An old plant and an old favourite of mine are the peony flowers. Peonies flower in late spring or early summer so why I am I thinking about them now? A walk around my November garden reminded me how colourful peony bushes can be in the fall garden. Fall is also the best time for planting peonies and really the only time to divide peonies. Having said that, for us northern gardeners that time has passed as well, and what didn’t get done will have to wait for next year.
There is lots to talk about when it comes to peonies but first things first. Peonies are one of the longest lived perennials, living 20 years or more. Not only do they have magnificent flowers, but they are also very tough plants. I would be remiss not to start this topic without first explaining the different types of peonies that are available to us.
TYPES OF PEONIES
Chinese Peony (Paeonia lactiflora)
Chinese peonies are very popular with huge double flowers of pink, red and white and beautiful sweet fragrance. The leaves are a deep glossy green and remain attractive all season and each bloom sits atop a long stem. Often the blooms can get very heavy and must be supported with garden stakes or hoops.
Japanese peonies are from the same species but have large single flowers with prominent centres. Their flowers are a little more unusual and very appealing and are sometimes called ‘anemone-flowered’.
Hybrid Peony (Paeonia officinalis)
These are the early hybrid herbaceous perennial peonies with erect stems and deep green leaves. Huge blooms up to 8 inches across flower a week or two before the Chinese peonies. Their single, semi-double or double cup-shaped blooms are also in tones of pink, red and white with yellow stamens.
Fernleaf Peony (Paeonia tenuifolia)
Fernleaf peony are slightly more rare and you can expect to pay a premium for them. With deep crimson flowers and finely cut, ferny foliage, they are strikingly different from other peonies.
Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruiticosa)
Tree peonies require a bit more shelter than your usual garden peony. Coming from Asia they are upright, sparsely branched shrubs with a wooden permanent trunk. They have huge gorgeous bowl-shaped blooms, sometimes scented, in white, pink, red or purple. Some blooms have maroon markings at the base. These will be harder to find and will be more expensive.
Intersectional Hybrids (Itoh)
Itoh hybrids are a cross between the herbaceous and tree peonies. Wonderful tough plants with huge tree peony-like flowers on herbaceous, non-woody stems. Beautiful colour tones and combination as well as the coveted yellow.
In very general terms herbaceous peonies can be white to yellow, coral, pink, red or maroon. Double flowered varieties are more fragrant than singles and often pinks are more fragrant than reds. Peonies are deer resistant, drought resistant and hardy to zone 2. September through October is the ideal time to plant peonies however they can also be planted in the spring when potted varieties become available. By growing different types of peonies you can have a long glorious peony season in your garden.
To learn more about this wonderful plant read my other Peony posts:
Golden Oldies Part Two / Planting Peonies
Golden Oldies Part Three / Care and Troubleshooting
Golden Oldies Part Four /Special Tips and Replanting
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