Category Archives: Peony

color when we need it most: 2 plants in the plant profile spotlight

Late February tends to be the most dull and depressing  of all the months. Very little green ,lots of brown, and usually ( although not this year) dirty snow piles to further dampen our spirits.  It is the month I treasure the shrubs I grow with colored bark the most as  they are what I can see peeking out of a blanket of snow providing that vivid jolt of color to brighten the day.DSC_0011 DSC_0016 red twig dogwood

this year though, because we have had so little snow, I am also getting to revel in the glorious color of two ground covers . After a day of torrential rains , the ground is now bare, and boy are these two showing their worth!

the first is a pig squeak ( how adorable is that name?) otherwise known as bergenia  ’Bressingham Ruby’. Sporting polished green leaves in the summer that turn a lovely burnished red in autumn, this low growing perennial is a keeper. I starting adding more and more varieties of bergenia after realizing the rabbits were leaving it alone and i am sure glad I added  this one! I saw a photo somewhere of’ Bressingham Ruby’ planted en masse at the base of red twig dogwood bushes . A phenomenal design idea, but here in winter  when both plants are at their most colorful, the bergenia will usually be under snow . i figured at least in late winter and early spring before the dogwoods fully leaf out I would reap the color benefit of these two together, and started with just a half dozen plants to see how it went. Now I want 50. It looks great, is truly a no-fuss plant, and still remains un- grazed by our little furry friends.  Pigsqueak is also dry shade tolerant  so I plan to add more of this variety to the back woodland walk this year.

Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’ is hardy to zone 4 , can tolerate full sun to almost full shade,  and will bloom in the late spring ( which is just s bonus , it is the foliage color we are after here). The only place it will sulk is a wet or boggy soil.

With my apologies for the lack of a great photo, it is very windy here today and hard to keep the camera focused, but i wanted you to see how great it looks under the dogwood. The second photo is from Bluestone Perennials where you can purchase it online.bergenia 'Bressingham Ruby'

Out front I have a little raised bed that has become the bane of my gardening existence. The voles LOVE to set up house there are have proven a formidable foe. The small bed in front of the rocks I was hoping to fill with interesting low growers but have really struck out with many of my choices and have replanted there too many times to count. Last year I planted 5 little shrubs  as yet another test , and I believe we have a winner!DSC_0028DSC_0023

Calluna vulgaris “Firelfly’ is a heather with brilliant fall/winter color that looks spectacular right now. In the summer the foliage was a bright sort of lime green with a bit of yellow added in. As autumn settled in, Firefly started to change into terra cotta-y orange and seemed to just glow, and I was in love. Now exposed from it’s blanket of snow, it is pretty darn near brick red and has firmly secured it’s place in the front garden,  Add in the fact that maintenance is just a quick shearing once a year to keep it neat and compact and that means all other plants currently living  in that cursed bed  will be jettisoned in the spring to make way for more of this lovely small shrub.

Calluna vulgaris ‘Firefly’ is hardy to zone 4 or 5 , will show it’s best color in full sun but will tolerate light shade, grows to less than 2 ftx 2 ft  and sports lavender flowers in late summer ….but who cares about that?? …look at that foliage!!!! My plants came from Digging Dog Nursery mail order  and they will be available this year from them as well .

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A Wintry Morning

011Winter came back yesterday, it boy oh boy is it ever beautiful here. Wet snow fell throughout the day and is   falling lightly  again this morning  covering everything in the most picture perfect fluff…quintessential New England!024

017The flock of robins that have been visiting to strip the berries off the hollies are now in the crab apple trees,and the feeders have all been very busy. Looking out at the gorgeous  view  and the show being put on by our feathered friends while enjoying my morning coffee in the warmth house on a lazy Sunday is just about my favorite way to start a day. Add in the fact that later there will be chili simmering and playoff football TV, does life get any better?014013 014 015

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The Peonies are Blooming! The Peonies are Blooming!

such a short time of joy for the garden. I grow many, and I can’t tell you what any of them are. I wish I could say that they were gifts from my great aunt, or divisions from my favorite neighbor, but to be truthful I planted them all and never took the time to save the tags or write down what they are. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

And now for some risky advice, follow my train of thought all the way through before you shout “idiot!” and click the x at the top of the screen. ….If your peony plants did not bloom again this year, or are blooming poorly, move them now…………

I had to stop typing there for a second to shield my head in case you threw something at me.

Peony is a full sun plant. In the sun it will bloom prolifically and happily for you many many years. As gardens grow, shade encroaches via aging trees and shrubs and that shade may now be affecting your peonies. Tough pill to swallow I know. Peony also only bloom if their eyes (the skyward protrusions on the roots) are buried less than 2 inches deep in the soil. Mulching or spreading compost over the years may have resulted in them now being lower than that. There IS an optimal time to transplant peony , and it is the fall, and this is springtime I know. But in the fall will you honestly look at what is now a bunch of foliage surrounded by rudbeckia, asters and anemone and think, “hey, I needed to move that peony”, then go get your shovel and do so? I think probably not.

So while it is on your mind, go get the shovel , dig it out and divide it if it is big enough (two eyes per division) and replant it in a NEW hole (important direction there folks..see the caps?) Add compost or manure or whatever you use to the hole, double check the planting depth before backfilling. Go write on your calendar or PDA “water peonies” in July sometime to jog your memory . Then next spring  when you see those gorgeous beautiful blooms remember to come back and thank me. And yes, newly planted divisions and transplants will almost always bloom the first year. No garauntees here, but every one of the 20 or so I put in this past fall is loaded with buds, the only time I see them off to a slow start   is with bare root divisions from the mail or store.

An added benefit.. peony in the shade is much more suseptible to botrytis, the icky gray mold like fungus that covers and disfigures the foliage.

More on peony next posting..including pics!…

Check out what is blooming here in the Burrow gardens on the page What is blooming now last week of May

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