If I had to pick one spring-blooming perennial to name “queen of the garden,” it would have to be the peony. I am not talking about a prom queen, here – more like Elizabeth I. These are tough old plants, and age is an appropriate thing to talk about since these plants can live for one hundred years or more.
Among the first to bloom in my garden are the May species like Paeonia obovata (right), P. japonica, and P. mlokosewitschii (A.K.A. "Molly the witch"). The latest to bloom for me is a double-flowered white one called ‘Duchess de Nemours.’
My guest on this week’s show is Roy Klehm — a third-generation nurseryman and one of America’s top peony breeders. The bane of peony gardeners is heavy blossoms that bend down to the ground, which is why I grow ‘Krinkled White’ (below, left), a single lightweight flower. Over the last few years, Klehm has been focusing on propagating shorter plants with stronger stems, like ‘Green Halo’ (below).
On the other hand, one of my favorite flowers is the fragrant 'Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt' (bottom, left). Her heavy pink blossoms bow their stems earthward, so plants need to be staked in the garden. That’s one reason I cut some of the flowers. Roy Klehm thinks that the color and the fragrance of peonies intensify indoors. The cut flowers will last up to a week, and buds will open as long as they are not too small and tight. Klehm recommends changing the water every day, and re-cutting the stems by half an inch or so — on a slant — so the thirsty flowers have a greater area of contact with the water.
Roy Klehm is keen on the tree peonies, as well. Since most herbaceous peonies bloom in hues and tints from red to pink to white, I am happy to have a yellow-flowered tree peony called ‘High Noon’ (bottom, right) – even though its flowers seem to be so fleeting.
Most herbaceous peonies bloom for about two weeks, but by selecting species and varieties, you can have them in flower for six weeks or longer.
Be sure to catch this week’s show on peonies, the importance of labeling, and a scary visitor to the garden.
Click on the small black arrow at the left on the bar below to start
listening, or click on the MP3 link to download the show into Windows
Media Player or iTunes: