The Daily DuBrule
Do peonies grow on trees? I remember years ago when a customer came into Natureworks asking for tree peonies and expected them to be as big as maple trees! For anyone not already madly in love with tree peonies, the term refers to the fact that these plants are not herbaceous, therefore they do not die down to the ground in the winter. Instead, they maintain a woody framework. Over the years, they become large, magnificent specimens. In the orient, they are treasured family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. Once you witness an old plant in full bloom, you will understand why.
Tree peonies are not hard to grow. They do very well in dappled shade. Peony Heaven (*Cricket HIll Nurseries in Thomaston,CT), which is a mecca for peony lovers, covers their plants when in bloom with gigantic silk umbrellas, oversized versions of those paper umbrellas found in tropical drinks. They have distinctively different leaves from herbaceous peonies, much more blue, and they bloom 2-3 weeks earlier, usually in late May. This year, with everything flowering 2-3 weeks early, my tree peonies both at home and at Natureworks opened on Friday, May 4th.
There are two issues I have had with my tree peonies. The first is that they are grafted and herbaceous shoots arise from below the base. These should immediately be cut off. The second is that my gorgeous deep coral/red specimen split in the ice storm of 2011 and I tied it back together. All seemed fine until the October surprise snowstorm of 2011 which split it again. I did a better job of putting it back together and today, well, look at the picture below:
This is one happy plant. When I arrived home from work on Friday afternoon, exhausted and laden with heavy briefcases, I strolled into the courtyard, dropped my bags, dropped to my knees, grabbed my camera, and took this picture. Then I proceeded to drag my husband outside to partake in tree peony worship.
* Check out these two links to learn all about Cricket Hill and my friends David and Kasha Furman and their son Dan. They are an organic nursery. The pictures are awesome and will give you a true idea of how amazing tree peonies can be.