Peony News

Peonies are sprouting now!

The peonies here in Oregon are sprouting like crazy – a few early varieties are over a foot tall, while late varieties are just barely poking through the soil.  I love the look of the new, tender leaves on peony plants.  Get’s me excitedly anticipating the arrival of bloom season in May. 

We have some Paeonia tenuifolia ‘rubra plena’ (dainty, finely cut fern leaf peony plants) that are budded and could be our earliest bloomers in the next couple of weeks.  A couple of ‘Athena’ peony buds are showing a sliver of color; but, I have seen peonies sit like that for weeks if the weather is cool. Generally our Paeonia mlokosewitschii species peonies bloom around April 15th, so I gage their blooming to get an indication of where we are with each springs’ growing season.  One year everything was growing fabulously and then just stalled for several weeks because it was so cool. 

Now is a good time to fertilize your peonies in the northwest, if you haven’t already done so. If you are still winter-cold in your area, you may need to wait a few weeks.  Remember – fertilizer is not always needed on garden peonies – if you have been raising them without fertilizer and are getting a good result, that’s terrific.  Other folks fertilize each year, depending upon their soil nutrients. We have some information on fertilizing under our 'Planting & Care of Peonies' tab on the website.

We usually don’t have a shortage of slugs in this part of the country; they can find peonies, iris and other plants appetizing, so keep an eye out and control them early if that is a problem for you.  In wet springs, spraying peonies with a fungicide labeled for peonies will keep leaf spot (botrytis) at bay – follow the label recommendations for application rates and how often to spray.  There are a number of fungicides, including organic fungicides to select from.  Then, watch those peonies grow.

These photos show the various colors of new growth on different peony varieties: P. tenuifolia ‘rubra plena’ - the fine fern leaf peony; the green and bronze leaves on Sugar ‘n Spice peony; and the reddish sprouts of Chief Black Hawk (Intersectional) peony. Photos taken today.

Paeonia tenuifolia rubra plena buds        Chief Black Hawk peony sprouts

Brooks Gardens

August 9, 2012

We have raised peonies commercially for nearly 12 years and have had perhaps 5 different varieties produce a beautiful blossom or two in July or August. It is a fluke, not something to expect of a peony plant.

Today is August 9th and my husband announced that a Callie’s Memory intersectional peony plant in a two gallon nursery pot is sporting a full bloom. Spectacular! If we could only figure out what produces the re-bloom, a whole new peony market would evolve.

Last summer we had a Coral Charm in the peony field re-bloom in late July.  A few of our garden tree peonies have also sported a mid-summer blossom or two over the years.  On the rare occasions this has happened, each blossom was fully developed and as beautiful as a peony in May/June.

Too bad we don’t have two different varieties reblooming at the same time – for a hybridizing challenge.  It would be so cool to have a few peony varieties that would consistently bloom in the heat of summer. For now, we will settle for enjoying the rare treat when it occurs.


July 25, 2012

To keep your peony plants looking great through the summer and fall, clip off tattered leaves and stems. Be sure to take a look at the bottom of the bush and check to see if slugs are hiding in the shade of the stems.

A good drink of water every couple of weeks and they’ll be showing their fall colors in style come September and October. This summer has been plenty hot in most of the states, so an occasional deep watering will be welcome, whereas other years you may have a few good rainfalls and not need to water your established peony plants.

Remember – a potted peony plant needs more frequent watering.

Some folks like to give a bit of fertilizer after bloom season and others never fertilize their peonies in the summer. Some soils are richer in nutrients than others, so feel free to see what works best with your plants in your garden.

I’m already thinking about new varieties we’ll be planting this fall. Gardening & farming bring out my anticipation of nurturing and growing something that will bring joy down the road. I’m scoping out where I want to add peonies in our garden this fall – some of the shrubs will just have to go!


While peonies are rather drought tolerant plants once established, it is important to give new peony transplants and 1 - 2  year old peony plants a good drink of water to keep them from drying out (frequency depends upon your soil and weather conditions). Older plants will benefit from an occasional watering, especially in the heat many of you are experiencing.

Now is the time to dead-head your peony plants, if you haven't done so already. Simply cut the dried-up flower head off of the stem, an inch or two below the flower head. It cleans up your plants for summer and helps tidy up your garden. Be sure to toss the spent petals and flower heads in the garbage, rather than composting them. This helps keep a healthier peony garden.

You can also let some of the peony flowers form seed pods, by not dead-heading. If a seed pod develops, it may produce viable seed. The seed pods generally start to crack open in late August, revealing their seeds. Peony seed pods can also be very beautiful. Not all varieties produce seed, but if they do, you can experiment with growing new plants from seed - perhaps gaining a new peony variety if the seed was cross pollinated.

Keep cool,


There are so many breathtaking peonies to select from that I thought I would list a ‘few’ that are popular year after year.

Our gardening customers can't get enough of Red Charm (bomb style peony flowers) and Henry Bockstoce (double flowers with ‘waxy’ petals) two large red-headed peonies.  Other red peonies that are popular include Command Performance (the orange-red dynamo of a flower) and Old Faithful (stoutest peony plant, with great big, beautiful, dark red flowers).  

The coral peonies are always admired, with their big, showy flowers. Coral Charm, a peach-coral semi-double peony; Coral Sunset, with a hint of orange in the coral;  Coral Supreme, with a pink overtone; Abalone pearl (pink coral) and Pink Hawaiian Coral (coral pink) – all of them capture immediate attention with their stunning beauty! These are the ones that people run from their cars to get a closer look at.

There are so many lovely white peonies, and a few of the favorites are Avalanche, Immaculee and Gardenia. Myrtle Gentry, Camellia White and Serene Pastel are magnificent blush (soft pink) peonies. Brides love these peonies.

You can't beat the fragrance of Camellia White, Gardenia or Myrtle Gentry, except with White Cap (a bi-colored peony of magenta-red & creamy white that smells ‘better than a rose’). Cheddar Surprise (a full, double white with yellow stamens) is also at the top of the list of sweetly fragrant peonies, and as a late season bloomer, it is still dazzling in the peony field at the end of the bloom season. Mt. St. Helens, a dark red, double peony has also climbed onto the list of our best fragrant peonies. This year, I kept a Myrtle Gentry bloom close by, so I could have a whiff of it's sweet 'perfume' throughout the day.

Hot pink peony choices include: Joker, Magenta Moon and Theatrical.  And, then there are the yellows: Prairie Moon; and, the Itoh (Intersectional) peonies Bartzella and Garden Treasure - with their extra bonus of a lemony fragrance.

For customers that like the bi-colored peony flowers, Gay Paree (pink & white), Green Lotus (green, brown & white), Raspberry Sundae (pink, white & yellow), Senorita (hot pink & white), Showgirl (pink & yellow) and the Itoh (Intersectional) peonies Hillary, Julia Rose (blended colors)and Lemon Dream (yellow with purple) are at the top of their lists.

Lois’ Choice peony is so unique & beautiful, it is hard to adequately describe (a blend of pink, yellow, apricot & peach. If you were to give a bouquet of half-opened Lois’ Choice buds to your Mother, Father or a special friend, they would wonder what they could have possibly done to deserve such a hideous looking bouquet; but, as they unfurl and fully open, they will be calling you with exasperated delight and thank you for the most amazingly beautiful flowers. To watch buds like that transform is fascinating (Carnation Bouquet & Salmon Glory peony plants have similar buds).

These are just some of the beloved peonies that we raise at Brooks Gardens. The list grows & grows, because every peony is someone’s favorite.  You probably have a favorite, too. It could be the flower, foliage, fragrance or the memory of someone special that endears you to it.  Peonies are astonishing flowers; every garden deserves them.


The next two days will be the last days of our ‘open farm’ during the peony & iris bloom season. You can call to make an appointment if you’d like to stop by for peony plants after Sunday, June 17, 2012.  You can order our peonies on-line throughout the summer and fall and we will ship your freshly dug roots to you in September and October.

The end of peony & iris bloom season is bittersweet, as we love the interaction with our customers. You’d think I would be tired after 45 straight days of bustling activity; but, I crawl around and weed for 40 days in March & April, so walking around, cutting flowers and helping customers during May & June is really uplifting to me. 

Weeding is actually relaxing, unless you’re two weeks behind and tours start tomorrow.  It’s how we learned the names of some (not all) of the iris when we first purchased this farm in 2000.  You weed and read the name tag; and then you weed a few months later and read the name tag.  We’d been here only 1 year and an iris friend of the previous owner stopped by to purchase iris.  He said he remembered there was an iris named ‘Brazen Hussy’ and wondered aloud where it might be (he knew that as I was an ‘iris newbie’, there was no way that I would know which of the 1,600 iris it would be).  I startled him when I said I would take him to it. I walked directly through the garden, to the far side, and pointed to it.  He was dumbfounded. “How could you possibly know where ‘Brazen Hussy’ is?” he asked, good naturedly and with admiration. “Well, when I was weeding the gardens 3 times this year, I said to myself ‘Brazen Hussy’ – I’m kind of a ‘Brazen Hussy’ myself’”.  We had a hearty laugh. He was so impressed! I didn’t tell him I’d only learned a few dozen names of iris that year; he didn’t need to know that.

You would think I would have honed in on ‘Gypsy Queen’, ‘Her Lady Ship’, ‘Lusty Song’, ‘Paris Lights’ or even ‘Brilliant Excuse’; but, no – ‘Brazen Hussy’ it was.  I still chuckle when I see her tucked into the corner of garden bed 28.

We still have peony plants blooming in the field (Cheddar Surprise, June Rose, Topeka Garnet, Nippon Beauty, Princess Margaret, Queen of Hamburg, Charm, Nippon Beauty, Lucky, Garden Treasure and many others); peony flowers on display; and, potted peony plants at the farm this weekend. See you here!


The peony gardeners are keeping us busy as we go into the home stretch of the season. Our peony farm will be open through next Sunday, June 17, 2012 (extended one week). There is still plenty of bloom in the peony field to take a look at; and, we have over 100 varieties of peony flowers on display in the showroom (well, it’s a tent).  We keep stems of the earlier blooming varieties in the cooler, so you can see some of them, as well as what is blooming now. 

It’s fun chatting with customers and seeing them so excited as they walk the field and select their peonies. Susan is planning on taking out all of her roses, now that she sees ‘that peonies are twice as lovely’.  A couple of our regular customers who’ve purchased peonies and bearded iris from us over the years, commented on their observation that during the past few years – they’ve noted that Historic (older) bearded iris bloom longer than the newer iris.  I hadn’t heard that before; but, it sounds great to me as we have over 1,000 varieties of Historic bearded iris.

I often overhear customers tell other customers how peonies are easy to grow, low maintenance plants – music to my ears. Today a lady was talking about her peonies that she started from her grandmothers’ plants 48 years ago. She’s never divided them, and they bloom wonderfully every year. I couldn’t give a better testimonial to the ease of peony gardening. If your family has peonies, you may want to ask for a root cutting from them in the fall and plant a memory – it’ll last a lifetime; and, you’ll think of them each spring when it blooms. If you’re not that fond of your relatives; or, they don’t have peonies – come and buy a peony from me; it’ll be your new sweet memory.

Last weekend we had a real thrill, when a woman shyly asked my sister, Annie, if we were Sprauers….she’d heard from her neighbor that there was an Oregon peony farm owned by a Sprauer and she just couldn’t believe it.  So, she, her husband & their daughter checked it out and found, that yes, her husband has a whole branch of relatives that he’s never met! Our grandfather, Karl and his grandfather, Joseph had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1910. I tell you, he has that Sprauer smile! We look forward to meeting more of their family in the future. You never know what you’ll find in the peony field – baby birds one day and relatives you didn’t know, the next day!

Today we enjoyed great weather and the farm was filled with happy people, laughing and smiling.  Our youngest visitor was 5 months old and another customer brought her 103 year old grandmother to see the peonies! Now, that’s making memories.