Chicken Coop Chatter©
Peonies are ideal for the farm, because they are not bothered by rodents, rabbits or deer. They are long lived, and found on many very old homesteads. Though they live 40 to 50 years, you can divide the plants to rejuvenate and add 40-50 more years to the divisions.
Peonies are easy to grow, are fragrant, herbaceous perennials; that are drought tolerant after they are well established, and survive harsh winters with a layer of compost or manure at the base. I like to use natural fertilizer, so I make a compost or manure tea to use when watering. (see instructions for making the *natural fertilizers*.)
There is very little care required to grow peonies. Watering periodically, a bit of winter mulch, annual fertilizer and cutting back in fall keeps them happy. Divide them every few years to extend their life-time.
The plants will do best in morning sun with some afternoon shade. Though mine have grown in the same location for several years and they do get afternoon sun. Since I am located in the Pacific Northwest where we have few days over 100 degrees, I would advice in warmer climates that they be planted so they do receive afternoon shade or be sheltered from the hot sun.
Peonies are best divided and planted in fall from the root stock. Make sure each root has *eyes*. The root stock should be planted in a shallow 3-4 inch hole with good drainage and dressed with manure or compost.
If planted too deep peonies may never bloom, or take years to bloom. Keep the plants well watered the first year and if the soil is acidic they will appreciate a dressing of Agriculture lime.
When the peonies are cut back in fall, do not compost the leaves. They are subject to gray mold (botrytis blight). The action of composting will not always kill off this virus, so it is best to put those into a plastic bag and dispose of them.
Peonies notoriously attract ants because of the nectar in the buds. It is believed that the ants help the peony buds to open, but I have had little problem with ants, though I have seen other plants covered with ants. If you have an ant problem, you may want to use an ant deterrent around the base of the plants. Granular laundry detergent may be enough to deter the ants. Peonies here in the Pacific NW bloom in May, and are often beaten down by spring rains. There are shelters available from garden centers, specifically made for peonies, or they can be planted where they will not be as affected by rain and hail during bloom time.
Peonies make excellent cut flowers. They will last long in a vase with water and every few days, cut off 1/2-1" of the stem and give them fresh water. Peonies will stand alone in a vase or are lovely in a mixed vase of flowers. If the peonies have attracted ants, simply shake the stems and wash them off the blossoms before placing in a vase.
For carefree, fragrant and long-lived homestead plants, consider the Peony in it's many colors and forms. There are single petaled, and double petaled in an array of colors to choose from that bloom from May through the summer months. My absolute favorite peony is *Raspberry Sorbet*. Though they are sold as plants in spring, it is best to plant the root stock in early fall. Peonies are lovely planted with another long-lived homestead plant, the Iris with many complimentary colors to choose from. Bees and Butterflies love the peony.
CREDENTIALS: Certified Oregon State Master Gardener since 1999. Horticulture degree 2001. Study of Herbs and Horticulture Therapy, heavy research and study of all plants and herbs. Gardening a lifetime.
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