All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A
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.




"Growing the Many Different Types of Peonies"
Workshop with plant and organic gardening products sale


Wednesday, June 9 7 p.m., Asnuntuck Community College L.R.C. conference room, 170 Elm Street (Route 220), Enfield, CT

Thursday, June 10, 7 p.m., Kiley Middle School auditorium, 180 Cooley Street, Springfield, MA

Saturday, June 12, 3 p.m., Historic Northampton Museum Parsons House, 58 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA


Free and open to the public

For more info.:

Click here to read Pernell Gerver's Gardening Workshop Series schedule and to get directions from your location to any of the locations listed above.

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.

A large selection of the different types of peonies will be for sale at this workshop. See the "If You Go" box for more