PEONIES
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Peonies are a symbol of permanence and prosperity . The Chinese chose the Peony as the principle flower in the Imperial Palace Gardens, calling it 'Sho Yo,' meaning "most beautiful.
Two types of peonies are generally grown in the home landscape, Paeonia hybrids or garden peony and Paeonia suffruticosa or tree peony
Peonies are perennial favorites in the flower garden. Few herbaceous plants can rival them for floral display and foliage. Their exquisite, large blossoms, often fragrant, make excellent cut flowers and the foliage provides a background for annuals or other perennials. Flowering usually lasts one week in late spring to early summer but by selecting and planting early, mid- and late-season bloomers, flowering may be extended for six weeks. Flower color range through most colors with the exception of blue.

Two types of peonies are generally grown in the home landscape, Paeonia hybrids or garden peony and Paeonia suffruticosa or tree peony
Peonies are perennial favorites in the flower garden. Few herbaceous plants can rival them for floral display and foliage. Their exquisite, large blossoms, often fragrant, make excellent cut flowers and the foliage provides a background for annuals or other perennials

Peonies grow from two to four feet in height. Support is often required for tall, double hybrids. They  thrive in sunny locations and well-drained soils, tolerating a wide range of soil types.  They tolerate all but the coldest winters where they may need mulching. Winter chilling is required for dormancy so  peonies do not perform well in subtropical areas. Planting, transplanting and dividing peonies are best done in early fall but may be done in spring as soon as soils are workable. Each plant requires an area about three feet in diameter. Dig a generous hole, large enough to accommodate the roots, and add  aged compost  in bottom of hole. Place the peony in the prepared hole so that the eyes (small, red-colored buds) are one to two inches below the soil's surface. Cover with soil and water well.

Peonies may be left undisturbed for many years.  In fact they are not happy with moves and may not flower the first or second year. I find transplanting  as they are going into dormancy seems to work best. A decline in flower production usually indicates overcrowding. In that case carefully lift the clump of roots and wash away the soil to expose the eyes. Using a clean, sharp tool, divide the clump into sections, each with three to five eyes and good roots. Replant immediately. If they are given plenty of room when planted and adequare nutrition they have been known to live for a hundred years.
Peonies have few pests or problems. It is believed that peonies produce small amounts of nectar and other ant attractants to encourage ants to help in opening the dense double flower buds found in many peonies.  Ants are not necessary for bud opening but may speed up process. They usually disappear once plant blossoms.

It is believed that peonies produce small amounts of nectar and other ant attractants to encourage ants to help in opening the dense double flower buds found in many peonies.
There are many folklores about peonies. My favorite is about Apollo's son, Asclepius, who was the physicians of the gods. He became known as Paeon, meaning helper, as a tribute to his vast knowledge of herbs and plants. One of the plants he reportedly used to heal was peony. Consequently, early doctors were called paeoni. This is the origin of the name Paeonia.
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