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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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :)
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.
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 .
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?
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. :)
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.
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.
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!
Oh my heavens, that is fantastic!!! Road trip to Donna's!! :) You have lovely structure to your gardens. I bet when all the lilacs and peonies are in bloom it is a slice of pure heaven! And then your roses kick in! Wonderful, just wonderful! And you do all the work yourself (with maybe a bit of help from John aka Cute Garden Boy, not to be confused with Wickerparker's Cute Garden Boy :) LOL ). These are what I like to see, gardens that people put their hear and soul into. :) Thanks for sharing! :)
John aka Cute Garden Boy??? That's priceless. You're adorable. I LOVE gardening. I lived in condos all my life, and then I had this space to fill. That's when I discovered that I was a plant nut - it's the way I express myself. Then I read Pam Duthie's book Continuous Bloom, the theory behind which , as I'm sure you know, is to have something going on in the garden all year.
You two are adorable. I really appreciate all of your help with the peonies because although many the roses are blooming and I love them, there is nothing like peonies. John (aka cute garden boy - I told him and he was very amused) and I have an early evening stroll each day to watch their development. What's really great is that the people who live around us are starting to put them in - just one or two but that's how it starts!
I know this is an old thread, but I have a question. This is the first year ever (in 7) my peonies have bloomed. We had a wet cold winter and everything loved it. So, I have never had to stake them. I have a home tour at my house in a couple of weeks and the blooms are about to break bud so I decided now (duh..) I had to stake them. I got that accomplished but broke two of my most beautiful buds.
Now the question...If I leave them on the plant will they still bloom, or should I just, gulp.. cut them off?
Rose, if they're too deep, they won't bloom, so it does not matter when you move them.
I moved a bunch yesterday (about 6) and was amazed at the size of the roots. They formed buds but seldom bloomed. They may have been too deep or maybe in just not enough sun once the trees filled in. They may not bloom this year, but they have a new lease on life.
I have long supported my peonies with the black wire hangers from the cleaners. However they seem to be too weak for long stems unless you carefully twist them around each other. You must twist them symmetrically so they don't look like an amateur job, and place them down in the soil at least 4". These are a cheap substitute if you have some of the creativeness that the Orthodontists( wire benders) have. arfitz
I have been using wire hangers, the ordinary ones that you can get free from the cleaners. However I use only the thick wire ones. The thin one don't support much weight. You can bend them using a pair of pliers. I throw them out after 1 season to avoid fungal carryover. They are usually not long enough to bend into a 1/2 circle, so I use those thin strong long rods that I buy from Home depot as the support for a round ring
Another solution might be to buy those low fencing materials. Some of those have black decorative frills on them . I purchased some to put around the bed to make my from yard look more formal. They are about 3' tall and in sections that stretch 10 ' long and are in separate 3' sections. So you could separate the sections to get the length you want.
I hope this information is of some use to you.