Please help ??? on peonies & supports

Missoula, MT

I have around 2 dozen peonies on a property that I maintain professionally; they have been in place for 7 years now and are beautiful. They are all doubles and some can boast 50-75 blooms per plant at the height of their glory. The majority of them are in groups - long rows next to paths & also in sweeps near the back of borders. Many of these are spaced very close together & have grown almost into a hedge form.
My dilemma is as follows: they have gotten way too big for the standard 3-legged/double-hoop support one finds in the average garden center. When they get wet & heavy with irrigation/rain (I have no control over either) they inevitably bend over the top ring & break. Due to the placement within the landscape and the nature of this location, the solution cannot be anything 'tacky' or homemade-looking. It must be unobtrusive, subtle & blend in unnoticeably throughout the season. Keep in mind that at peak of bloom, my 'Bowl of Cream' plants, for example, can be close to 4' tall. I have shopped around online and everyone seems to agree that the Lee Valley supports with the adjustable hinged rings are the best thing out there. However, for my application, the cost is prohibitive. (close to $1,000.00 w/shipping) Does anyone have any suggetions for a strong, very tall, unobtrusive & somewhat attractive support that won't break my budget if I need 25 of them? I have access to materials & a well-stocked shop, however I'd prefer to not spend a week of labor$$ constructing them either.
Another question: they have never been moved in 7 years - would dividing them have an effect on their height? Is there such a thing as being 'too tall & big'? Is it unhealthy or just a matter of personal preference? Was it maybe a poor variety choice? Do some varieties have stronger stems than others? I will stop asking questions now & just wait for some responses! XO Thanks!

Chattanooga, TN(Zone 7b)

would old bicycle wheels painted grey/green/something to blend in work for your location?
they can be suspended on rebar.

Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

Can you show us a picture of what the area looks like? I'm thinking chicken wire painted green, laid down while the pip are just coming up, and adjusting it up-wards with the growth of the plant. That way they will kind of be in a self supporting grid. We can probably help you better if we could see a picture of what you're dealing with.

You never have to divide a peony unless it starts to decline and that usually doesn't happen for 50 to 75 years. Four foot tall is not unusual, and actually is pretty much the norm. Most of the old fashioned doubles that are out there today were bred for cut flowers and not meant to be landscape plants, thus, they flop because the stem isn't sturdy enough to hold up their beautiful heads. There are landscape worthy plants in the peony world and if you go to Hollingsworth Peony's you'll see some he suggests. However, there is nothing wrong with the ones you have if you provide them a bit of support. I bet they smell like heaven when in bloom!

One more thought about your peony rings that you already have. You might try taking some green twine and fashioning a grid on each level of the ring, that way you have more stability for the stems. That's what the chicken wire does. Everything gridded together is stronger than an individual left on it's own.

Myself, I use the rings with the grids on those that flop. Each year I just buy a few more and so on and so forth.

Diann

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I keep a ring with a grid permanently in place over my peonies - with 36" legs so they are betwen 24-30 inches above ground. Once the buds are filling out and I can see where they are I put 2-3 flop bars around - they are higher than the grid ring and can be set in in such a way that they are unobtrusive but support the blooms. The flop bars are made of iron and rust although I have recently seen some that are covered with green PVC .
Still not a cheap if you have to buy everything all at once but well worth the bucks.
I cant find a really good pic of the flop bars but you can just see a couple hidden in the greenery of this peony if you look closely.

Thumbnail by fancyvan
Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Just realized there were a couple of small flop bars out in the garden so here is a pic. ( I have 3 different heights!)

Thumbnail by fancyvan
Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Hi Diann,

Where do you find the grids? I have plenty of legs from non-grid peony supports and could transfer them, but I cannot find a source for the grids. Garden Supply Company stopped selling them:

http://www.gardeners.com/Deluxe-Grow-Through-Flower-Supports/ProductsNoLongerAvalable_Cat,13694,default,cp.html

And are instead selling these, which are not only rather expensive but have no grids:

http://www.gardeners.com/Peony-support/FlowerGardening_New,37-423RS,default,cp.html

HELPPPPP!

Donna




Donna

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Try LeeValley Tools

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I did, Fancy. They don't have grids.

Donna

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Also, my current ones have 22 inch wide grids and 34 inch legs. Most of the ones I'm seeing are significantly smaller, with 12 to 18 inch grids.

Donna

Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

I got mine at various places. Blain's Farm and Fleet in Clinton is one (I think it's in Clinton). And then there is a little place in Cedar Rapids that I get them from, Frontier Gardens (I think that's it's name).

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Fancy, Diann, thank you both. I had missed the URL on Lee Valley, and Diann, going to the websites of the stores you mentioned led me to their websites, in which they named the makers of the peony supports. I now have a great selection to choose from. I am very grateful to you both.

Donna

Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

Great!!! Glad we could help. Now, would you remind me to get my supports out and on my floppy peonies! ;) LOL

White Lake, ON(Zone 4b)

Just moseyed over here to post a question and, bamwa1, your post put me in mind of a picture I took on a garden tour a couple of years ago, where the peony supports weren't hidden - as you can see they are white-painted wood! I thought that was quite a different approach.

Seems to me they need to be higher in this garden to support heavy blooms; plus I don't have any idea as to the cost/feasibility but thought I'd post anyway since it might springboard some other ideas.

Sandy

Thumbnail by sanannie
Glover, VT

I have always used concrete reinforcing wire mesh: it's 6" square openings make it easy to reach in and weed around the plants and can be cut to size according to the diameters and heights of the individual plants. I but it by the roll and make each cage according to the clients' requirements.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Sandy I think that looks nice but you are right it would not support the blooms.

Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

It is very pretty, but I agree, it wouldn't support the blooms as is. Now, if you were to put a grid on the top. :)

Labour, do you paint the cages you make? Do you put a top on the cage?

Glover, VT

I don't paint 'em - the rust color of the wire blends in well with the color of soil and the foliage hides everything after a short time. No, I've never put a top on, I believe that the stems should be able to flex in breezes - that way they are less likely to snap.

I make the cages as tall as I anticipate (from previous years' observations) that the flowers will bloom so that the edge of the cage supports the outer blooms, which (in turn) support the inner blooms.

Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

Hmm, I prefer to top my peonies with a grid. I start it out low and as the plant grows I pull it up. I find it gives great support. The peony can move around in it just fine, the mass of the peony foilage and the support of the grid stops any problem with the blooms snapping. My biggest problem is remembering to get them on the peony. The really bad floppers (usually the florist doubles) I do try to leave the grids on year round, so when I cut things back in the fall the peony grids just stay put for the winter and then in the spring the peony just grows back up through again. :)

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Diann, Fancy,

Grid types from Lee Valley are on the way. Some of my more mature peonies, Like Mrs. FDR, Ann Cousins and Cornelia Shaylor, overwhelmed even my current grid type supports last year because the legs were not long enough. Lee Valley had the longest legs of any, and the most complete grids.

By the way, since LV is in Canada, I benefitted from a favorable exchange rate. A $69 order turned into a $60 order. I noticed the same thing last year when I ordered roses from Pickering. Nice bonus.

Donna

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Glad that worked out for you Donna - I presumed they shipped from the US. Maybe they truck things across the border since I think they ship from Ottawa. They have stores across Canada and it is my favorite place to tool shop - I always browse the catalogues and go with a list!
I have a big collection of the grids and the legs. And I saw flop bars there last year but dont recall the height.
I do what Ticker does - my grids stay in the ground year round not just for peonies either, that way I dont forget to put them in in the spring. After some years the green coating does start to wear away and rust .

Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

Your garden looks pretty sanannie :-)

White Lake, ON(Zone 4b)

SteveFtWorth - nice of you to say, but it's not my garden. I took the pic on a garden tour of nearby gardens a couple of years ago.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Diann, Fancy,

The grids arrived from Lee Valley. They are superb, the best I've ever seen. I have no doubt that they can contain my most rambunctious peonies (Ann Cousins, here I come!)

Donna

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Glad to hear you are please with them Donna

Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

Good! Glad you liked them! Now I need to get out and get mine on some floppers too! After the garden dries out a bit... :)

Missoula, MT

Thank you all for the great advice and ideas. What I have decided is to purchase about $300.00 worth of the Lee Valley supports this year, and a few more each year until I have enough. I will use them on the biggest plants this year. For the rest, I am going with a modified version of your idea, Ticker. I think I am going to attach some chicken wire horizontally over the top rings of my double hoop supports and see how that works. I'm curious after re-reading your first post - do you have legs attached to your chicken wire, or do you just cut circles and allow the plants to grow through them freely, moving the circles up as they grow? Also are standard chicken wire's openings large enough for the stems?

Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

I, personally use grow through grids. However, if you go the chicken wire route, you'd need to probably check on them through out the growing season to make sure they are climbing along with the growth of your peony. I think chicken wire comes in different sizes, so you might want to check with a farm supply shop. It would be free rein chicken wire. :) If you are going to use hoops, then I would use the legs that come with the hoops. :)

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Bam,

I got 3 of the Lee Valley grow through grids and sets of legs to go with them. They are really sturdy - and the legs are the longest I've found. I'll used my less strong grids on my younger ones and, as you indicated and Diann does, add as I need them. It's great to have such a source.

Donna

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I used to buy a few every year so now I have a collection of all size rings and all size legs so I can mix and match. Some are left on the plants all year round so I dont have to remember to put them back in the spring. The covered does get a bit ratty over time and may crack off because I do this.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Fancy,

That's what I'm working toward - the mix and match thing. I'm just so glad you directed me to the grids at LV when I missed them. Some of my bigger babies simply won't stay upright without grids.

Donna

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Thank you, thank you, thank you Fancy and Diann. We got a brief but volatile storm yesterday with 30 mile per hour winds. All of the other peonies in the area have their beautiful faces in the mud or are bent over double. Thanks to you two and your advice on grids, my peonies didn't miss a beat. This is POST storm!

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Lovely!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Thanks to you!

Greenwood, IN(Zone 5b)

OMG Donna those are wonderful! You have a such a touch with peonies.

Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

Oh Donna that makes me so happy for you!!! Yay!! :) Now, I want landscape shots. :) I'm so happy for you!! :)

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Thank you Steve, Diann and once more Fancy. As you can tell, I'm in a state of complete bliss.

Donna

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Diann,

You asked for a landscape shot, and I don't really have a good one, but this will give you an idea of my main peony bed, and how erratically they are blooming.

Thumbnail by DonnaMack
Lisbon, IA(Zone 5a)

I knew it would be beautiful. :) Thanks for sharing. Now, if you have anymore.... ;)

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Anything for such a delightful person...

Crabapple, cotinus 'Grace', viburnum prunifolium and furthest left a Yoshino Cherry.

This message was edited Jun 12, 2009 5:29 AM

Thumbnail by DonnaMack

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images
    BACK TO TOP