1 This photo was taken from my Hi-Lo - about four stories above ground. My herbaceous peony collection includes 11-double rows of peonies, and 22 different varieties of peony plants - two varieties in each row.
2 All of 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 chose them for their colors, shades, foliage, growing habits and blooming schedules. http://www.songsparrow.com
3 My plan was always to plant a lot of peonies in one large garden bed - I've been so pleased with its growth and stunning displays of color.
4 The soil at my farm responds well to growing peonies. It has a pH of 6.5 to 7.0, which is ideal, and the area is in full sun.
5 The soil is amended with superphosphate and Azomite, a natural product mined from an ancient mineral deposit in Utah.
6 These natural additives improve root systems and overall plant vigor, resulting in this fantastic profusion of blooms.
7 The peony bed is also surrounded by a double row of boxwood. In winter I wrap the boxwood in burlap, which protects the entire area from the harsh winter winds.
8 The peony is any plant in the genus Paeonia, the only genus in the family Paeoniaceae. They are native to Asia, Europe and Western North America.
9 Peonies are considered rich in tradition - they are the floral symbol of China, the state flower of Indiana, and the 12th wedding anniversary bloom.
10 Peony blooms range from simple blossoms to complex clusters. Peony flower shapes are one of four major groups: single, semi-double, Japanese, and double.
11 The single form includes flowers with one or maybe two rows of petals that surround the stamens and anthers in the center.
12 Semi-double peonies are those which have more than one row of petals and an exposed center crown.
13 This flower form is a bomb with a large number of petals rising in the center to form a distinct high mound.
14 Peonies are considered northern flowers - they tolerate, and even prefer, cold winter temperatures. They are hardy in zones 3 through 8 and need more than 400-hours of temperatures below 40-degrees Fahrenheit annually to break dormancy and bloom properly.
15 '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.
16 'Star Power' has pure white, large blossoms with bold round guard petals and red tipped stigmas.
17 'Abalone Pearl' is a semi-double with fragrant, coral-pink petals and a golden center. The foliage is dark green and attractive, and it blooms early.
18 '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.
19 'Brother Chuck' is a classic peony. It is a very strong peony with dark green foliage and full and double white flowers with a slight hint of pink in the center.
20 This is 'Cora Stubbs', a Japanese peony whose raspberry pink petals create a bowl around the creamy-white center.
21 This delicate peony is 'Lavender Whisper'. It has a double row of ruffled guard petals and soft lavender highlights throughout the blossoms.
22 'Reine Supreme' has pink double flowers with double rows of guard petals and sturdy stems.
23 'Beautiful Señorita', a Japanese variety, has a double row of deep, pink guard petals and a creamy center. If you're new to the world of peonies, refer to the Peonies 101 story on our web site. http://www.marthastewart.com/271024/peonies-101
24 Other varieties in the collection are 'Elsa Sass', 'Victorian Blush', 'Fringed Ivory', 'Martha', 'Madylone', 'Lullaby Coos', 'Vivid Glow', 'Angel Cheeks', 'Miss America' and 'Flying Pink Saucers'.
25 Herbaceous peonies grow two to four feet tall with sturdy stems and blooms that can reach up to 10-inches wide. Plants should be spaced about three to four feet apart and away from competing roots.
26 The floppy-headed, highly fragrant peonies are held erect by a spider web of twine supported by metal stakes.
27 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.
28 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.
29 Peonies usually bloom quite easily. Be sure to always plant the eyes, the points 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.
30 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.
31 Peonies are plants that can be enjoyed for many years - they can live up to 100-years and still produce magnificent flowers.
32 Both herbaceous and tree peonies need full sun, rich soil and consistent moisture in order to perform their best.
33 This pink peony with the cream band of leaves is so eye-catching in the garden.
34 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.
35 If the soil is well-conditioned, fertilizer is not necessary. If needed, give a balanced perennial fertilizer. Peonies love potassium. It is essential for stem strength, but also helps promote strong flower production. For more on how I planted my peony garden, go to my web site. http://www.marthastewart.com/266627/from-my-home-to-yours-
36 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.
37 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.
38 The only disadvantage of peonies is that each field yields one crop of cut flowers for a couple of weeks only once a year, and then that's it - until the next season, when they bloom with splendor once again.