PAEONIA – peony, paeony

A group of mostly hardy herbaceous perennials and deciduous shrubs grown for their spring- and summer-flowering blooms and good-looking foliage. They are long-lived and once established should last for years.

Suitable site and soil. A well-drained but moist soil is best in a position in semi-shade, especially one that does not catch the sun first thing in the morning. Put in manure or compost before planting and plant shallow.

Cultivation and care. Plant out in autumn or winter. No pruning is necessary but cut down herbaceous plants in early autumn. Put on a top dressing of compost or manure every 142 spring in poor soils. Remove faded flowers and in dry weather water frequently.

Propagation. Grow from seed or by division in autumn. Shrubby species can be grown from hardwood cuttings.

Recommended varieties. The traditional, herbaceous P. officinalis ‘Rubra Plena’ not only has beautiful deep red flowers but interesting foliage; it grows to 60cm – 2ft. P. mlokosewits-chii also grows to 60cm – 2ft and has yellow flowers with darker centres in mid-spring; it also has interesting foliage. P. lactif-lora ‘Lady Alexandra Duff has beautiful pink blooms. A good shrub is P. suffruticosa (tree peony), which grows to about 1.5m – 5ft, or one of its varieties such as P.s. ‘Mrs William Kelway’ with white flowers in spring.

Pests and diseases. Usually no problems with peonies.

PEONIES AND ROSES

Plant the scented P. lactiflora ‘Lady

Alexandra Duff’, which flowers in late spring – early summer, with shrub roses for a vivid and gorgeous display of contrasting plants.

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