Peony News

Peony dividing, planting season coming soon

I can’t believe it’s nearing mid-August and getting close to peony dividing season. We’ll be in full swing later this month digging and processing 2018 orders.  Shipping will be throughout September and October – and into early December for those who want to plant later in the fall. Autumn is the perfect time to plant bare root peonies. We provide planting tips with all orders, so you will be successful growing these exquisite flowers.

Once we dig and divide the peony roots we’ll update our catalog with additional quantities and varieties. Sometimes we have a few extra of the rare or specialty peonies available, so take a glance at our online peony catalog now and then.

A wonderful peony bloom season this spring

Record breaking crowds visited our farm and were enthralled with all the flowers in the peony fields. Our iris gardens are a huge hit, too, with the gigantic wisteria and dozens of tree peonies being top photo spots. Thank you to all of our farm visitors and online customers – we appreciate you!

 

Being awarded the American Peony Society ‘Grand Champion’ for our entry ‘Lavon’ was such an honor this past May. 

Want to Grow More Peonies?

Take a look at our peony root catalog to order and grow your own award winning peonies. One can never have too many beautiful, fragrant peonies.

I think peonies every month of the year - dividing, planting, tilling, fertilizing, lusting after, cutting, arranging, storing, shipping, weeding, hoeing, ordering more; well, the list goes on and on. 

This July I keep the potted peony plants watered more often than usual with afternoon temperatures in the high 80's to high 90's. I like to have just a bit of moisture in my container peonies between waterings. I water them heavy one day; and lightly the next day or two - it's working out perfectly. 

If you wait until you see plant leaves stressed and wilting, then you are at the cusp of having waited too long. Some plants are a bit forgiving, like peonies. The size of the container and the type of potting soil determines how often and how much water to give. Check to see that there is some moisture in the container.

Our field peonies are getting a bit of water, too. The baby peonies always need a bit more attention with water; although the old cutting stock only needs a drink now and then.

Track the weather with your peony plants. You can compare the weather from year to year if you track the date seed pods crack open on a particular variety; or, when the foliage starts looking raggedy. The plants here are still vibrant and green; although the early species peonies are already showing off their ripe seed. One more thing to do - collect that seed.

I have seen foliage die back early some summers - particularly if they bloomed earlier than usual in the spring. Don't panic if you experience that - they are just going dormant earlier, too. The roots will still be healthy and viable for next springs' blooms. You can trim the stems down anytime they start to look raggedy.

When it's too hot to tend our fields and gardens in July's afternoon heat, it's the perfect time to browse online peony catalogs for your next beauties. After all, peony root shipping is just weeks away. Can you believe that? We've recently updated our peony catalog with a few additions including Paeonia officinalis 'Alba Plena' and 'Frances Willard'. 

Oh, one more thing - I still have a bucket of peony flowers in a refrigerator. I open it up now and then to take a peak (and cool down). Shockingly, they are still gorgeous. With any luck at all, I will have a vase of blooms for an August 5th family gathering. They were cut prior to the American Peony Society floral exhibit in May. How's that for peonies in July?

American Peony Society 2018 Best in Show/Grand Champion 

Brooks Gardens team is proud to have received the Best in Show/Grand Champion award for the peony 'Lavon' at the American Peony Society's floral competition May 27, 2018.

Cutting, storing, prepping and entering peonies in competition can be intimidating, rewarding and fun all at the same time. It takes a great team of volunteers to select the promising flowers on the prep tables, tag them and set them on the exhibit tables. We had a terrific group helping; and, while some buds were too loose or too tight to garner an award, we decided to place as many varieties as we could, to help fill up the showroom. Some flowers might not dazzle at the moment of judging; but, would be sure to thrill later that afternoon or the next day, as visitors compared one beauty with next. Viewing so many varieties in one room is a treat to any peony lover.  

Thank you to all who helped in so many ways! The APS is filled with wonderful people, so willing to help each other out. The exhibit room brimmed with entries from peony growers and gardeners, giving us all a chance to see many varieties for the first time. 

Cheers and Tears All Around!

The award was even sweeter with the opportunity to share our victory with Don Hollingsworth, the hybridizer of 'Lavon' (1993). He was in attendance and so proud to see his creation earn the APS's high honor in the floral exhibit. It was like a belated birthday gift for his recent 90th birthday! Lavon's son Kent was also in attendance and overjoyed with his Mother's namesake peony being selected. Such a delight, all the way around!

Stop by our farm this week to see 'Lavon' and other peonies on display - you just might find a winner for your garden. 

The peonies are opening right on schedule this bloom season. The Coral Charm and Coral Sunsets will be at their finest in a couple of days and through next weekend. The recent warm weather is opening the early mid-season peonies, with loads to open this week and next. The late season varieties are still in the little bud stage, ensuring more bloom in late May and early June. 

As varieties bloom, we add them to our cut peony display for your quick comparison of colors, flower forms and fragrance.

What a super Mother's Day weekend at the farm. We were blessed to meet so many of you this week - I think the crowds at our flower tents were record breaking this afternoon. One comment I keep hearing over and over this year is how 'magical' our gardens and farm are. The wisteria is dripping with fragrant blossoms. It long ago outgrew the arbor and graces the tops of conifer trees - captivating everyone's attention. You can find it in our iris gardens, separating the upper level from the lower level. 

We have lots of fresh cut peony flowers and arrangements, along with a variety of potted peonies for transplanting now. You can also order peony roots for fall planting. 

Stop by and take a stroll through our peony fields and iris gardens. We are open daily during peony flower season through at least June 9th. Hours: 10 am - 6 pm. 

Find us on Facebook and Instagram @brooksgardens

Brooks Gardens, the hidden Oregon peony farm & iris garden located at 6219 Topaz Street NE, Brooks (or Salem), Oregon, 97305.

We are just over one mile north of Brooks, OR (between Woodburn and Salem, off of 99 E); 30 minutes south of Tualatin, Wilsonville and Canby, OR. About 40 minutes south of Portland, OR.

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.