Wendy Schmidt

Wendy Schmidt

Busy gardeners are discovering what our grandmothers knew. Peonies are hardy, beautiful and easy to grow. Each spring they bloom so profusely that you can cut large bouquets and no one will notice the flowers missing from the bush. They thrive into the far north, and they’re unmindful of winter’s cold and winds.

When you plant a peony, you won’t get instant gratification. Peonies are slower to establish, but then can live for 100 years. Keep this in mind and use good, rich soil to plant the root, only an inch or so below the surface.

Peonies are a sleep, creep, leap plant. When you plant a new young root from the grower, figure on a year to sleep, a year to creep, and by the third year it will be ready to leap forth and amaze with the huge blossoms we have come to love.

After established, each year when the foliage emerges from the ground, top-dress the plant area with fresh chicken manure.

In late August, when foliage dies down, cut it off just below the soil surface and remove the debris from the garden area to prevent spreading any parasites or plant diseases.

Peonies are of two main types — woody stemmed and herbaceous.

The woody stemmed, or tree, peonies (originally from China) form large shrubs that do not die back to the ground each year but do lose their leaves.

The herbaceous peonies have numerous blossom forms — single, Japanese, anemone, semi-double, fully double, species and bomb (like a ball of petals on a plate).

No garden is really complete without at least one peony. When not in bloom they have beautiful dark-green foliage that shows off anything planted in front of it.

Yard chores

• Watch for the fuzzy blooms of pussy willows

• Thin spots and bare patches in the lawn can be overseeded now.

• Apply sulfur to the soils around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies and dogwoods. Use a granular formation at the rate of 1/2-pound per 100 square feet.

• Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 6-12-12 to perennial beds when new growth appears.

• Ornamental grasses should be cut to the ground just as new growth begins.

• Gradually begin to pull back mulch from roses.

If you have garden questions or comments, please write to greengardencolumn@yahoo.com. Thanks for reading!

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