Swenson Gardens

Peonies springtime maintenance tips!

No matter where you are at in your peony season, Becky and I spent some time this afternoon cleaning up the peonies around our home. Hopefully these tips will help you as home gardeners tidy up your peony beds. As you can see by some of the pictures, do we do this every spring? Well no not exactly but with some extra time on our hands and 70 F degree temps today, we had to do something! Here are some examples that I shot and a video will be forthcoming soon.

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Does this look familiar in your gardens? Yes grass and clover are not friends of peonies! You will see peonies growing in grass and overtime they may start to decline. We do use cover crops in a couple of our test fields, but we are going away from cover crops as the growth of the peonies are way behind our other fields where we do not use cover crops.

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Now doesn’t this look better? For those of you with grass growing around your peonies, we suggest using a gardening knife or spade to gently remove as much of the grass roots (no pun intended) in order for the peonies to flourish. Keep the grass as far out as the drip line of the peonies to assure continued growth over its life time.

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Landscape rock is an attractive feature in many of our beds, but oh dear do they do a number on peony soldiers trying to make it out of the ground. Not only do the rocks prevent their growth but you normally find plastic underneath the rock. Because peonies grow in width, after removing the rock we also ran into the plastic preventing any peony soldiers from making it up. Once you remove the rock away, also make sure to slit the plastic and tuck it under the plastic far enough away from the peony soldiers. We hadn’t done this for about 3-years and noticed many peony soldiers under the plastic that will now make it to the surface.

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We will continue to leave the rocks away from the peony soldiers now that we know how detrimental these peonies were in this landscape rock bed. I’m sure the peonies were happy again!

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One of the ever popular landscape material is shredded wood mulch. Side-note, I am not a fan of Cyprus mulch or any dye colored mulch. It is also a good idea to be careful on any hardwood mulch. I like Western Red Cedar is it lasts longer and does not decay and pack down like the other wood mulches. Yes its more expensive, but that’s what we use and are very happy with its look, smell and well being in our flowering beds. So back to the problem with all shredded wood mulch, though not as bad as landscape rock, wood too can smother out peony soldiers if it is not removed from the peonies.

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The sun just happened to peak out from the clouds while taking the ‘after’ shot. Like landscape rock, remove as much of the wood mulch away from the peonies to about the drip line. This too will help your peonies dirt to dry out vs remaining moist around the peonies. Sometimes if it is a very wet spring/summer, we may remove the mulch farther away in order for the dirt to dry out faster. Knowing that peonies do not like continually moist growing sites, bare dirt and good drainage are a must!

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Take Redd’s advice, remove your landscape material away from peonies and watch them thrive!

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