Carol Warner, a Horticultural Society of Maryland (HSM) member, presented "Peonies, Beyond Pink and White" at the new Cylburn Arboretum-Vollmer Center in Baltimore, Maryland this May. She began her lecture with some tips for her audience. "Tree peonies don't need to be cut back to the ground after blooming whereas herbaceous peonies can be cut all the way to the ground," she said. Lake Flower, Roman Gold, Laddie, Fernleaf Peony and Peony Japonica were just a few that Ms. Warner singled out.
Peonies are known as the Memorial Day flower because they traditionally were put on the graves of our fallen soilders. They need sun to open and they close up at night. Deer hate peonies and the flower is drought resistant, facts that delighted the audience. To cut peonies, "wait until they are just showing some color on the bud," Ms. Warner said, "when they feel like a marshmellow. Peonies can be stored in a refrigerator for several months and, just like the wholesalers do, lay them on a shelf, don't put them in water."
Peonies do best where there is a very cold winter like Wisconsin and Vermont. Move peonies in the fall, preferably in September. At the conclusion of a slide presentation extolling the virtues of various tree and herbaceous peonies, she surprised us. Her new found love is the Itoh peony, a cross between the tree and herbaceous peony, an international hybrid, one that has lots of blooms and blooms a long time.
Ms. Warner toured the collection of Cylburn tree peonies after the lecture sponsored by the HSM.
Carol is the owner of Draycott Nursery in Baltimore County, MD and a frequent lecturer on peonies and japanese iris. www.cylburnassociation.org www.draycott-gardens.com www.mdhorticulture.org/