From Where I Sit – Wonders Underfoot


Is there anything more gorgeous than a peony? Not only are they magnificent when they bloom but they also have so much more in their favour.

They are extremely hardy. I’ve never heard of winterkill taking these girls down. Considering that they die back to the ground each fall, it is a small miracle that by late June they’ve grown three or four feet in height and poured all that energy into dozens of blooms. These wonders live, problem-free, for decades. I’ve got a couple that are over thirty years old. They never need dividing and mine?touch wood?have never had any disease. I also have never fertilized them. I know, my bad. How much bigger could these six-inch blooms get if they had a little supplement?

Some people complain about the ?mess? they make with their spent blooms. Others avoid them because they usually have ants on them. Deadheading the plant as soon as the flowers fade prevents the petal dropping and has the added bonus of preventing seed formation which drains the plants energy. Giving the cut stems a vigorous shake before bringing a vase-full into the house usually addresses the second concern. I would never deprive myself of this special plant and the joy it brings because of issues like this.

The one thing I do need to address is buying some proper peony rings to help support the heavy load these stems bear. Hybridization and newer varieties have resulted in many more colours and far stronger stems. My makeshift supports are neither attractive, nor very effective, as the weight of these gigantic flowers pulls the stems to the ground. Or I suppose I could begin replacing them. Though I understand some hybrids can cost as much as a hundred dollars each.

Peonies come in a variety of forms including single, double, anemone, and Japanese. Websites exist with photo galleries, botanical names, and information about herbaceous, tree, and intersectional varieties.

Cutting stems while in the bud stage ensures longer vase life and allows you to bring this lovely scented over-achiever indoors to enjoy for a couple of weeks.

As counter intuitive as it seems, It’s vital to avoid planting this perennial too deeply. Doing so will result in few or no flowers at all. Lois Hole’s perennial book advises having the crown no deeper than one and half or two inches. Keeping the plant away from trees and in areas where it will receive at least six of sunlight also ensures success. I’ve got a couple that are struggling for that very reason. Since fall is the best time to plant, maybe a little move is in order.

Peonies are just the latest little miracle to have captured my attention and admiration. When one lives in over-drive It’s easy to miss the small wonders underfoot. I’m trying very hard not to let that happen, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.

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