Category Archives: Peonies

The Earliest Peonies are Blooming!

In mid-April, as the last of the late tulips finished, the earliest peonies began to bloom in my garden.  The very earliest are the coral varieties, Coral Charm and Coral Supreme, both semi-doubles.  In addition, I found a light pink and white rogue in a hedge which I will have to wait to photograph when the nine other buds open as I missed photographing the first one.  I’m also not sure which variety it is but as it had ten buds, it has to have been there for a long time and may have been a “volunteer”.  Paula Fay had its first bloom a few days later and there are other varieties showing color on their buds.

coral supreme peony

Coral Charm, Semi-Double Peony and the earliest to bloom (April 16, 2012)


Single Light Pink Peony

Pink and White volunteer Single Peony (April 16 2012)


Paula Fay Peony

Paula Fay Peony, Semi-Double Rose Pink (April 19, 2012)


Princess Margaret Peony

Princess Margaret Peony, Double Rose Pink (April 20, 2012)


Red Charm Peony

Red Charm Peony, Red Double (April 21 2012)


Double Coral Peony

Double Coral Peony opening from Bud. On the same plant are three stages of bloom as seen below. (April 21, 2012)


Double Coral Peony

Double Coral Peony, same plant as above – Fully Opened (April 21, 2012)


White Double Coral Peony

On the same plant as the two blooms above – older white, Double Coral Peony (April 21, 2012)


Semi-Double Rose Peony

Semi-Double Rose Peony (April 21, 2012)

Peonies come in many colors and shapes and bloom over a multi-month period in cold climates.  Like other bulbs in warm areas, the bloom tends to come much closer together between the early, mid-early, mid, middle-late, and late peonies in warm climates.  In warm climates, plant the earlier varieties as the buds on late varieties may fail to open when the hotter weather arrives.  Japanese peonies os all types are also recommended.

Peonies are still available – Daffodil Size Ilustrated Below

This photograph of Ice Follies shows the size of the bubs. These each have 4 bulbs attached at the base and are sometimes called Mother Bulbs!  These will produce at least 4 daffodil flowers and cannot be found in nurseries as they are expensive to ship. Nurseries typically buy “double nose” #2 which have two bulbs but are of second size.

I placed these bulbs on an 11″ platter to show the scale. These bulbs have 4 bulbs attached as one (they are sometimes called Mother Bulbs) and some others have 3 and some have 2. I weighted out a shipment of 50 of them to mail and found that 50 weighted 12 pounds!

Varieties differ by size and formation, but they are always the largest available to give long life and duribility to whatever you are planting.

Ice Follies Clusters on Plate

5 Clusters of Ice Dollies Daffodils containing 17 bulbs on an 11″ platter.

Replanting the Peony Divisions in Warm Climates

Once the peonies have been divided, they can be replanted. I usually plant them about one foot apart but you might like to have them farther apart or scattered among roses or in perennial beds.

We dig down about one foot and mix in a little peat moss to the dirt. In the bottom of the rows we place some of the many rocks in my soil because I’ve gotten tired of seeing them!

Gathered Roots

The roots are gathered together by type and planted in rows

We try to plant rows of identical varieties but it is not always possible to have the numbers come out perfectly to fit the rows available. Sometimes the rows have more than one type. This has led to some surprises amid rows that can be attributed to letting someone dig up what they want and then planting a new one (apparently randomly!) in the available hole. This is not a practice that is being continued!

As the rows are planted with each division’s buds right below the soil surface, they begin to look very neat. Unfortunately, only about 2/3 of the divisions will have a flower next year, so some of my beds will have less color next April and May that in the last few years.  There are several older rows that will be blooming next year, however.

Juan Planting New Divided Peonies

Juan Nunez Planting the Newly Divided Peonies

Some varieties die back earlier than others, but all of the herbaceous peonies that I sell die back completely. In a border, bulbs and annuals can be planted around them if care is taken not to dig into their roots as many can be fairly shallow.

Tagging My Peonies!

My solution to Tagging My Peonies!

I have tried many labeling systems to no avail. Plastic tags (names rained off), metal tags (names rained off), writing in indelible ink on the horse fence besides (names rained off), copper tags embossed with a stylus (tags too small and disappeared). But this year, eureka, I think I have the answer. Near the end of the season when several varieties were still in bloom, I lit on the idea of painting some of the myriad rocks that come to the surface at any digging. I had four colors and then used combinations of colors to identify them and put one at the base of each identifiable plant. Then in mid October when we began to dig up the rows, I could separate varieties. Of course, there were many that had already gone out of bloom, but those have been planted in rows by themselves to be identified next year or in future years.

Happy Planting!

Dividing Peonies in California

In California, the tools for dividing peonies are not as heavy duty as those for hacking apart small tree trunk sized peony roots!  

Earlier in my blog is a picture of tools used in colder climates where the clumps grow to be the size of coffee tables and those tools include an axe and hammer. In California, the tools range from a small knife and clippers to small loppers if the clumps are not older than about ten years.

Peonies clumps often seem as though they want to be separated and the dividing points are obvious. In other varieties, the clump may need to be manhandled and cut with loppers.

Peonies clumps often seem as though they want to be separated and the dividing points are obvious.  In other varieties, the clump may need to be manhandled and cut with loppers.

Separating Bulbs

Marde Separating Bulbs

Clippers are used also:

Marde Separating Bulbs

Marde Separating Bulbs

The idea in dividing the clumps is to give them more room to send up new shoots and more root room.  At least three to five buds should be on each division.  Some varieties are larger than others so the roots can be of varying sizes.  The divisions in the picture above look a little larger than most, but some have very fat roots and are much bigger and others are smaller and more delicate.

Sometimes the roots need to cleaned up a little to open space for the new buds to emerge, but this is infrequent.

Cheap Tulips, Cheap Daffodils, Cheap Bulbs

I took pictures of all of my daffodil bulbs one year against a ruler to show the size. Bulbs differ in size according to variety, but one rule seems to hold true – plant a smaller bulb than the largest that can be bought per variety, and you will short yourself on the result.

The labor involved in planting bulbs easily overshadows the bulb cost, but some people think that they will come out ahead by picking up a few dozen as the big box stores and garden centers where the bulbs are exposed to heat and sunlight.

You get what you pay for is truly the name of the game!

Hand Holding Small Daffodil Bulb

Cheap equals smaller.  Smaller equals fewer blooms.  The large bulbs, which are what I distribute, will produce at least 2-3 flowers per bulb while the smaller bulb will produce a single, probably shorter, flower.

Two Large Daffodil Bulbs

My daffodil bulbs are the largest available and can be called “Mother Bulbs” in some cases. They are not sold in nurseries as the shipping is very expensive.  The imported daffodil bulbs and other catalog offeringd are usually “double nose #2” or single bulbs as are Costco’s daffodils which come in bags while mine come in crates.

Plate of Daffodil Bulbs