Updated: Sunday, 14 Jun 2009, 10:15 AM EDT
Published : Sunday, 14 Jun 2009, 10:10 AM EDT
New Haven (WTNH) - Mar Jennings joined us again on Good Morning Connecticut Weekend to talk about the star of his garden: the peony.
The following was written by Mar Jennings:
My peonies in my garden are out of control and I love it! My home has probably been the most photographed and filmed home in Fairfield County, and my peonies have served as an inspiration for all who have visited Rosebrook Gardens over the years. This spectacular display only comes once a year but it's so worth the wait.
That said, peonies originated in Asia, and have been cultivated in both Japan and China for several centuries and is China's national flower, where it has also had major influence in decorative patterns for the home and wardrobe.
Peonies are an early groundbreaker, producing reddish shoots as early as April in the Northern Hemisphere. They are a tall plant, ranging from 1-5 ft in height and their branching stems produce glossy deep green leaves that taper to a point on each end, each leaf growing up to 5 inches in length.
There are literally hundreds of varieties that have been developed over the centuries, and yet most peonies share both a common origin and fairly similar characteristics. Most of the varieties of peony today are hybrids of the two original species of this plant: Paeonia officinalis and Paeonia lactiflora, the second one also know as the tree peony which differs slightly in appearance.
So what makes my peonies' growth and show of flowers so awesome?
To achieve the best flowers, plant them in full sun. Although they will tolerate some light afternoon shade, go with more light than less. Peonies are easy to grow, as they are not hard to please with soil conditions, but will always benefit from a little organic material and compost when they are planted. They are hardy from zone 8 to zone 2 making them perfect for many of us.
The most popular is the Paeonia officinalis species, often seen in gardens and used as an ornamental flower. This species produces creeping roots that help to spread the plant giving it a lush bush effect.
But there are many options: Double peonies are more fragrant than singles, pinks and whites tend to be more fragrant than the reds.
At Rosebrook Gardens, my collection of Festive Maxima and Edulis Superba offer a powerful kick to the garden and anyone in the vicinity. They are mind-blowing to look at and so fragrant that one can't help but stop, pause and smell these flowers. Although their season as a garden flower is rather short - three to six weeks - this all adds to their stunning allure and beauty.
The best time to plant peonies and find the best deals are in early fall when the flowers are spent and the nurseries are looking to reduce their inventory. I always find September to October the best time to find the deals and plant new. This is true for most plants, as it gives them the much-needed time to become established come winter and allowing them to go dormant to rest for the season.
How else to get more from each plant? You want to make sure you remove the flowers as soon as they fade to prevent seed development, as this will effect next year's bloom if left on the plant. Wait till late fall to cut back foliage to three inches above the ground level. In the event you need to transplant or divide your peonies do this only when established. Peonies do not need dividing for ten to fifteen years so this offers you many years of enjoyment with no real work required on your part.
This year I did something new when I tied them back by using a beautiful nylon ribbon, adding a splash of color and a creative alterative to garden twine. The lavender tieback helps each plant and flower stay upright and supported, resisting breaking.