gabriola garden

Friday, May 07, 2010

Tree Peonies
by Cindy Haynes, Department of Horticulture, University of Iowa

Few plants are revered like tree peonies. The Chinese tree peony is the national flower of China and was once grown exclusively by the emperor. For centuries the blossoms of tree peonies have been called luminescent, silky, exotic, exquisite, and magnificent. The accolades continue today.
What is a tree peony?

Tree peonies (Paeonia suffruiticosa) are actually shrubs, not trees. They produce woody stems and do not die back to the ground like herbaceous peonies. They are slow growing but long lived. Some specimens in China are thought to be more than 200 years old. Plants eventually grow to 3 to 5 feet tall, but they may take decades to do so.

Tree peonies have larger flowers than herbaceous peonies and are available in a wider range of colors. Yellow, purple, maroon, and green are a few colors commonly available in tree peonies but rarely seen in herbaceous peonies. Both single and double flower forms are common in both types of peonies. Many varieties of tree peonies have fragrant flowers or flowers with contrasting centers, adding to their appeal. Tree peonies bloom a couple of weeks earlier than herbaceous peonies. In fact, they should be blooming soon if they are not already in bloom.

Caring for Tree Peonies

Because a tree peony can last longer than many of the gardeners who plant them, it is important that they are sited well. Plants prefer rich, moist, well-drained soils in partial or dappled shade. Plants bloom best in sunny sites, but flowers last longer in shady sites. Although tree peonies are hardy to zone 4, they do require some protection from our winter winds. Sites with eastern exposures or close to buildings are ideal.

Tim: Tree peonies are Sara's favorite flowers. You can't imagine the richness of the scent of each bloom, unless you've had your nose near one at one time or another.

Another important aspect of caring for your tree peonies is to feed them the best plant nutrient available, which for us is Iguana Juice Bloom by Advanced Nutrients.

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posted by Tim at 6:16 AM | 3 comments