- Time to Consider
- A spectacle of winter
- Berried treasure
- Bounty all year round
- Bring garden to life
- Caring for a garden's soul
- Cascade of colour
- Cheer in the winter garden
- Fancy a Chinese?
- Herbs for the hot sun
- Jewel of September
- Leafing through salad choices
- Love of our roses
- Magic of meadows
- Nation's favourite
- Nurturing growth
- Planning new dawn
- Pots in the portfolio
- Secrets for the summer
- Signs of spring
- Taste of the season
- The Cape of good tastes
- Turn up the heat
- Upsetting the apple cart
- Consider the wildlife
- Hardy ferns for winter interest
- Magnificent sedums
- Natural Principles
- Old-fashioned roses
- Stripe Action
- The importance of gardens
- The Lady is a champ
Secrets for the summer
from The Oxford TimesPeonies have it all, vigour, strength, longevity and beauty and they flower in late May and early June, when most perennials are only just forming their buds. So they make a real splash in the early summer garden.
They are also great survivors and you find them alive and well in gardens abandoned a hundred years earlier. If that were not enough to win you over, many peonies have divine foliage which endures until late winter.
There is a well-known fallacy about peonies hating being moved. But I have successfully shifted them round the garden and even from garden to garden. They do transplant.
However, the best way to grow peonies is to leave them undisturbed for decades, that way they they make huge clumps and will produce 40 or 50 blooms every year.
These make good cut flowers and they can be dried too if picked when fully out.
They do need staking because the flowers are often top-heavy and I find iron, semicircular hoops are best.
Peonies are tuberous plants and when planting, the tuber is covered by a mere 5cms (2in of soil).
Plant them too deep and they will not flower and this is the single biggest mistake in peony growing because planting tubers too deep can prevent flowering permanently.
Peonies are happiest in part-sun and part-shade and they make an excellent candidate for the herbaceous border, whether you mix them with early campanulas and hardy geraniums or a later mix of Japanese anemones and hardy fuchsias.
They also mix very well with old-fashioned roses of similar white, pink to red colouring.
Many were bred in the early years of the 20th century in France and England and Kelways, from Langport in Somerset, were the peony kings of England.
They used to have a special railway halt on the Great Western that allowed visitors to go to peony valley, which was only built on in the early 1980s.
Good Kelways varieties include the pale-pink Barrymore' and the lavender-pink Ella Christine Kelway'.
Other great varieties include the fabulously fragrant Festiva Maxima', a double milk-white peony with pink flecking and Sarah Bernhardt', a full apple-blossom pink often grown for cut-flower production. Both are French varieties. Bowl of Beauty', from Holland, has bright-pink outer petals full of lemon-yellow ribbons. Single-flowered forms flower in May, followed by Japanese peonies (which have goblets filled with narrow ribbons) and then doubles and it's worth growing a mixture of all three.
The cottage garden peonies that pop up in most old gardens are forms of the Cretan Paeonia officinalis, a plant grown for its medicinal properties. It was widely used for female illnesses' and has been grown in British gardens since 1548.