Peony – Flowers and Plants
What we call Peony roses or Peonies are indeed wonderful flowering plants, however a little more varied than we are led to believe. For a start we have Tree, Herbaceaus and now, Intersectional or ITOH peonies and all peony flowers are a great addition to the garden
The flower of the peony (picture right) are valued for being beautiful and fragrant and the foliage is seen as attractive as well.
So what are the peony varieties available in Australia, and what is the difference? Tree types are like shrubs, they have a woody stem which stays through the winter. Hebaceaus types die right back to the ground. The types we call ITOH, are a mix between the two, sometimes called intersectional.
Added to this are what are called ‘American lutea’ types and well as Japanese and Chinese types. A little confusing but all are wonderful.
Species include : anomala, delavayi, lactiflora, lutea, mascula, suffruticosa and tenuifolia, however it is the hybrids that we will usually see for sale. The peony or paeony ( Paeonia ) is a deciduous plant native to Asia, Europe and North America.
They prefer sun to part shade in a well drained soil rich in humus. Once established peony are a hardy plant, keep moist during summer and fertilise in spring. Herbaceous peony are from 0.5-1.5 metres tall, but the taller woody variety can reach up to 3 metres.
The best time to plant peonies in Australia is in autumn, the soil is still warm, yet the plants seem dormant. For flowering, October to November is the best season for seeing peonies in full flower.
However different varieties flower early, mid season and late and of course warmer and cooler climates cn influence flowering time. So you can extend the flowering season by carefully selecting the right types. Late season varieties can sometimes be problematical especially in warmer areas (Sydney and Brisbane) where they may not flower in hot years.
Peony have deeply lobed leaves, and large, often fragrant flowers, ranging from red to white or yellow, in late spring and early summer. The herbaceous peonies are grouped into five types : single (or Chinese Peony), semi-double, double, Japanese Peony, and anemone.
Remember that tree peony do not like wet feet, in fact once they are established they are reasonably drought tolerant. Many tree peonies are killed by overwatering.
Peony roses remind us of cottage gardens as well as more formal plantings. Fantastic flowers, fragrant and colourful, these clump forming perennials are well suited to cooler areas of Australia. Chinese peonies have been cultivated for centuries and the variety is incredible.
Flowering from spring through to summer, depending on position and climate, peony roses will reach nearly 1m and are a long lasting plant. Position in the garden depends on climate, in cooler areas some protection from afternoon sun is enough, in warmer climates part shade is required. They do require a well drained soil and protection from hot winds. A cool winter is required and ideal ph of 7 to 7.5 (we like 8).
An excellent feature in the garden border, a cottage garden planting or in a pot or container as a feature plant. Flowers are excellent as a cut flower, and the ferny green foliage is attractive.
Tree Peonies such as white flowering ‘Hakugan’ (pictured right) are spectacular flowering garden plants. Paeonia suffruticosa is the botanical name and with lots of cultivars you will have a huge range to choose from.
Tree Peony Kamata-nishiki’ is a fantastic purple flowering cultivar while Paeonia ‘Shimanishiki’ has a red and white flower. Try planting in dappled shade 10ft from the base of a large tree.
One of the best Japanese tree peonies is Paeonia x suffruticosa ‘Tamafuyo’. Large pink semi double blooms best describes as a soft apple blossom pink. Unlike many tree peonies ‘Tamafuyo’ has good fragrance.
Chinese Tree Peonies are increasingly popular and many new cultivars are now on the market. Paeonia lactiflora Marguerite Gerard with its wonderful double pink flowers and strong perfume is a wonderful old fashioned cultivar. Like most peonies it requires a cool winter and grows well in full morning sun and afternoon shade. Flowering from spring to summer a good top dressing of lime each year will help with growth and flowering. Available as bare rooted plants in winter (June – July) and as potted specimens in spring.
Peonies not flowering and growing well
Peonies are a wonderful flowering and are actually easy to care for if you know the secret. We often hear of people having a lot of trouble getting peonies to put on growth and flower, and in Australia this is often to do with soil ph.
Peonies like and Alkaline soil with a ph of around – 7.5 to 8. Now in Australia’s often acidic soils we find a ph much lower than this often around 5.5. So this needs to be addressed, dolomite lime is the answer, and a fair bit of it.
But be carful here, what about all of those acid loving plants, the lime may not suit them. The answer is to grow peonies in a container or in a separate bed, where you can raise the ph without damaging other plants. Or as a few wise gardeners who have brick houses and concrete foundations do, grow them next to the house where the ph is most likely higher than elsewhere in the garden.
We suspect this might be the same for peonies as for some of the fritillaries, in the UK you can grow F. imperiallis easily, it’s those chalky soils, we suspect.
Peony Roses (plants and Flowers) are available for sale from the following participating nurseries
'Sylvan Vale' 375 Olinda Creek Rd, Kalorama, VIC.3766
Including a large range of Rare and unusual bulbs, corms and perennials
412 James Lane, Fern Hill VIC. 3458 - Phone 0419002651
Large range of Rare plants, Climbers, Bulbs, Perennials Fruit Trees, Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. Available both Retail and by Mail Order
PO Box 7040 Leura NSW 2780
Rare woodland plants, Trilliums Epimediums, Arisaemas, plus much more.www.lynnsrareplants.com.au
357 Monbulk Road SILVAN VIC 3795
Guaranteed "garden worthy" bulbs, plants and perennials. Visit the website to browse our large range of daffodils or request the latest free catalogue.
P.O. Box 369 New Norfolk TAS 7140
Huge range of Spring and Summer flowering Bulbs
470 Monbulk-Silvan Road Monbulk VIC 3793
"Guaranteed mail order flowering bulbs, perennials, roses, trees, landscaping plants, garden accessories and community fundraising Austra lia-wide."
Postal: PO BOX 336, SILVAN VIC 3795
Large range of Bulbs and Perennials for the garden.
365-367 Monbulk Rd, Silvan, Vic., 3795
"Bulb growers since 1951. Specialising in a comprehensive range of bulbs and perennials. Strictly wholesale only. Australia wide mail order service."
P O Box 398 Creswick Vic 3363
Retail & Mail Order Specialist Growers of Heritage Roses, Unusual Perennials, Tree & Herbaceous Peonies. Mail order and Nursery Sales.
Large range of Perennial and Border Plants including bulbs. Also Vegetable and Berry Fruits plants including, Blueberries, Currants, Raspberries and Strawberries. Rhubarb, Seed Potatoes and many other edible plants for the home garden. Visit the web site for online ordering and catalogue:
Kerrie Valley, Macedon Ranges Victoria 3434
Wholesale quality cutflower suppliers and retail supplier of herbaceous peony plant clumps during winter.