The other day I was working in my garden when a sudden breeze filled the air with a wonderful fragrance of the peonies that were in bloom. Peonies always reminds me of my childhood when my mother grew them in her garden. If you have not grown peonies, you should give them a try. The flowers are beautiful and they come in a single or double blossom in colors of pink, white, red and purple that bloom in early summer. Peonies or Paeonia need full sunlight or semi-shade with protection from strong winds. It is also helpful to put a wire ring around the plant when it first starts growing to help support the weight of the flowers. You will know what I mean after a heavy rain! Peonies prefer well drained soil enriched with cow manure or compost. Peonies are easy to propagate. Propagation is by division in the spring or fall. Take care not to break the brittle roots when dividing. Each division must have roots and dormant growth buds. Crowns should be planted 1 inch deep in the soil and spaced about 20 inches apart. Peonies can be grown from seed but it will take 4 to 5 years before they bloom. Plan to purchase plants instead of growing from seed. A general fertilizer should be applied in the spring and if you mulch, keep the mulch away from the crown.
Always remove spent flowers and allow the foliage to die down naturally before trimming it back. Peonies do have some problems in the garden. Watch for Botrytis or gray mold. It can cause rotting of the stems and leaf bases. If you find this problem, you should destroy the affected foliage. Try to improve air circulation and drainage around the plant and apply a fungicide to the plant.