People in my village often ask me these days when my tree peonies will be out. (mid May to early June) When I first planted them in the front yard, my husband wondered why. He thought they might not survive the wind blowing down Main Street, or the foot traffic with curious strangers.
We discovered a couple of things when the tall shrubs burst into oversized, pink flowers. (Ten inches or more across.) First, people are curious. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the best idea for drivers to slow down and rubber neck, trying to figure out what they were, but at least there weren’t any accidents, just a few tire squeals. Most plant enthusiasts stopped in the driveway and asked. Now, I only get the occasional question.
Second, I think people respect flowers. Yes, we had a very few who tried to pluck a bloom, hopefully to take home to their mom, but they quickly learned tree peonies have woody stems and the flowers are very hard to pick. I was sad when a couple of persistent admirers kept trying and tore off a branch.
Tree peonies are unique because they will get flowers and leaves in the spring, but if any of those leaves/branches are lost or damaged, no new ones will grow to take their place until the following year. I had hoped I might propagate them using the torn branches, but no such luck, they only start from seed or division.
I also discovered they need a fair amount of sun. (4-6 hrs) For three years, I had a dark pink tree peony I fretted over in the side yard. I’d go out, brush off the snow, mulch it to keep down weeds (be careful with your mulch as it can harbor insects and do damage) and worry that the fertilizer wasn’t right. But, what wasn’t right was the sun.
When I moved the plant to the front, what had been eight inches high, now grew to well over two feet in the first year. (They can reach 4-7 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide.) We need to listen to our plants when they don’t grow and seem to struggle. Be aware, however, that tree peonies, like the bush varieties, don’t really like to be moved, and if you must, do so in the fall. This will give the root system time to develop before the plant has to create leaves and flowers the following spring.
Overall, I love my tree peonies, and I’d highly recommend them to people who have the space, at least partial sun, and neutral or slightly alkaline soil. The plants are long lived and there’s a reason so many painters have used them in portraits.
If you’d like to learn more about me, and my new time-travel release, Highland Yearning, please visit: www.Dawn-Ireland.com