Peonies – A Perennial Garden Favorite

Peonies are my favorite flowering perennial; just one step above roses for cut flowers. They are very easy to grow and once established can tolerate long periods without rain. Additionally, unlike many other flower varieties they are quite disease resistant.

Peonies were one of the first perennials to populate American gardens because of their large, showy and fragrant flowers produced in mid-to late spring. Peony flowers may be single, semi-double, or double and are commonly 6 to 8 inches wide. A mature plant can have in excess of a hundred flowers and these can be up to 10 inches or more across. The flowers range in color from crimson, scarlet, various shades of pink, to pure white. There are also new hybrid and tree peonies with yellow or purple flowers.

Most gardeners are familiar with the large, double-flowered peonies. Garden peonies are also available in single-flowered, semi-double, Japanese, and anemone-type blossoms. Double-flowered forms often get so top heavy from the weight of the blooms that they bend over the ground and sometimes even break off the stem. These to me are the most spectacular, but should be staked so the flower stalk is not damaged. Tree peonies also come in single, semi-double and double-flowered forms, and the color range includes every color of the rainbow except for blue. Single flowered varieties seem to do better in shade than doubles. Semi-doubles have multiple rows of petals surrounding a cluster of yellow stamens. For many years these large double-flowered hybrids dominated the cut flower market, and were the most popular choices for garden planting.

Peonies have not been readily available in nurseries until recently, and even now, it is not easy to find much beyond generic pink, white, or red unnamed varieties. But, a huge variety of peonies exist. One may have to scout out what is available locally and fill in with more interesting, unusual types by ordering. Peonies come in two varieties: tree and herbaceous. The Chinese have about 1,000 varieties of tree peonies and 400 varieties of herbaceous peonies. The English also tinkered with peonies and introduced nearly 300 varieties by the turn of the 19th century. By planting early, midseason, and late varieties you can extent your peony blooms for most of the summer.

Probably the most difficult part of growing peonies, like many other perennials is the time it takes to establish them in your garden. Most don’t produce many flowers until the second or third year and should not be cut for indoor use until the third year. Generally do not cut flowers from plants less than three years old and mature plants of five years or more should be left with about 50% of its flowers intact. You should, however, remove the fading and dead flowers to prevent seed development which uses up food reserves.

Soil should be well-drained and excessive moisture can lead to the development of fungus. Peonies thrive in sunny locations, tolerating a wide range of soil types. Best growth is in soil with a pH of about 6. Well-drained, loamy soil is best for good growth of peonies. Peonies are heavy feeders and do not appreciate being moved so it is important to ensure they are planted in good, fertile soil. Peonies also tolerate dryness, but don’t expect them to be producing and storing food while the soil is dry.

Once peonies are well established, one may notice an abundance of ants on the buds each year. Ants are attracted to peonies because of the sweet nectar they produce while in bud. The presence of ants on peony blossoms is neither beneficial nor harmful to the plant.

Fall is the best season to move peonies (if you must) when they are dormant. Fall is also the best time to divide when swollen, red buds are clearly visible. Planting, transplanting and dividing peonies may also be done in spring as soon as soils are workable. Fall planted divisions that have had several weeks of growing time before the ground freezes, do better the following year than those that have had less time to develop new roots.

Because winter chilling is required for dormancy, peonies do not perform well in subtropical areas. In cold climates, those with an average temperature below -20 degrees F, winter mulching may be necessary in the absence of snow cover. In preparation for the first winter, they should be given a light layer of mulch to prevent heaving from frost. If an extra cold winter kills the top growth of a tree peony, cut the dead wood back in the spring. Generally peonies need no winter protection, but mulch may be necessary in a few very cold areas.

Planting – Dig a hole 12 to 18 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Place the peony in the prepared hole so that the eyes – small, red-colored buds are one to two inches below the soil’s surface. Never cover eye by more than a couple of inches of soil. Apply a low nitrogen complete fertilizer such as 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 at the rate of two to three pounds per 100 square feet in the spring when the stems are about 2 or 3 inches high. Sink a stake behind the plant (less noticeable) and use stakes to support the larger varieties, particularly the double peony. In the fall, after a heavy frost, remove and destroy the stems of garden peonies down to 3 inches from the soil surface to eliminate the possibility of the fungal diseases over wintering.

Take the time to seek out high quality peonies, prepare your soil well, plant and enjoy years of fresh colored flowers. As I have moved around, mostly in mid-America, I have started peonies at my new residences frequently, always with great success. Even without the extra care described above, one will usually have a fair amount of success. While undoubtedly one of the most hardy and easy of the perennials, peonies are most highly revered for their beauty.

Robert Schpok is an avid gardener who has used his gardening skills to greatly enhance his culinary techniques and ability to create great new recipes.

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Garden Design – Planning An Herbaceous Perennial Flower Bed

There are a number of reasons why perennial bedding plants, as opposed to annual ones, are used in garden designs. Perennials by growing beyond a single season, are thought to demand less care and maintenance than annuals that have to be replaced every few months or so. In dry climate gardens especially, annual flowers consume significantly more water than any other group of plants, requiring at least 1000 liters per square meter a year, in comparison to some perennial species, which can often grow on a third as much water.

Yet many home gardeners end up being disappointed with their flowerbeds. One reason for this is that in many cases, too many short-lived perennials are planted in the border. Plants like Verbena, Bidens, and Nierembergia, may be splendid specimens, but rarely add much value to the garden after about a year from planting. The answer is to back up the short-lived species with flowering plants that live and look good for a number of years.

For example, The shrubby species of Chrysanthemum, like C. frutescens, can last some 2-3 years before declining. A similar sub-shrub, but more long-lived, is Euryops pectinatus. On the other hand, the grass-like Agapanthus, noted for its fabulous sky-blue flowers that emerge from tall stalks in the summer, spreads by means of vegetative reproduction. The plants can be lifted and divided with ease. Other long-lasting plants include Salvia (Sage), Limonium, Arctotis, Coreopsis, and Lampranthus. (Ice Plant)

Whatever the longevity of a particular species, herbaceous perennials rarely bloom continuously for extended periods of time. There is always an off-season and a time when they have to be cut-down, clipped in some way, or lifted and divided. This is another main source of disappointment. One way round the problem is to include non-flowering herbaceous plants that “hold” the bed, while the showy plants have been pruned down. Phormium, Dietes, Iresine, and the ornamental Asparagus, (Myers Asparagus) are but a few examples of this.

A more creative solution can be found by including ornamental grasses in the composition. The best ornamental grasses like Miscanthus, with their tall plumes and lovely foliage, add dynamic elements of movement and sound to the bed. Invariably, these plants need to be rejuvenated by shaving down to the ground in the spring and autumn. This is where advanced planning comes into its own. Plants that bloom early such as Convolvulus, Osteospermum, Linum, Perovskia, together with a host of well-known favorites, can perform without interference from the tall grasses, and when these latter come into their own at the beginning of the summer, the flowering plants can themselves be pruned back.

Thought should also be given to late flowering perennials that take over from those that have completed their flowering by the end of the spring. Examples include Canna, Penstemon, Felicia, and many species of Iris.

My name is Jonathan Ya’akobi. I’ve been gardening in a professional capacity since 1984. I am the former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, but now concentrate on building gardens for private home owners.

I also teach horticulture to students on training courses. I’d love to help you get the very best from your garden, so you’re welcome to visit me on [] or contact me at

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Always in Bloom – Flower Beds for Beginners

How to choose a place for flower beds

Place the flower bed in front of a window or near the entrance to the house, where you can enjoy it all the time.

If there is a construction next to your house, perhaps the best option for you, at least for the first year, till the construction is done, will be “flower garden in containers.”

As the containers you can use any box (ideally not less than 30 cm tall, 20-30 cm wide and any length). The container must have drainage holes. Sow seeds or seedlings to plant in them – a portable flower garden is ready. Above all, don’t forget to water the garden regularly.

It is important to check that flower bed will be places on the south side (south-west, south-east will work too). Otherwise, the flowers will turn away most of the day.

Choose flowers for flower beds

How to make a flower bed blossom as early as May?

The first way – fast and cheap. Buy ready-made seedlings of annuals and perennials grown flowers with closed root system. Plants according to the height of plants – flower bed ready.

Another way – fun and economical. Grow the seedlings on their own unpretentious flowers, buy the seeds of annuals, which can be sown directly into the soil, choose in the store roots of the favorite perennials and tubercle of bulbaceous. In May, a flower bed planted with this collection of green – and the end of June we have a blooming flower garden until frost.

Tips for beginners: Sowing and planting flowers is better to do not in rows, but as a group, in this way flower bed will look much more interesting. In the first season, be sure to buy dahlia tubers, bulbs, gladioli and lilies – you will not regret! Plant them in May at your site, you will enjoy the flowering plants whole summer. Do not forget, dahlias and gladioli should be dug out for the winter. Lily is without a transplant can grow for several years. Choosing the bulbs of lilies, consider the larger the bulb, the bigger will be the plant and flower.

Perennial plants could be grown from seed or bought in the store. Also you can find grown plants with closed root system (in a pot). These plants are easy to use and they could be plant in the flower bed throughout the season. If you don’t have enough time in spring, you can always finish the job during the summer.

Perennial plants have a lot of advantages over the annual ones. They need to grow and / or plant only once. And with proper care, these plants, will grow every year, and will enjoy their flowers for a very long time.

Peony, Astilbe, campion, day-lily, liatris, saxifrage, phlox, are part of the more stable perennial. Caring for them is only in weeding (especially while the plants are small, not grown), cutting off the faded blossoms (if you want to re-bloom), the winter pruning or removal of dry stalks in spring.

When choosing plants for your site, do not overlook decorative and flowering shrubs. Hydrangea, Japanese spirea and gray, bloodroot, barberry, dogwood, snowberry – those spectacular unpretentious shrubs can be planted on the far right in the flower bed plan.

How to plan a flower bed

You can simply buy the seeds and roots are well-known or favorite flowers to plant, given the high – high on the back burner, low-growing ground cover and the front. Or, if the bed is viewed from all sides, in the center – the high and lower plants – closer to the edge of the flowerbed.

But there is a more interesting way. Come up with an idea, for example, country-style flower garden and pick flowers that are appropriate for the subject, adding a fence and a couple of irons with the pitcher. Or give a bed called “Moonlight” and gather flowers with white flowers and silvery foliage.

At the same time it’s not enough just to know the height of the plants; it would be nice to know how the plant looks in nature – how much space the plant will take and other. The bags usually shown the picture of the flower, how much space plant will take, etc. Based on that information plant you flower bed.

Indicate the boundaries of a flower bed

The easiest way to dig around the flower bed borders, flower bed area separated from the lawn. Fenced flower gardens look much more impressive, giving the garden neat and kind of charm. Define the boundaries of a flower bed can be purchased fences or rocks, churbachkami of logs, low fence, dug bricks, etc. – bring you a lot of ideas for your garden and backyard. What flowers to choose, how to plant and grow them.

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Five things to start on Valitinen”s Day

Fill Up Your Garden Heart: Five Crops to Start this Valentine’s Day

In northern lands, February is still very much winter: cold winds, below-freezing days (and weeks), and ice-entombed soil lying dormant. This is the time of year that challenges our hearts to keep the faith: to build trust, patience, and good spirits in the face of a temporary (but seemingly e n d l e s s s s s s) condition known as winter.

One way to fill your heart this Valentine’s Day is to jump straight into garden tasks. For ambitious growers with an itch to see some green, mid-February can mark the start of the gardening year.

Here are five crops to start this Valentine’s Day (or anytime the rest of the month). Plus: read to the bottom for some expert tips on the special challenges of starting seeds in deep winter.

Onions, Scallions, Leeks, Chives, and Garlic Chives. All alliums are happy with an early start—but especially bulbing onions, which benefit from as early a start as you can give them. Though it’s possible to succeed with onions by direct sowing onion seed as soon as the soil can be worked, most gardeners have more reliable results by starting the seeds indoors anytime from early February until mid-March. Scallions, leeks, chives, and garlic chives also do well started this early, but, because they don’t depend on daylength signals to initiate bulbing (as onions do), they are far more forgiving of timing. They will even do well sown straight into summer for harvest as mature scallions or young leeks in the fall.
Parsley and Celery. Parsley, though extremely easy to grow, is slow to germinate. Depending on conditions, it can take up to two weeks. It also grows rather slowly for the first week or two of its life before taking off and growing steadily and strongly into big showy plants. This slow early start means that any extra days you can provide at the start of the season will mean fewer days until fresh parsley graces every summer dish. Celery is a close relative, and though it tends to germinate a little quicker, it also grows quite slowly early in life and rewards a February start with harvests in June and July.
Echinacea. Like many perennial flowers, Echinacea benefits from exposure to cold (also known as stratification) before it will germinate. You can refrigerate the seed—after it has been sown in a moist seed-starting mix—but why not let nature do the work? Sow the seeds into a moist mix in a small pot. Throw the pot in a plastic bag so that it doesn’t dry out, and put it somewhere outside. You can ignore it for a few weeks, then start paying attention, being sure that the strengthening sun isn’t overheating the pot. Seedlings will emerge slowly as spring begins to dawn. Once they have a couple true leaves, pot them up into their own small pots.
Rembrandt Snapdragons
Snapdragons. Itty bitty snapdragon seedlings take their sweet time to get moving. They are also fairly cold-hardy, so giving them a start in February will give you respectably-sized seedlings by mid- to late-April, at which point (in a normal year) they are happy to move outside in most northern/temperate zones. This also means the earliest blooms! Get ready for gorgeous bouquets from mid-June on.
Hot Peppers. Unlike the other crops in this list, hot peppers have no hardiness to cold. In fact, although they will grow in our warm, humid summers, they would prefer to reside in a tropical or sub-tropical location with year-round warmth. One way to ease their anguish at their short northern lives is to extend it on both ends. Getting seeds started in mid-February with as much warmth as you can provide means robust plants at transplant time (hot peppers grow more slowly than tomatoes or sweet peppers and generally demand more heat). At the end of the season, dig up your favorite plants, put them in pots, and bring them indoors for extra weeks of fresh spicy treats. When they begin to fade, harvest all the peppers and string them up to dry (or pickle them!). Hot peppers just give and give and give, especially when they get a good early start.

Planning an Herbaceous Perennial Flower Bed

The reason why many people are opting for perennials is because they require less care and maintenance compared to annuals. The first thing is that perennials last more than one season while annuals have to be replaced every few months. In a warm dry climate, annuals require a lot more water than perennials.

This should be reason enough to get thinking about planning a herbaceous perennial flower bed. Unfortunately many gardeners end up planting short-lived perennials like Verbena, Bidens and Nierembergia. Although these perennials look beautiful, they hardly last more than a year. Therefore, when planning a perennial flower bed, look for those that will last for several years. For instance, you can plant Agapanthus for its beautiful sky-blue flowers, Salvia, Lampranthus (Ice plant) or shrubs of Chrysanthemum which last for something like 2 to 3 years.

One thing you have to realize that herbaceous perennials rarely bloom continuously for a long periods of time. They do have non-blooming season where they have to pruned, clipped or trimmed down. However, you can get over this disappointment by also planting non-flowering herbaceous perennials like Iresine, ornamental Asparagus, Phormium or Dietes. If you do not want these showy plants as they do require pruning, you can think about ornamental grasses like Miscanthus. However, do remember that even ornamental grasses have to be clipped right down to the ground each spring and autumn to keep them rejuvenated.

That is why you need advance planning when it comes to planting herbaceous perennial plants. You can plan to have early blooming perennials like Linum, Perovskia, Osteospermum or Convolvulus. Then when the later blooming and flowering perennials and ornamental grasses come to life, you can prune the former. Some late blooming perennials are Canna, species of Iris, Felicia and Penstemon.

Pauline Go is an online leading expert in the gardening. She also offers top quality articles like:
Weeds in Flower GardenGrowing Organic Vegetables

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Companion Planting With Perennials

Roses can look particularly effective when they’re grown in combination with other plants, especially with flowering perennials, or with grasses and other perennials grown for their foliage. All these plants will enhance the beauty of the roses (provided, of course, that the colors don’t clash).

There’s another big advantage in combining two types of plant: the perennials can provide color when the roses aren’t flowering, and distract the eye from the roses when they’re at their least attractive. The cardinal rule is not to use too many different perennial species, and to make sure that the colors and shapes harmonies with one another. The tall blue spikes of delphinium flowers towering over an area of yellow bedding roses make one particularly striking combination. Another is a group of red hybrid teas or floribundas under planted with the delicate tracery of white or pink gypsophila

Not all perennials make suitable companions for roses; some will obviously need different conditions. Most types of rose (apart from wild roses) will also need dead-heading, pruning and feeding, so it’s important to leave some space around them for easy access. Carpeting perennials make particularly good edging for a bed of hybrid tea roses, especially as many of them flower in spring, before the roses come into bloom. Examples might include Thesis sempervirens (which is, in fact, a sub-shrub), the clump-forming Campanula carpatica (Blue. and ‘White’), the various colors and varieties of Aster dumosus. gypsophila, Cerastium biebersteinii and others.

All perennials grown as companions for roses need to be long-lived and sun-loving: this is no place for delicate species that need constant care and attention. When you’re laying out a new bed, plant the roses in groups and give the perennials room to expand. You may have to cut back or move ground-covering perennials if they start to smother the roots of the roses.

Steven is a gardener by trade and a writer in his spare time. Check out his other articles on gardening in his profile as well his new websites on electric hand dryers [] and outdoor LED light [].

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Perennials in the Garden

Perennials are plants that reach their maturity for at least two seasons. They can be planted as a single, solitary plants, grouped in a flower border or flowerbeds and also between shrubs. Many are also planted with annuals and biennial plants in mixed flower garden beds.Perennials are plants that live two years or more as adults and fully developed plants bloom every year. Perennials are probably the most diverse group of plants that show a huge variety of shapes, forms, colors, textures and aromas that determine their choice for planting and shaping the surface where they want to plant.

Perennials’ highly colored leaves can enter a contrast in the dominant vegetation surrounding plants, emphasizing the structural form of other plants. A possible choice is a great example of dark green acanthus leaves, red leaves of some hybrids Khan, colorful foliage cultivars host or silvery leaves Onoporduma (decorative thistle), Stachys or Senecio. Some perennials unusual shapes, textures, leaves or flowers can be used as an element that will attract attention, as the main plant in a particular part of the garden.

Likewise, perennial flowers are highly variable in color, shape, size and shape, allowing gardeners the endless possibilities of contrast, a complementary or mono planting crops. Also good grouping of flowering perennials form blooms can create interesting shapes and structures, such as whitefly, horizontal blossoms yarrow (Achillea), and tall, pointed blossoms Lupinus.

Popular fragrant perennials are also an essential element of the garden that attracts bees and butterflies, including species such as some types of clematis, Hemerocallis, Nicotiana, Pennant and verbena. However, many perennials will remain attractive in autumn and winter. For example, plant Sedum spectabile, also called the ice plant, which blooms in summer a beautiful red flowers collected in the thyroid of flowers in winter remains attractive because it remains its flower stalks and seed heads. Flower-bed planted perennials typically contain plants that bloom in spring, summer and those that bloom in autumn.

The floral borders today are usually planted with many plants, but carefully selected by the color of flowers, and leaves, and according to their texture and composition. At the same time some gardeners prefer planting in rows according to height, so that the lowest plant is more forward. Perennials are always planted in carefully prepared the ground, dug deep, and cleansed of weeds because the plants will grow on it a number of years. Perennials are usually planted in spring or autumn. Adult perennials should not be watered as frequently, except during extended dry periods. Perennials are sensitive to low winter temperatures.

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How to Get the Most Nutrition Out of Vegetables

There are many methods for obtaining a healthy body, and there are equally as many diets and experts who want to show you how to get there. One of the first things you should consider in a healthy diet is your intake of vegetables. No diet, no matter how much of a fad or how time tested it is, will argue against the importance of vegetables. Veggies are universally understood to be the cornerstone of any healthy nutrition plan. At the same time, it can be quite difficult and confusing to know what vegetables to eat and what you are getting out of them. Eating a wide range of colors, cooking them properly, and finding exciting recipes will help you get all of the beneficial nutrition out of your food.

An initial problem is that while you can certainly just eat any vegetables whenever they feel like it, it is quite important to know which nutrients are found in which vegetables. The best way to get as many nutrients as possible is to eat a wide variety of colors of vegetables. The colors of vegetables correspond to different levels of micronutrients found in them. For instance, red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, beets, and watermelon tend to be higher in lycopene while yellow/orange vegetables like carrots, yellow peppers, and sweet potatoes are high in carotenoids. In general, if you do not know which foods contain which micronutrients it is best to simply eat as many different colors of fruits and veggies on a daily basis.

The next difficult step in getting the most nutrients out of vegetables is to cook them in the proper way. Again, different vegetables need to be cooking in different ways, or else they tend to lose a lot of the nutrients that make them so healthy. At a basic level, most vegetables should not be boiled. Boiling sucks out a lot of the good stuff. An exception to this is when you are making soups or stews with your vegetables, but if this is the case be sure to drink the broth as well because that is where most of the lost nutrients will end up. To be on the safe side, stir-frying and steaming are the best ways to cook vegetables, next to eating them raw.

Finally, one of the biggest problems people face with getting nutrients from veggies is simply finding fun and exciting ways to cook them! Most people do not eat enough fruits and veggies simply because they do not taste as good as fatty burgers and French Fries. The challenge is to find ways in which to cook vegetables that will excite your palate: experiment with various spices, learn about how different cultures cook vegetables, and find foods that mix well together.

In the end, if you can find fun ways to cook your vegetables, understand how to cook them (avoid boiling, steaming is better), and eat a wide range of colors then you can be certain that you will be able to get all of the nutritional benefits from your diet. And remember, out of all of the fad diets, no one will ever try to tell you that vegetables are bad for you! So eat up!

Kyle Lambert is a writer, vegetarian, and cook. After years of helping friends and family make the switch to plant-based diets he decided to create a website dedicated to the lifestyle. Focusing on vegetarian recipes and cooking, Kyle hopes to educated people interested natural health. Find his full website dedicated to How to Cook Veggies [] and How to Cook Vegetables on the Grill []

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