The Peonies Flower
Peony flowers are perennials. The plant itself stands up to 1.5 meters tall and the leaves are divided into three segments.
They are named after Paeon, who is a Greek physician to the gods and son of Apollo. Legend has it that the peony had to be left alone and punished it so whenever it is moved it will not flower for several years. However, once it is established it will bloom every year for decades.
Peonies were first grown in Chinese Imperial gardens in 618 during the T’ang dynasty. From there they were introduced to Japan in the beginning of the eighth century, then to the Western world in 1789. However, the peony didn’t become popular in North America until the 1850’s.
Description and Characteristics
Peonies have attractive green foliage that reaches up to three inches in height. The peony flower is very beautiful and fragrant. It is usually pink, red or white in color but there is also such a thing as a yellow peony (i.e. the itoh peonies) too. Regardless of their color, peonies bloom in either late spring or early summer.
There are four types of flowers on the North American peony. They include:
- Single has five or more wide petals in a row.
- Semi-double has several layers around the center.
- Japanese has five or more enlarged petals around the center with small petals inside
- Double has a center full of round flowers
- Anemone is a further evolution from the Japanese with thin, wide petals
The peonies’ leaves are as variable as the flowers themselves and include those with:
- Entire, undivided leaves are the most popular.
- Leaves that are dissected to varying degrees
- Glossy leaves without any hair
- Dark green leaves with some hair on their underside
Different Types Of Peonies
There are a lot of different types of peonies. Some of the most common types include:
- The peony tree has a woody, above ground stem throughout the year. The leaves will fall off each autumn.
- Herbaceous peonies die down to the ground every autumn.
- Intersectional peonies are a cross of the herbaceous and the tree peonies. While they die back to the ground every year their foliage and flowers simply fall off.
- The fern leaf peony has a deep red double bloom that emerges early and lasts for a long time.
- Peony bushes are often used as accents or border plants. They are available in a lot of different colors and styles, some of which only have a few large blooms.
While the best smelling peonies are usually the double pinks, others are also renowned for their fragrance. Some (usually the singles because of their light fragrance) have even been used in perfumes over the years.
However, there are also some peonies that have a rather disagreeable scent. There are also some (i.e. the early hybrids) that don’t have any fragrance at all.
Cultivation and Care
Now you may be wondering about how to grow peonies. You will want to go about planting peonies in the fall. In order to do this you will need a crown with the peony root dangling beneath it. Make sure to dig a shallow hole and spread out the roots.
The buds (they look like potato “eyes”) should rest two inches underneath the surface. These peonies can grow in pots until it comes time for transplanting peonies, which is in the spring. As you can see, growing peonies is rather easy to do.
How To Care For Peonies
Peony care is relatively easy too. You will need to use peony stakes in order to help them stand up straight since their blooms get really heavy, especially when it rains.
It is also important to trim back and dispose of their foliage in the late autumn in order to prevent disease. This is also when you want to place mulch around your peonies, which will then need to be removed in the spring.
Diseases and Pests
Some of the most common diseases that peonies suffer from include:
- Botrytis Blight causes gray, fuzzy spores. Good sanitation is important here.
- Phytophthora Blight causes a wet rot but can be avoided by good drainage.
- Leaf and stem spots can occur in young plants
- White Mold causes stem rot. The best thing to do is replant the infested area with nonsusceptible plants.
- Mosaic virus will cause a light green pattern on the leaves, stunt growth and cause the leaves to curve. Unfortunately, there is no treatment available here.
The main pests that invade peonies include:
- Armored Scales don’t move or have wings. They have a flat, unsegmented body. A sever infestation can cause yellow, wilted, curled leaves.
- Hoplia Beetles are oval in shape and about ¼ inch long. They will lay their eggs in your soil and eat holes in your flowers’ petals and buds. You will need to pick them off and place them in soapy water.
- Thrips are thin little bugs that are less than 1/20 inch long with fringed wings. They will leave black specks on your petals. If you properly maintain your peonies you won’t have to worry about this pest.
There are lots of different ways in which peonies are used, including:
- Peonies are oftentimes used as wedding flowers because they symbolize happiness.
- They are the traditional flower for a twelfth wedding anniversary and are oftentimes given on that date.
- Some people say that peonies stand for compassion and that there are nymphs hiding in their petals and thus they are used at funerals.
- Since peonies bloom during the spring they are oftentimes associated with female fertility and beauty so they are sometimes given whenever a new baby is born.
- Some peonies have a fragrance that is great for perfume.
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