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by Pernell Gerver

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"Growing the Many Different Types of Peonies"

Peony 'Festiva Maxima'Peonies are the queens of the late spring perennial garden. They are among the longest-lived perennials, often living 75 years or more. Once established, they will flower for many seasons to come. In bloom in the garden now, it's hard to top their big, bold flowers. Click on a plant name to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

An established peony clump can be up to three feet tall and as wide with a dozen or more large, colorful flowers. Its deep-green, glossy leaves are large and deeply divided. The foliage remains attractive in the garden all season long. Because of its clean, nicely-textured foliage and clumping growth habit, peony can be used as a small shrub border when planted close together.

Peonies come in a wide range of flower colors including white, cream, yellow, pink, red, and rose. Flower forms can be single, semi-double and double. Single forms have a cluster of bright-yellow stamens in the center of the flower, providing a striking contrast to the flower petals.


When a peony is loaded with its heavy blossoms, it has a tendency to fall over, especially after a heavy rain. To prevent this, early in the season set a plant support ring over the plant just as it's beginning to grow. As the peony grows, its stems will grow through the grid inside the ring and be supported. Tall flower stems can be individually staked as well to keep the stems from falling over.

Peonies grow and bloom best in full sun, although in my garden they get by with part sun and they bloom relatively well. Sometimes a peony growing in full sun will fail to bloom. When this happens, it's most likely planted too deeply, resulting in what's called a "blind peony." Peony has buds on its roots called "eyes" and should be planted so the eyes are no deeper than two inches below the surface. This includes mulch. If it's planted deeper than two inches or if mulch covers the crown too deeply the peony won't bloom. Keep mulch away from the center of the plant.

There are dozens of varieties of peony with flower colors to suit every taste. One of my favorites is called 'Raspberry Sundae.' It's a beautiful double peony with a row of creamy-white outer petals surrounding a cluster of ruffled, raspberry-pink center petals. It really does look like a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with raspberries. Its flowers are six inches wide or more and very fragrant. It grows to about 30 inches tall.


Peony 'Edulis Superba' is an early-blooming variety. What I like most about this peony is its fragrant blossoms. It bears many fully-double flowers with ruffled petals that are intensely fragrant. The flowers are pink with a deeper-rose center. It reaches three feet tall or so.

Double fernleaf peony has a look unlike most peonies. It has finely-divided foliage instead of the broad, divided leaves most peonies have. The finely-divided foliage has a feathery appearance and is quite attractive. It bears large, fully-double, deep-red flowers. It's a shorter peony, only growing 12 to 15 inches tall. It also blooms earlier than most peonies. It's in full bloom in my garden right now.

Tree Peony PinkHerbaceous peonies die back to the ground in winter, but there is one type of peony, called tree peony, that does not. While it doesn't really grow to tree heights, it does have a woody stem that can reach four feet tall or more. The bare stem of tree peony is topped with foliage from early spring to fall. The flowers are held atop the foliage. Flowers are large, easily six inches across or more and bloom in shades of white, pink, red, maroon, salmon, and lavender. Tree peony blooms a little earlier than herbaceous types. It's in full bloom in mid to late May. Unlike herbaceous peonies that need full sun to grow and bloom best, tree peony grows and blooms well in partial shade and actually prefers it.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Fertilize Trumpet Vine to Encourage Blooms"

Yellow Trumpet VineQ. I enjoy your column and look forward to it every Sunday. I have a question about trumpet vine. I have planted several over the years in different locations in my garden. They grow well, but never blossom. Two years ago I planted a new one on the southwest side of my deck. It receives afternoon sun. It has flourished, winding and curling around the spindles, but still no blossoms. Will it ever flower? Thank you.

A. Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is a vigorous vine. It quickly covers a wall or fence. It has scarlet-orange, trumpet-shaped flowers in summer. Each tubular flower is several inches long. The flowers are borne in clusters of five or more at the ends of its stems. The color and shape of its flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and it's often referred to as the hummingbird vine for that reason. Seed pods form following the flowers and they last on the vine well into winter. In addition to scarlet orange, there is also a yellow-flowered variety.

Trumpet vine is a deciduous vine, losing its foliage in winter. Its leaves are made up of up to 10 smaller leaflets. The leaflets have distinctly-toothed edges. Trumpet vine clings to its support by means of aerial roots. It spreads by underground runners, often springing up several feet away from the main plant. These suckers can be prevented by cutting into the roots a couple of feet out from the base. Use a sharp spade and slice into the soil, severing the roots.

Many vines take a while to get established and it's not uncommon to have to wait several years for a trumpet vine to bloom. Trumpet vine grows best in full sun in rich, moist, well-drained soil. It won't bloom as well if it's growing in shade. Under the right conditions, trumpet vine can reach 30 feet long or more. To keep its vigorous growth under control, prune it back in late winter or early spring while it's still dormant. To encourage more branching from the base, pinch back the growing tips in spring.

A fertilizing right now would be helpful. Use a high phosphorus, low nitrogen fertilizer. (Phosphorus is the middle number on the label, nitrogen is the first, and potassium is the third number.) Phosphorus encourages blooming, but you don't want to encourage excess leafy growth, so avoid using a fertilizer high in nitrogen. I use Electra Plant Food, an organic, slow-release fertilizer. It's numbers are 5-10-3 which is an ideal fertilizer for trumpet vine.

Click here to read more about Electra Plant Food and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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