Friday, July 10, 2015

Growing Peonies in Calgary

    Peonies are among the easiest and most rewarding of perennials that grow in Calgary and everywhere across the Prairies. No wonder they are called "The King of Flowers" in China and Japan! It takes a few years for them to get started but after that they live for decades.
They come in shades of dark red, pink, white and everything in-between, even yellow! There are a few types of flower styles ranging from single to pom-pom and some bloom in two colours usually with the centre being different from the outer petals.

     When we moved into our house two lonely peonies were the only perennials in the front yard, more than a decade later they still put on a show every June.

     Here are some tips for growing peonies in Calgary or almost anywhere:

- Buy, or inherit, as big as you can find, the older these plants get the better. After planting in a sunny location it can take 3 or so years for them to get established.

- Don't fertilize! You can add a little compost when you plant a peony and top dress the soil once in a while with more compost over the years but really they don't need a lot of pampering. They also thrive on neglect, regular rainfall is enough most years, once in a while in a very dry August or September I have given mine a little extra water. Most years they are  fine on their own.

- To stake or not stake? It's up to you, I don't like the look of plants in bondage so I leave mine to grow naturally, if it rains a lot they'll probably go floppy but I usually just pick some for inside.

-After flowering, when the petals have dropped, the seed heads must be removed as they are only a drain on the entire plant and will effect flowering next year. I usually cut a couple of leaf sets down the stem for a tidy look.

-Peonies like cold a cold winter, I've never seen them in California or Florida for instance, so really no special care for the fall. I usually rake a few leaves over the crowns in the fall but this is mainly to retain moisture in the whole bed over the winter, if you just left them with no mulch they would also be fine.

-If you want to move (not recommended) or split a peony do it in September, plant with the crown of the peony an inch or two below the soil.

Unlike people, Peonies photograph well with backlighting!!!

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