Everyone knows the peony, right? When we first bought the farm that now hosts Riverbend Gardens more than 40 years ago, we had peonies here that were already quite old, and they thrived for decades more in our gardens. In fact, peonies were so common in Ontario that many nurseries stopped carrying them, but the peony continued to evolve elsewhere (particularly in Japan), and today's peony is an entirely different animal than the peony you knew as a child. Single fern leaf, double fern leaf, lactiflorum, tree, and Itoh peonies are distant cousins from the peonies most of us knew even ten years ago, and when we were introduced to the newer varieties, we fell in love again.
Peony likes the warm, sunny environment. Hardy, drought-resistant, resistant to weak base, avoid stagnant water, heat intolerance, fear of direct sun. Suitable for loose, deep, fertile, high and dry, well-drained sandy loam neutral growth. Before sowing put seeds into 50 degrees warm water overnight, after sowing, cover with fine soil 2-3cm, then covered with plastic film, suitable seed germination temperature is 15 degrees.
Germinating the Seed:
1: The seeds can be directly planted in the garden. A peony seed needs at least on cycle of warm-cold-warm before it will germinate. You can expect a certain percentage of the seeds to germinate the following spring, but some seeds may take up to two years to emerge.
2: The seeds can be put into plastic bags with a little moist, but not wet, peat moss. The bag is sealed and then placed in a warm place. this moist warm environment will initiate the rootlet to form, but be aware, this can take upwards of three months. I use bags with a zip top, label them with the seed type and date, and then put them in a basket on top of the refrigerator.
3. Check the bags periodically over the next months and when a white rootlet forms allow it to grow to about 2-4 inches long. Transfer the roots as they germinate to another plastic bag with moist peat moss and put them inside the refrigerator for another 3-4 months. During this time you can check them for the emergence of a leaf, I have had them do this within the three month period, these I remove and plant in a pot with the seed just at ground level. they can then go into the light and when the ground is warm enough plant them out.
Plant the resultant seedlings out in a finely tilled spot that has lots of organic matter. Be careful that they do not dry out too much the first summer. Mulch the bed in the fall to prevent the soil heaving and lifting the tiny plants out of the soil. After about two years the plants can then be moved to a place that offers them space to grow and mature.
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