 They come in colors that include all ranges of white, pink, magenta and dark maroon.
17 Pink flowers are more fragrant then maroon flowers. Plus, they are deer resistant, which makes them even more appealing.
18 Fall is the best season to plant tree peonies, because it helps the development of new roots and the recovery for normal growth the following spring.
19 Tree peonies are heavy feeders and respond well to a generous, early autumn top dressing of bone meal or rose fertilizer. The high potash content encourages flowers to develop. A light sprinkling of a general fertilizer can be applied in spring.
20 Here is a pretty white tree peony just days away from full bloom. Tree Peonies set their buds late summer into early fall so any desired pruning should be done right after they flower to prevent the loss of next year's blossoms.
21 They don't need much, but I always prune the tree peonies myself and have found that pruning to about a four to five foot height creates a wonderful eye-level view of blooms.
22 Usually a tree peony will grow away in the spring, producing large handsome leaves and often some new shoots from the base.
23 Flower buds produce large quantities of nectar which attracts ants. In fact, ants play a role in the opening of flower buds and provide protection against harmful insects. Flowers emit a subtle, sweet fragrance which also attracts pollinating wasps and flies.
24 The peony is perennial plant that can survive up to 100-years when it is cultivated under optimal conditions. I look forward to many seasons of these most stunning flowers.