Why we love peonies

The early spring brought some peonies out of their winter slumber a bit prematurely, but many, like those in my back yard, opened fully on cue on Friday and Saturday and were in all their voluminous, colorful glory as Memorial Day approached.

And then, as if to prove how perverse Mother Nature can be, she sent a windy, pounding rain Saturday morning, pummeling many wide open blooms to the ground, bending and breaking stems and melting the blooms that had been open just a little too long.

Now is when you get out that peony bowl and float a couple of the survivors in the house to remind us why we grow these durable yet delicate bloomed beauties. Durable, because these are plants that may have crossed the prairie in covered wagons, their rhizomes stowed away to ensure that some familiar piece of “home” would greet the travelers when they set down roots in some windy and fertile stake of land. Before that, the rhizomes had likely traveled from China and Japan to Eastern Europe where there was a bit of a frenzy in the late 1780s.

Peonies further proved their mettle in the mid- to late-1880s, when they were one of the most popular florist blooms available in the U.S. Many of the most notable peony growers were located in the central U.S., especially Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota. Peony blooms were picked in bud, and put in cold storage for four to six weeks and then brought out and transported to markets elsewhere in the U.S.

A staple of traditional landscapes in the mid-20th century were windrows of peony shrubs, often used to decorate the graves of family members and those who had died in military service. In modern garden design, peonies are a reliable source of late spring color that can serve well as a backdrop of shiny green leaves for other blooms to come later in the summer into fall.

While some may consider peonies an “old fashioned” choice for garden cultivation, it is hard to argue against a plant that requires virtually no care except for fertilization, and can live happily in its place for 100 years. Finally, for many of us, the peony is a symbol of colorful memories of times with older family, lemonade, the smells and sights of childhood and of the enduring imprint of the garden.

 


Written by Anne Larson, Garden’s Grace blog contributor.

 

 

Start Pruning Your Life: Cutting Back to Grow More

 

It’s that time of the year that you should be thinking of pruning back some of those overgrown shrubs and trees.  This truly is the perfect time of the year to see the branching of the plants to properly prune. With leaves off of plants one can see many issues.  One issue can be criss-crossing of branches.  Branches that are crossing sometimes lead to areas where there is rubbing of the wood-causing rubbing of the wood where disease and insects  can burrow inside.  Another advantage to dormant pruning is one is able to see dead, diseased or injured wood. Pruning cuts made during the dormant season have time to heal before the plant produces new growth in spring.  When Spring comes around and the leaves start filling in, it can be too late. Often, I see other companies go in to prune with gas powered shears in the Summer, with no thought for the actual growth of the plant or tree. In the end you are dealing with a very ugly and unnatural looking ball that does not represent the actual beauty of the specimen you are growing. This also can lead to disease of the plant as the tighter the ball the less air movement.  The other advantages of pruning in spring are simple: pests and disease is drastically cut down. Pruning during late Spring, Summer and early Fall makes plants more vulnerable to an assortment of disease and pests. Pruning during the Spring gives you the upper hand on properly training your shrubs and trees. Dormant pruning is pretty simple and highly effective. In the end it will save you time and money. Do the proper thing and contact us for a free estimate!

Proper mulching techniques

When and when not to mulch – that is the question! I have been to numerous homeowner associations and residential properties where I have seen mulch that was applied incorrectly. Either it was the incorrect type of mulch, not enough mulch, entirely too much mulch, or mulch that looks so old it’s petrified.

 

What I see 9 times out of 10 is mulch that has been over applied. We have to remember that mulch is a natural material and that it WILL break down over time. If you feel the need to add mulch, please first go and take a look at what your depth is (proper mulch depth should be between 2.5-3 inches). If you notice that it is at the correct depth, take a hard rake, fluff the mulch to even out the decomposition process and give it a better appearance. You’ll not only save money – you’ll also stop the build up of mulch and avoid creating disease and inviting problem pests that damage the foundation of your house and plants. Plus, you’ll spruce up the old mulch so it does not look old and petrified, giving it a much more professional appearance. If you feel the need to swap out a different type of mulch, don’t just throw it on top of the previous mulch. Take a hard rake and rake off the previous mulch, dispose of it, and add the new mulch. This will stop the buildup of mulch around your garden beds, giving it a happier and rejuvenated look (feeling?)!

 

All of these steps take time and I’ve had multiple people not understand the end result. They take the route they wanted and it ends up costing them much more in the end. It does take time for a garden to buildup with mulch, but with time if you do not fix the problem, it will become a much bigger issue.

 

In relation to my last post about proper tree planting – do not add mulch around the base of your tree. Instead, move the mulch back a few inches to provide a spot that bugs and disease cannot thrive in.