Peony News

Our peony farm is open for the 2018 peony bloom season.

Hours: 10 am - 6 pm daily everyday, now through June 15. 

A few of the early varieties are blooming - Athena, Honor, Little Red Gem, Nosegay, Roy Pehrson's Best Yellow, Serenade, Sugar 'n Spice and the species peonies. Each day there will be more varieties blooming.

We have cut peony flowers for sale and a nice selection of potted peonies for transplanting now. 

The iris and tree peonies in the gardens are also starting to bloom. 

Stop by and visit us at 6219 Topaz Street NE, Brooks, OR. Located between Woodburn and Salem, off of 99 E. Directions

Side buds on peonies - Many garden peonies produce side buds that will develop smaller flowers just under the main flower. The main peony flower develops from the terminal bud at the top of a stem. Lateral buds develop on the sides of the stem, generally just above leaf nodes. These are commonly referred to as side buds and produce smaller versions of the main flower - with or without variation in the style or shape.

Side buds on peonies are common on varieties that originated from lactiflora species – many of the old fashioned, heirloom peonies produce these ‘bonus’ buds. Two or three side buds are common, with some varieties producing 5-7 per stem (weather conditions year to year can affect how many).

         

Hybrid cultivars from two different species are less likely to produce side buds – although, they do occur, often fleetingly. Itoh intersectional peonies are generally prolific side bud producers.

Why would you want to disbud peonies?  Three reasons come to my mind for disbudding side buds. One is to improve packaging and handling – side buds tangle and then break off during cut flower processing.  Who wants to lift cut flowers out of a floral box, only to have them tangled and have both the side buds and main flower bud break when trying to separate them? Try bunching peonies with side buds and you’ll see what I mean – been there, done that.

Another reason commercial cut flower growers and gardeners disbud peonies is to increase the size of the main flower. Removing the side buds will put more energy into developing the main flower.  Competitors in floral exhibitions do this in the hopes of having a larger flower; and, some competitions do not allow side buds on entries.

Thirdly, you may want to disbud to ‘take some weight off’ of a plant that tends to be top heavy. It may prevent the need to stake a particular variety that can’t stand up through wind and rain. A weak stemmed peony may never benefit from disbudding – so enjoy it staked up in its full glory.

How to disbud a peony? As the side buds start to mature (about a month before bloom) they appear similar to tiny round peas, just above a leaf node under the main bud. They may be green, red, maroon or any variety of those colors. Wait until they have a bit of size to them, for more control in minimizing damage to the leaf.  I use my thumb and forefinger to either pinch them off or ‘roll’ them off sideways. While it is rather simple to disbud, take care to not damage the stem – you’ll figure out the best technique with a bit of practice. Just be sure you aren’t taking off the main, terminal bud at the top of each stem – that would make you cry come bloom season.

Side buds are a bonus - I disbud only a small portion of our peonies for cut flowers or competition.  I leave the rest with as many side buds as they produce. Most gardeners are delighted to have side buds on peonies, as it extends the bloom on each plant. We sell a variety of cut peonies at our farm – with and without side buds. When I display large crocks of cut flowers for customers to choose their own from, the ones with extra buds go first.  Peony customers are smart – they know that while one peony flower is exquisite, two or more are stupendous.

When admiring peonies that have been altered with supports/stakes or disbudding, keep in mind that they may perform differently for you, unless you also stake or disbud.  We give our customers a chance to see peony plants as they will grow and perform in their garden. If they stand up here, unsupported, they should for you, too (we grow many upright varieties and cultivars).  If they are dripping with side buds, you can anticipate that, too!

Have you ever wondered if you can grow peonies where you live?

Peony flowers are so beautiful and exotic looking that it surprises some to learn that they thrive in areas with cold winters. When I mention that they grow in Alaska, Canada, Russia and Siberia, the ears perk up, as they thought it might be too cold to grow a peony where they have a cold or snowy winter. When they hear that Minnesota has many peony farms and growers – they immediately tune in; because they know (or have heard) how brutal the winters can be there. They smile in knowing, that they, too, can raise peonies. Peonies thrive across the Northwest, Midwest and Northeastern U.S.

growing peonies

What about growing peonies in warmer winter areas? You may be in luck.

A rule of thumb for growing peonies is to have at least 480 winter chill hours (hours below 45°). 

There are warmer winter areas across the southern part of the U.S. were peony plants don’t get enough winter chill for root dormancy to produce the spring flowers; or, perhaps it's too humid. But, scattered throughout that same region are many areas that do get enough winter chill to grow peonies. California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and other southern states have many areas with enough winter chill hours to grow peonies.

To help you pinpoint whether or not peonies will grow and thrive in your warmer climate, check with area gardeners, your local garden center or one of the winter chill maps/calculators available online.

I stumbled upon the Midwestern Regional Climate Center’s website filled with information on winter chill. Their Vegetation Impact Program features ‘winter chilling hours’ maps of the U.S. - a wealth of information for growers of all kinds of plants.

For California gardeners, the University of California, Davis publishes Chill Calculators for areas within all counties. The variation throughout the state is eye-opening, with so many pockets of peony growing conditions.  

If you live where ‘you can’t grow peonies’ – it’s sometimes amazing to learn that you do have enough cold temperatures to grow peonies. With a bit of research, you might be on your way to growing these ‘exotic’ flowers in your garden.

Our Brooks Gardens 2018 peony catalog is online. These peony roots will be shipped during the fall planting season, beginning in early September, 2018. Fall is the best time of year to plant bare root peonies.

We offer a selection of colorful, fragrant peonies in a variety of flower styles, including compact plants, heirlooms and the Itoh intersectional peonies.

We identify many peonies that stand up well to the weather (no staking needed) as upright or best choice peonies. All Itoh intersectional plants have great upright plant habitat - they don't fall over in the wind and rain. There are so many choices in peonies today - take a look and find your favorites. 

Order early to reserve your choice, freshly dug, bare root peony plants. Get growing - and plant something stunning! 

U.S. and Canadian orders may be placed online. Contact us for other international orders. 

Thinking ahead to a spring wedding in Oregon? Want peonies?

Fresh cut peony flowers are seasonal - they are available from approximately mid-May through June in Oregon. Depending upon the weather, they may be available in early May.

We sell budded peonies in bulk and small quantities at our peony farm (located between Salem and Portland).

Budded peonies are available in blush, coral, lavender pink, pink, red, white and mixed colors. Being flexible on shades of colors allows more choices. 

The peony flowers are available for pick up at our farm (we do not ship cut peonies). 

Demand for peony flowers is strong, so you may want to reserve early.

Contact us for details on ordering cut peonies for a spring wedding or event. We'll give you tips on opening the buds for the best impact on the big day.

Cut peonies are also available in July and August from the Alaska peony growers.

Questions about Peony Plant Care in the Winter?

You really don’t need to do anything to or for your herbaceous bush peony plants in the winter. But, if you realize you forgot to cut down the stems in the fall, you can do that now.

What happens if you don’t cut bush peony stems off in the fall?

The leaves and stems of herbaceous (bush) peonies, including the intersectional Itoh peonies will eventually die back as the plants go dormant for the winter. The leaves will start to deteriorate and the stems will fall to the ground and turn ‘mushy’. This is natural. the plant roots are not dying – they will grow new shoots/stems in the spring. Sometimes people panic and think their peony has died; but, this is the natural growth cycle of bush peonies.

When peony stems are cut off, near ground level, take care not to cut any exposed peony ‘eyes’ (usually pink or red buds) that will be next years’ stems. Dispose of the stems and leaves in the garbage. Do not compost peony leaves and stems, as they may attract botrytis (fungal disease), particularly in wet conditions. Clean up the ground area around each peony plant.

Mulching peonies is not required in most areas. If you do mulch your herbaceous bush peony plants, be sure to remove the mulch in the early spring to prevent the roots from being buried too deeply. Years of bark dust or mulch placed around bush peonies will eventually result in the roots being planted too deep – and you may see less blooms in the spring. Be sure to scratch that off, leaving just an inch or two of soil above the roots of herbaceous bush peonies.

It’s also natural that the crown of a mature peony eventually heaves up through the soil and shows some exposed ‘eyes’ in the winter. Don’t fret – peony plants love cold winters.

Tree peony leaves will also deteriorate and need to be removed from the branches and ground. The branches on a tree peony are not cut down in the fall – leave them standing, bare naked for the winter. In the event you or a helper cuts a tree peony down to ground level and you panic in despair – don’t worry too much. The roots are likely established enough to grow new branches in the spring. In 2 or 3 years it may be an amazing, reinvigorated tree peony. I know, as I have seen this happen. Tree peonies actually prefer more soil on top of the roots than bush peonies. If you have a tree peony that has lost its exuberance – try adding a couple of inches of soil around the base of the trunk. Yes, it’s just the opposite of recommendations for bush peonies. 

When the snow melts and you have a nice day, you can get back outside and tackle any 'forgotten' stems.  

Canadian orders for peony roots can now be placed directly online through our online catalog. 

The shipping fee includes the $35.00 fee for a USDA phytosanitary certificate. Check our rates under our Shipping/Info tab.

Please contact us if you have any questions.