'About to bloom, and exhale a rainbow: the peony!' Learn to grow this flower, revered in haiku
This gorgeous, bloom-filled plant is often referred to in the Japanese form of poetry, called, haiku. In just a few words and syllables, its beauty is captured in poems like the one in the headline, written by Buson or this from the poet Basho from the Edo period (1603-1868).
of the peony
Explore more odes to the peony here and read on to learn how to grow and cultivate your own beautiful blooms so you, too, can wax poetic as the season progresses.
The peony plant is either the herbaceous variety or a hybrid of the herbaceous peony, called the "Itoh" hybrid.
The herbaceous peony variety is the one you're probably most familiar with. These grow well here and are hardy in Zone Three and Four. These peonies are a kind of perennial plant that dies back in the fall and grows back up in the spring.
Some of these herbaceous peonies are species varieties, which are the sorts that bloom really early and have just single flowers.
But the ones most people really enjoy planting and growing in their lawns and landscape are the "doubles." These are the ones that are just gaudy and dripping with petals!
A gardener once crossed the tree peony, which are the ones that look like little shrubs, with the herbaceous peony, to create the Itoh hybrids.
They grow like an herbaceous peony but they have the colors of a tree peony. Another nice thing about the Itoh hybrids is that the flowers last longer than a regular herbaceous peony and the plant and the leaves are a little more compact.
Whichever variety you plant, make sure it's in full sun and well-drained soil. And think of peonies as something that's will last for decades. Place it in a spot where it's going to be in full sun for a long time. If you do ever want to move your peonies, move them in the fall.
This is the time of year to plant peonies, though! Start with peonies grown in nurseries or garden centers. Make a good-sized hole, and backfill it with native soil then keep adding water.
Place the peony plant inside so that it sits about one to two inches below the ground surface. If it's too deep, it won't bloom very well. Add a bit of mulch, keep it well watered and it'll grow beautifully.
Q: Vinca Minor has been a major disappointment and very invasive. Is there a ground cover that's good for heavily-shaded areas that won't try and take over the yard? - Cynthia in Wallingford
A: This depends upon what kind of shade you have. If you have deep shade - the sort that a spruce tree or a hemlock or pine tree would provide - there isn't much that would grow well as a ground cover there.
However, if you have shade underneath from a deciduous tree, like a big maple or oak with light that comes in, then you have a lot of options!
Think of native plants that you see in the forest. For example, the bunchberry, a low-growing plant with red little berries on it, will grow well.
Experiment with some of those wild plants and see how they do in that landscape.
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