Archive for March, 2012

Winter can be trying on peonies, particularly for the newly planted, less-than-ideally sited or poorly mulched. Flower buds can withstand sub-zero temperatures, but the continued freezing and thawing of more mild winters can result in what is known as heaving. This term refers to the resulting force of a layer of ice forming beneath the surface of the soil. The expansion of this ice pushes a layer of soil upwards. The cumulative effects of this process can be quite pronounced, particularly after a like the one we experienced this year with many periods of freezing and thawing. Its frost heaving which is responsible for delivering us a fresh crop of ‘Connecticut potatoes’ each spring, as rocks come up to the surface. So as you begin your spring clean up, inspect your peonies for signs of heaving.

Peony roots that are not firmly set in the ground or which are in wetter soils are particularly susceptible. This poor plant is in both wet soil and did not have its roots insulated by a layer of mulch. Mulch insulates the soil and can help to prevent heaving. Roots like these, exposed by frost heaving will not survive and will severally weaken a plant.

Exposed roots can desiccate, which can be deadly for young tree and herbaceous peonies, and all plants.

The best solution is to generously mound soil around the exposed roots and tamp it down firmly, but gently with your foot. Do this now in the early spring before any exposed roots wither.

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Despite the 4” of snow we received the other day, spring is rapidly approaching here at Cricket Hill. Many of the early blooming Chinese tree peonies are quite far advanced for this early in the season. We generally do not worry about this and have been amazed in years past at the ability of the new growth to withstand very cold weather.

The buds of the Chinese tree peony ‘Ancient Red’ 種生紅.

The later blooming P.rockii hybrids remain very dormant despite the warm winter. These woody sheaths protect the bud.

As the spring peony planting season begins in much of the U.S., we have revised our tree peony care reference sheet. The most significant changes we have made are to emphasize the need to adequately water newly transplanted tree peonies in the first season after transplanting. Depending on how much rain you receive, and the heat of summer, this may mean watering once a week through the first spring and summer that the peony is in its new location. You can download a PDF of our newly revised Tree Peony Care Sheet. Please feel free to share it with friends, garden clubs and anyone else who might be interested.

If there is empty spot in your garden that needs a beautiful plant, consider adding a peony this spring. We have some great plants on special. Happy planting and good growing!

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