Prairie Yard & Garden: Peonies

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(soft piano music) – [Voiceover] Prairie Yard and Garden is a production of the University of Minnesota, Morris in cooperation with Pioneer Public Television.

Funding for Prairie Yard and Garden is provided in part by Heartland Motor Company providing service for over 30 years in the heart of truck country.

Heartland Motor Company.

We have your best interest at heart.

Farmers Mutual Telephone Company and Federated Telephone Cooperative proud to be powering Acira.

Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen in honor of Shalom Hill Farm a non-profit rural education retreat center in a beautiful prairie setting near Windom in southwestern Minnesota.



– In 1923, my husband's grandparents got married and settled on their farm near St.

James, Minnesota.

Shortly after, Grandma Minnie planted a long row of red, pink and white peonies right next to her clothes line.

Well, it's almost a hundred years later and the farm buildings and clothes line are long gone.

But that row of peonies still remains.

I'm Mary Holm, with Prairie Yard and Garden and join us today as we learn all about this durable, hardy and easy-to-grow perennial called the peony.

(soft lively music) One of my favorite jobs is delivering flowers to the cemetery for Memorial Day.

It gives me a special chance to remember friends and family and to see the beautiful peonies that are almost always in bloom there.

I really do love peonies, but today we are going to visit with Jill Stevens, who takes a love of peonies to a whole new level.

Welcome, Jill.

– Oh, thank you, Mary for coming.

I'm glad to show you my peonies.

– How did you get started loving peonies? – Well, like you, my grandmother grew peonies and she used them as a dividing line between the house and the field area to keep grandpa from driving his tractor on the lawn.

– (laughing) My next question is what is the correct pronunciation? I have heard Pee-Uh-Nee and I've heard Pee-Oh-Nee so which is the right way to say it? – Well, Mary, I just came back from the National American Peony Convention and I heard it both ways consistently, so whatever.

– Okay, so both are correct, okay.

Um, what are the different kinds of peony? I would have thought that there was just kind of red, pink and white but there's many different kinds not just colors.

– Yeah, you have your single peony which is a single row of petals, generally nine to 15 petals per flower.

And then you have your semi-double, which then after 15 petals becomes– they encircle and form more than one row.

And then you have your double, which is nice and full.

You have your Japanese peony, which is a single row of petals with a little tuft in the middle.

And then you have your bomb form, too which is kinda similar to a double but it's like, has, uh.

ice cream, a scoop of ice cream on the petals.

But there are three types of forms of peonies.

You have your woody, or tree peony and they bloom early in the season.

And you have your regular herbaceous peony where the foliage dies back to the ground in the fall.

You cut it down to the ground and it dies.

You also have your intersectional peony which is a cross between a tree peony and a herbaceous peony, and they're relatively a new bird, and so far they've been mostly sterile.

They cannot reproduce.

– [Mary] How many varieties of peonies do you have in your yard? – Well, Mary, I'm afraid to admit it but (laughs) I have over 700 varieties of peonies in my yard and my list is growing.

I have some on the way.

Best place to get a peony is from a reputable hybridizer or somebody who specializes in peonies only.

That way, you're sure to get a good plant without disease and a plant that is true to name.

If you get a plant from a box store you don't know, really, what you're getting.

It could be tissue culture, which is bad in the peony world.

There's a chance it won't be true to the name.

It could be a seedling.

You know, if you're out for just having a peony, you know, go for it.

But if you are– want one specifically for color or shape or whatever, go to the reputable dealers.

There are five really good reputable breeders in the state of Minnesota, so you got a good selection of reputable breeders right here in Minnesota.

– [Mary] How do you keep track of all of the different varieties that you have? – [Jill] I'm a 4-H girl and I learned to keep good records back in 4-H and I literally keep a sheet for each peony.

So I walk through everyday and I will check off if the peony is blooming.

I will count the number of primary buds on the peony to see if it's increasing or decreasing.

I will note anything that I should keep my eye on like if I'm having a problem with a fungus or bud blast or anything, I'll make a note of that.

And I'll even mark the number of days that the peony is blooming, so I know if a peony is long-lasting or if it's a short-lived peony.

Then if people ask me, "Well, my peony only blooms a day," well, I can say, "Well, my peonyblooms for this many days.

" The average peony does bloom, here, for about nine days.

– [Mary] About how long is your blooming season? – [Jill] The peony season can last seven weeks.

If the weather cooperates, if you have a nice, long spring and a nice, cool summer, we can get it to last eight weeks.

– [Mary] Do you fertilize your peonies? – [Jill] I like to fertilize my peonies in April and August the two A months, with a time release fertilizer.

No muss, no fuss, just a little scoop.

I'll use either 10-10-10 or 14-14-14.

Seems to work really well and that's about all I do.

– [Mary] Are there any insect or disease problems that you notice with your peonies? – [Jill] Well, this year we have a few things going on.

There's a little chlorosis, which is when the peony gets a little yellow and with the green veins.

A little sign of a little high pH with a little too much rain.

And they probably just need a little iron to get them to green up again.

I just noticed this morning that I'm just starting to get a little powdery mildew on one plant.

Starts out with like a little star little white stars on them.

And powdery mildew is not harmful to the peony just.

when we get in those humid days of July and August they'll just start to get that powdery mildew and won't hurt your peony, just looks a little ugly.

You can try to catch that early by spraying a little fungicide on it and slow it down a little bit.

– Do you stake up or put cages around your peonies to help hold them up? – Generally, no.

I use the fence for that, I have a fence.

So if they slide against the fence, the fence holds them up.

I do have a cage around one peony.

It happens to be my grandmother's peony.

My husband put it there.

It was special to him, so just one is caged up.

Sometimes if there's a special one I have one called Garden Peace, it flops.

But I really, really like the flower, so I put a stake down and then I take my peony, I gather it up and I tie it up with a string.

But other than that, I don't do much staking.

– [Mary] Would you be willing to show us some of your favorite varieties? – [Jill] Oh, of course.

(both laughing) (soft piano music) This is Bartzella, this is an intersectional peony and when it first came out a plant cost 3,000 dollars.

But now you can find one for under 50 dollars.

– [Mary] Wow, but the color is beautiful.

– [Jill] It is a nice color and I think that's what everybody likes about it.

And believe or not, they are improving the color as we speak.

There's a lot of leaps and bounds on hybridizing right now.

– [Mary] That is just such a beautiful yellow.

It's just amazing.

And then what's this one, here? – [Jill] That one is also an intersectional peony.

That one is called Unique.

And the color is really nice on that one and plus it's got the red stems.

– [Mary] And it's got a beautiful flower on it, too.

Beautiful color.

– [Jill] Yeah, and it's got a few flares on the inside that you could probably notice that.

A little darker flare, it's got its color and then the color is deepening on the inside.

– [Mary] And what is that one? The size of the flowers on that peony are bigger than my hand, even if I spread it as wide as I can, the flowers are bigger than.

than my fingers spread out.

– [Jill] Yeah, that one is called Queenbee and it is a nice one.

It's got nice tuft in the middle, it's got your staminoids on the outside, the yellow part.

And a nice, full flower.

– After some of the peonies are done blooming they will form seed pods sometimes.

In fact, there's one right next to us, here.

– [Jill] Yeah, Mary, this is a nice example of a seed pod.

This is done flowering.

And the home gardener, if it wants to put its– have the plant put its energy in the flowers for next year you can cut it off at the first set of leaves.

If you wanna collect seeds and try growing your own peonies you can wait 'til somewhere between August and October and there will be seeds in here that you can harvest and plant.

If you plant them right away, not too complicated.

If you save them over winter, there's a little bit involved.

But what's interesting about the plant that you picked, Mary is that last year I had people from all over the world literally all over the world, wanting seeds from this plant.

This is Ophia, and apparently it's a pretty rare one that I– I didn't know that when I bought it.

I liked it for its red flowers.

But I literally had people from Romania and the Netherlands asking for seeds from this one.

– Really? So, they actually will form viable seeds if you leave the pods on? – In most cases, if you get seeds there will be some viable ones in there, mm-hmm.

– I didn't realize that.

I always thought that you shouldclip them off all the time.

– Well, you know, if you want flowers good ones next year, you should clip them off.

– Okay.

I had somebody ask me that after the peonies are done blooming, should you clip the whole plant off at that time? Like, now, at this time of the year should a person clip this one down? – This time of year, I would clip the seed pods off.

In the fall, I would– before winter comes, I would clip them off as far to the ground as you can.

Collect the leaves and put them in the garbage.

So you don't spread disease.

Peonies are susceptible to many fungal diseases and by disposing of the leaves rather than composting them you will save a lot of disease problems.

– [Mary] That is a wonderful seed pod.

A very interesting seed pod.

I enjoy seeing that.

– [Jill] Well, Mary, if you think that's interesting I have another interesting one to show you over here.

(soft piano music) This is a cactus flowering peony.

It's called a cactus flowering because it has kind of the crazy-shaped petals.

And this particular cultivar is called Scatterbrain.

– [Mary] The peony right next to us has a beautiful unique color.

– [Jill] Yeah, this peony is called Carol and for– it is a long blooming plant.

It starts out like this, and it looks like this for maybe two weeks and you think, "Ew, that's an ugly peony.

" But then, one day, you'll get a nice one bursting open.

And there are probably better ones to look at here.

This is a nicer one to look at.

Nice, full flower.

– [Mary] Wow.

It is beautiful and the color is just wonderful.

– [Jill] It is a nice color.

There are very unique colors in peonies and that's really what I like about peonies is the many different colors.

– Speaking of colors, when we walked in I saw one that you have to tell me what it is.

It is absolutely beautiful.

But we need to go and find it.

– [Jill] Well, yeah, you'll have to show me which one that is.

– Okay.

(laughing) (soft piano music) – Okay, Mary, before you show me the one that you were talking about, I'm gonna show you a couple of my favorites.

And this is an intersectional peony and this one is called Watermelon Wine.

And it's kind of got a nice dark pink color and it's got dark flares in the middle.

And it's got a little sheath right here around the peony, a little pinkish sheath.

And it's got the nice anthers and filaments.

– [Mary] By the flare, do you mean this color right at the base? – Yeah.

– Right there? – Oh.

– Kind of a nice flare.

– [Jill] Little darker color than the rest of it.

– [Mary] That is beautiful.

No wonder you like it so much.

– And right next to it, Mary, is I have to say, my very favorite.

People will wonder why it's my very favorite.

(Mary laughs) Hard to say.

But this one is called Orange Glory and it is the closest thing to orange that I have.

It's a very unique color in my garden.

You know, most people would walk right by this one but I really enjoy the color.

It's a nice little single.

– [Mary] It is, really– that is a unique color.

Very unique color, you're right.

When you said, yeah, single has the fewer petals around the outside.

– Right, yeah.

– [Jill] Generally nine to 15 petals.

(soft piano music) – This is the one that caught my eye as soon as we got out of the vehicle and started to walk and look at your peonies.

– Yeah, this is an interesting one, Mary.

This one is called Coral Charm and it blooms in stages.

The first color you will see is a nice dark color coral.

This one is just starting to open.

And then when it's in its prime it'll be nice and coral.

And then it turns almost a yellow color before the end.

– [Mary] Does this one bloom for quite a while? – [Jill] This one blooms for quite a while.

You got quite a long life cycle in this one.

And this one is becoming real popular for weddings and cut flowers.

People really enjoy the variety of shades in this one.

This is a real popular one.

– [Mary] When people visit your garden is this one that they notice right away? – [Jill] This is the one everybody notices.

– Okay.

– Yes, it is.

And it fits real nice on the fence and you can see it from both ways.

It's just a nice one.

– [Mary] You had mentioned that it's nice to have the fence to help support the flowers, and even on a windy day it still looks very, very nice here.

– [Jill] Yes, it does, Mary.

I enjoy having the fence hold up my flowers for me.

It does all the work.

(soft piano music) – [Mary] Jill, this is the one that I saw when we were down looking at one of the other varieties and it's so unique.

– Yeah, this one is called Pink Patterns, Mary and you mentioned that you thought it reminded you of a tulip.

And the inside is really nice, too.

It's got kind of a speckle defect on the outside.

– [Mary] And it's got those cupped flower petals like a tulip.

– [Jill] Yeah, I think it's my new favorite.

(both laughing) Wow, it is a nice one.

It's very nice.

(soft piano music) – I have a question.

A friend of mine recommended that I grow some native plants in my yard.

What would be the benefit of doing that? – There is a lot of value to growing native plants.

First off, they come in a quite of an array of color and display, a lot of them can rival.

A lot of our bedding plants for beauty such as cardinal flower and butterfly weed they're just beautiful plants to have.

And not only are they beautiful but they also benefit the native insect population because the insects.

they use them as host plants and pollinator plants.

And beyond that the water that they require, they're already used to the rainfall that we get here.

So there really isn't a lot of maintenance that goes into growing native plants.

After they're established unlike a lot of our cultivated plants you can really just let them be on their own and do their thing.

Another benefit to growing native plants, of course, is that they're hardy.

There's a lot of plants that you find in catalogs and you think they're so beautiful but you never know quite if they're gonna make it through the winter or not.

So, with native plants there's no need to worry about whether or not they're gonna make it because they're perfectly adapted to our situations here.

And, you know, another thing is, that is, the pollinators.

With bees, the way they're declining and monarchs, the way they're declining it's important to have plants that are a refugium for these insects so that they can keep on keeping us happy.

– [Voiceover] Ask the Arboretum Experts has been brought to you by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen, dedicated to enriching lives through the appreciation and knowledge of plants.

– [Mary] Jill, you call this your nursery area.

Explain what this is.

– Well, these are the plants that I divided last year and these are the new ones that I ordered last year.

These are the newest plants in here and I try to plant them four feet on center so you know that there's a nice wide space here between the peonies.

You might think at this stage of the game that they're too far apart, but they will grow and they'll grow together.

And you wanna usually plant them about four feet apart.

They need a lot of air circulation to help prevent fungal diseases.

And I feel that if they're far enough apart you can enjoy the peony individually.

In the fall I will come in here with my sheers that has been bleached, so I don't spread any diseases and I will come in here and I will cut these down to the ground, and I will dispose of those in the garbage.

Herbaceous peonies and intersectional peonies are treated the same way.

You wanna cut them as close to the ground as possible.

When they're a little younger I give them a little bit more stemmage so I can find them in the spring next time.

Well, tree peonies I do.

do a little bit differently in the fall.

I usually just let them go to bed on their own.

And I do not trim them back.

Usually, however, the rabbits come by and do the job for me.

And so the rabbits usually knock them back to the ground in the fall, but they come back in the spring.

If the rabbits would leave them alone the tree peonies could get as tall as you or me.

But the rabbits like to eat tree peonies in the winter.

– [Mary] Do you have any trouble with deer? – [Jill] Once in a while, Mary, a deer will come by and a deer will take the bud.

And he will eat it, and he won't like it and he'll spit it out.

And he might even move on to another plant take a bite and spit it out.

You know, you'd think they would learn that peonies do not taste good.

But every once in a while a deer will come by and take a nibble.

– One more thing that I wanted to ask, to go back, is how do you divide the peonies? – Well, I like to use a tiling shovel.

And I will work my way around the peony 'til it gets nice and loose and I will pull the whole thing out.

I will remove any roots that are damaged or that are petrified, little hard.

And I will whittle it down to the best-looking roots and then I will re-plant around about the size of my hand in the ground.

And the rest of the peony I will either share or discard.

– [Mary] Do you use a shovel, then, to cut it or do you have a knife that you use to cut the chunk itself? – [Jill] I generally use a knife to divide it.

Sometimes you'll find a peony that just naturally breaks in the right spot.

If you don't have a full root, just cut off any bad parts.

It'll come back.

– [Mary] Then how deep should you plant it when you put it back into the ground? – When you put a peony back in the ground you wanna make sure the eyes are less than two inches below the surface of the ground.

Any more than two inches below the surface of the ground and your peony might not bloom.

– You know, I've had some people say that "Oh, my peony doesn't bloom.

" So, they maybe planted them too deep? – They maybe planted them too deep.

Or, you know, like, in a case of a hundred-year-old peony you know, the dirt just probably blown in, covered it up gotten it a little deeper.

Sometimes you can just brush the dirt away so it's less than two inches and sometimes you just need to lift them up a little bit.

– [Mary] Oh, that's good to know.

And when is the best time to divide the peonies? – The best time to divide peonies is in the fall when the roots go dormant.

My general rule is Labor Day is a good time to start lifting your peonies.

And if you order peonies from a reputable company they will generally send them to you around Labor Day or later.

But reality does set in there and sometimes it isn't always possible.

For example, my daughter just moved three weeks ago but she had some heirloom peonies she wanted to take with her.

So, when they are young, when they are less than six inches tall, if you are real gentle you can move them with ease.

Otherwise, if you have to move them at any other time of the year just go right ahead and do that, but expect a year to three years of no blooms.

– [Mary] They're a wonderful thing to pass down from generation to generation, aren't they? – [Jill] They are, but I was grateful that my daughter was really concerned about continuing the tradition and keeping the peonies with her.

– [Mary] I was at a church meal oh, about two-three years ago and it was in July.

And they had all sorts of peony vases on the table and this was in July.

How did they have peony blooms at that time? – [Jill] Well, Mary, you can store peonies in your refrigerator for up to seven months, actually.

– [Mary] No.

– [Jill] Yeah, and what you need to do is you need to find a peony that feels like a marshmallow.

So the bud would feel like a marshmallow, not a drumstick.

Drumstick peonies, it won't work but if you find one that's nice and soft you can store it for up to seven months in your refrigerator.

What you wanna do is you would need to cut off the foliage and some people like to wrap tissue paper around the bud.

You don't need to do that, but you can if you like.

And just put them in newspaper or wrapping paper wrap them up like a burrito put them in your refrigerator and keep them dry.

Don't even have to have water in them.

Just keep them in your refrigerator.

In the right conditions you can go seven months.

But realistically, maybe a month, you know? Just try it, explore it.

You might get a feel of what works and what doesn't work.

For example, a double peony will take longer to open than a single peony, so.

if you store it in the refrigerator a single one will probably just burst open where a double one will gradually open up over a little period of time.

– [Mary] So you don't even have to put them into a vase of water when you put them into the fridge? – [Jill] Nope.

– [Mary] Oh, so just wrap them in newspaper.

Moist newspaper? – [Jill] Nope, nope.

– [Mary] Just wrap them in newspaper and then how long before you wanna use them should you take them out and put them into a vase? – [Jill] Well, depends on, you know, like– the doubles, you would take out before the singles.

The doubles will take maybe a day to open the singles, less than that.

– [Mary] Oh, okay.

Wow, that is a– that's great information because I was so surprised and I wondered "how in the world can that happen?" So, I'm gonna try that.

– [Jill] You should.

– [Mary] Thank you so much, Jill for sharing your beautiful peonies and all of your knowledge with Prairie Yard and Garden.

– Well, thanks for coming, Mary.

I always enjoy showing my peonies.

(soft cello music) – [Voiceover] Funding for Prairie Yard and Garden is provided in part by Heartland Motor Company.

Providing service for over 30 years in the heart of truck country.

Heartland Motor Company.

We have your best interest at heart.

Farmers Mutual Telephone Company and Federated Telephone Cooperative proud to be powering Acira.

Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen in honor of Shalom Hill Farm a non-profit rural education retreat center in a beautiful prairie setting near Windom in southwestern Minnesota.



(soft lively music).

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