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Archive for June, 2013

As our herbaceous peonies enter their grand finale for 2013, we have already begun to plan our fall peony planting at Cricket Hill Garden.  Peonies are very long-lived and relatively carefree provided that they are given a good start.  Planting healthy stock is of course vital, but equally important is to amend the peony planting area so that the peony will thrive there.  Basically, this entails adjusting the soil’s pH to the proper level and adding adequate organic material to deficient soils so that the peony will be provided with long-term nourishment.  A little work now will pay you back with years of beautiful flowers.  See our youtube video on this preparing a new peony planting area.

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If you are planting peonies in a new garden area, choose a location with 6 hours of sun (tree peonies will also grow well in dappled shade, but if you are planting herbaceous or intersectional ponies, select a full sun location.) The other basic requirement for peonies is a well drained site.

When planting garden bed, make sure that the soil is deep enough to accommodate a peonies extensive root system. Don't worry if the soil is rocky, just don't' plan on planting in an area with only a few inches of soil above boulder or rocky ledge.

When planting garden bed, make sure that the soil is deep enough to accommodate a peony’s extensive root system. Don’t worry if the soil is rocky, just don’t plant  in an area with only a few inches of soil above a boulder or rocky ledge.

In New England, our soils tend to be sandy and rocky, as well as low in calcium and phosphorus. In our area the native soil's pH is around 5.00, much too low for successful peony cultivation. Poor soils can be amended to improve fertility. Its always a good idea to have your soil tested so that you know your soil's baseline mineral and fertility levels. The following list of amendments suited for poor to average soils.

In New England, our soils tend to be sandy and rocky, as well as low in calcium and phosphorus. In our area the native soil’s pH is around 5.0 to 5.5, much too low for successful peony cultivation. Poor soils can be amended to improve fertility. Its always a good idea to have your soil tested so that you know your soil’s baseline mineral and fertility levels. The following list of amendments is suited for poor to average soils.

                     The following is a deluxe method for amending unimproved,  poor native soil

                      if you are creating a new planting area.

Add these soil ammendments to your planting site and you will grow amazing peonies.

Add these natural soil amendments to your planting site

We add 2 lbs each of the following soil-building amendments to our planting site sized 3′ x3′:

  • Azomite– (long term minerals and trace minerals)
  • Hi-Cal (Calcitic) Lime- For calcium, this also raises the pH of the soil, 6.5-7.0 is ideal for peony growing.
  • Colloidal Phosphate- For short-term calcium boost and slow-release phosphorus, very important for bloom production.
  • Greensand- For improving soil texture and adding potassium.

We add 1 lb. each of the amendments listed below for building high levels of humus:

  • Alfalfa meal
  • Blood meal
  • Bone char
  • These amendments can be found through suppliers like Espoma and Dr. Earth which package for the home gardener, sold online or locally at well stocked garden centers.
Mix all of your amendments together and spread them over a 3' x 3' area.

Mix all of your amendments together and spread them over a 3′ x 3′ area.

Rather than rotor-till a new planting area, we like to smother the grass and unwanted plants. By not disturbing the soil, we leave the complex web of beneficial bacteria and fungi intact.

One large wheel barrow full of finished compost achieves two goals, it adds organic material to the planting area will also smothering the unwanted grass.

One large wheel barrow full of finished compost achieves two goals, it adds organic material to the planting area and will also smother the unwanted grass.

To off the compost pile with a wheelbarrow load of mulch. We have lots of old wood chips around the garden, so we use these. You might also consider using grass clippings or leaves.

Top off the compost pile with a wheelbarrow load of mulch. We have lots of old wood chips around the garden, so we use these. You might also consider using grass clippings or leaves.

Allow the soil amendments, compost and mulch to sit over the next few months.  In the fall, when you are ready to plant, pull back the mulch and compost from the center of the pile and plant your peony there. All of the good compost and mulch will nourish the peony and get it off to a great start.

If your garden area has better soil and has been worked before, a  simpler method which will  yield good results  would be to add 1- 2 lbs Azomite and one wheelbarrow load of compost to the future planting area sized 3′ x 3′. If you know your soil is acidic, add 1-2 lbs. of ground limestone. Allow this to sit and ‘stew’ over the summer and in early fall your soil will be ready for planting.

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We have had perfect weather the last few days and it is sublime to spend time at Cricket Hill Garden. Enjoy the photos below of some of our latest blooming tree peonies, as well as some spectacular intersectional (itoh) and herbaceous peonies.

'White Goose of Shimane' 島根白雁 Shimane Hakugan. This was our latest blooming Japanese tree peony this year.

‘White Goose of Shimane’ 島根白雁 Shimane Hakugan. This was our latest blooming Japanese tree peony this year.

'Chromatella'  (Lemoine 1920). This French tree peony shares a trait common to many of the first generation of Lutea hybrid tree peonies, the lovely flowers are not well supported and face downwards.

‘Chromatella’ (Lemoine 1920). This French tree peony shares a trait common to many of the first generation of Lutea hybrid tree peonies; the lovely flowers are not well supported and face downwards.

'Cora Louise' (Anderson, 1986) A favorite intersectional peony.

Cora Louise‘ (Anderson, 1986) A favorite intersectional peony.

'Bartzella' (Anderson, 1986). This blossom measured over 9'' in diameter!

Bartzella‘ (Anderson, 1986). This blossom measured over 9” in diameter!

'Maroon Dragon Claw' This intersectional peony was hybridized by our old friend Frank Simone.

Maroon Dragon Claw‘ This intersectional peony was hybridized by our old friend Frank Simone.

Catching up with old friends and making new ones is a wonderful aspect of the Peony Festival.

Catching up with old friends and making new ones is a wonderful aspect of the Peony Festival.

The last few days have been perfect peony weather, sunny, but not too hot or humid.

The last few days have been perfect peony weather, sunny, but not too hot or humid.

'Red Embroidery Needles' with Mundy Hepburn's garden glass in the background.

‘Red Embroidery Needles’ with Mundy Hepburn’s garden glass in the background.

Paeonia anomala, with its finely cut foliage and good stature still retains lots of garden interest even after the blooms have passed.

Paeonia anomala, with its finely cut foliage and good stature still retains lots of garden interest even after the blooms have passed.

P. veitchii var. alba, another wild species herbaceous peony.

P. veitchii var. alba, another wild species herbaceous peony.

'Purple Phoenix Feather' Zi Feng Yu 紫鳳羽

Purple Phoenix Feather‘ Zi Feng Yu 紫鳳羽

One of our herbaceous seedling plants which impressed us very much this year.

One of our herbaceous seedling plants which impressed us very much this year.

Another peach-colored seedling herbaceous peony.

Another peach-colored seedling herbaceous peony.

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