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A Gardening Life – June 7

It is peony season and rain is in the forecast. If you’ve grown this wonderful perennial you know what happens to the huge flowers in the rain. Before the storm you had a beautiful, colorful garden and afterwards you have heavy flowers in the mud.

Those who stake their peonies avoid such heartaches of course. There are grow-through peony supports that hold the flowers upright and half-moon shaped stakes that those who’ve forgotten to install the grow-through grids early enough can use at the last minute. In the old days, when I had fewer plants, I preferred to support my peonies by sticking in individual bamboo canes at an angle around each plant, tying single stalks to each stick with raffia. This technique looked much more natural and almost charming, and the outer ring of staked stalks supported the inner stems that weren’t tied. Now I don’t have time for such an intensive garden task that is only going to be needed for two or three short weeks. These days I leave my peonies unsupported.

Which is why I went into the garden with a pair of pruners last night and cut several dozen peony flowers. Rain was forecast for today and rather than have the flowers get dirty or prematurely browned with fungus I decided to bring them inside. Every room of my house is now perfumed with peony fragrance and instead of moaning about the rain or my lack of staking I can rejoice in my abundance.

There is a larger lesson here, about “the things we can control and the wisdom to tell the difference” certainly, and about making choices as to where we put attention and effort.

I love how the peonies bloom at the same time as many poppies and roses. The impressionist-painting color schemes please me.

Here is a way to feel wealthy: cut peonies before the rain and place huge bouquets throughout your house.

Sharing the Wealth
Growing Peonies for Cutting

  • The varieties I would recommend for extravagant cutting flowers are: Pink Parfait, Cora Stubbs, Raspberry Sundae, Sarah Bernhardt, Festiva Maxima, Felix Supreme, and Whopper.
  • For the strongest stems that are more likely to be self-supporting, grow peonies in full sun and fertilize sparingly. I only feed with a light application of an organic fertilizer every other year but my beds are amended with compost and I do mulch every third year or so.
  • If you hesitate to cut your peonies you need more of them. Plant a few in the garden and stake these so that they don’t bend to the ground in a rain. Then make a cutting bed with more plants that aren’t staked and harvest them liberally.
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