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Gardening with Peonies

The Martha Stewart Show, May 2007

There are more than 30 different species of peonies and many thousands of cultivars. The genus is native to Europe, Asia, and western North America. Their large, brightly colored flowers and delicious fragrance are truly magnificent, coming in all different colors. Here are some of Martha's favorite peony varieties:

'Duchesse de Nemours'
- Incredible rose-like fragrance
- Large white blooms have creamy interior with a few green petals

'Rubra Flora Plena'
- Beautiful fern-like lush foliage
- Small cup-shaped magenta flowers with bright yellow stamens

'Kansas'
- American Peony Society Gold Medal Selection
- Huge magenta double flowers
- Hold their color throughout bloom time

'Raspberry Sundae'
- Unusual flowers shaped like a scoop of ice cream
- Pink and yellow combination with a light, fruity fragrance

'Coral Charm'
- Firm petals in cup shape
- Semi-double flower
- New color in peonies introduced in 1986

'Red Charm'
- One of the finest and most favorite reds
- Flat guard petals like crepe paper with hundreds of tiny petals

'Cheddar Charm'
- Reminiscent of poppy flower
- Flat guard petals look fragile but are sturdy
- Tree peony

Care Tips
- Peonies can thrive for decades, and because they hate to be disturbed, you really need to pick a spot where once they are planted they can remain for years to come.
- Both herbaceous and tree peonies can take full sun, but the flower will last longer if there is a bit of shade each day.
- They need to be planted in soil that is well drained and free of competing plant roots.
- You can start a peony plant from a bare root division, which needs to be harvested and planted in the fall.
- You can purchase a container grown plant which is three years old and can be planted right now.
- If you plan on growing peonies, you should order them in mid-May, and they will send your roots to you in time for the fall planting season.

Resource
Special thanks to Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery in Avalon, Wisconsin.