Peony madness at Energy Farm
Tiiu Siim, Energy Farm
When I brought the first peonies to the Energy Farm from my mother’s garden in Vastseliina 18 years ago, – to keep a memory from my childhood – no one would have guessed that this would trigger my “peony madness” here.
The first three peonies were early varieties of a red, a wonderful white with rare green centre and a plain pink. Today, we have over 130 peonies, 100 of which are of various varieties. All these varieties cannot even be precisely defined, as it has happened that I have bought a certain variety of peony, but later it has turned out to be something other than what I expected to get.
The collection has grown over the years
Once I found a peony shrub with interesting blackish-red blossoms in the old garden of Suure-Jaani school, and my neighbours and friends have given me few seedlings, and this is how my collection has grown.
Today, the peonies have conquered the part of garden in front of the back terrace. I have planted into the lawn seven rows of peonies, each 20-30 meters long and in the shape of an arch. This slight slope is a good place to exhibit these delightful flowers. The collection grows by some plants every year. Lately, peonies have become very trendy flowers.
Our visitors are amazed when they see how many varieties we have. When people think of peonies, they usually imagine only red, pink and white flowers. Our collection has peonies in yellow, orange, green, and blue shades, not to mention various shades of white, pink, purple, and red.
I have planted my peonies into the lawn. Wise gardeners, educated by Räpina Horticultural School, have criticized me: “Who would grow peonies like that?” But I like it this way. It is true, there is more weeding, special lawn mowing and manoeuvring, but the blossoms look very beautiful on the green grass. Their colour and shape stand out and take your breath away.
All my peonies are herbaceous peonies: most of them are the varieties and hybrids of white-flowered Paeonia lactifolia, but there are also narrow-leaved P. tenuifolia and the early variety P. officinalis.
I was absolutely thrilled when I received a whole 15 named peonies from Sulev Savisaar. He is, for sure, the best peony expert in Estonia and every year he shows off his best varieties to peony lovers. I also started ordering new varieties from catalogues, buying from fairs, horticultural companies and stores.
As early as May 20, sometimes a few days earlier, a narrow-leaved peony, also known as dill-peony, begins to bloom. I got this plant from my mother-in-law. When I arrived home from the maternity hospital with my first son, a wonderful bouquet was waiting me there. This is why I have called this peony after my son – Peep’s peony. I haven’t been able to find out the actual name of the variety.
Peonies’ flowering period can vary. There have been years when flowering has lasted until the end of July. The latest when I have picked a flower was on 5th of August. The birthday child considered it a very rare birthday flower at the time! However, in some very hot and dry summer, that beauty might last only a couple of weeks.
I ordered the yellow peony, which I wanted so much, from a mail order catalogue back during the Soviet ruble time for 350 rubles. At that time, this was an unimaginably big amount of money, but I just could not resist my urge to have a yellow peony. I waited for the first flower for four years. It turned out that it was anything else but a yellow flower – the plant is a late flowerer, rather low-growth, with a single row of petals – and light purple! True, the centre is yellow. It is a beautiful plant though, but a very fussy in terms of flowering, it still blooms only every second year.
I do not have any other fussy plants in the garden. They all bloom every year, sometimes more, sometimes less. It depends on the year, what the winter or spring is like, and on many other things, as every gardener knows.
How to take care of a peony
The biggest enemies of peony are rain and wind. There have been years where the flowers have stayed beautiful for a very long time, but then again, in some other years, winds and storms have damaged the plants a lot. I use metal brackets to support the plants. Some of the younger plants I tie up with wooden sticks and string.
It is easy to grow herbaceous peonies. First, dig a fairly deep and wide hole, at least 50-60 cm deep and wide, and fill it with plenty of aged manure and compost. In early spring, when the snow has not melted yet, or if possible, when there is frost like this year, throw some hardwood ashes to the peony planting area. This provides the plant with necessary trace elements and protects them against diseases. I have also pampered my peonies with spring and autumn fertilizers. When the soil has subsided, I add compost.
When the plants have finished blooming, cut off the flower buds. In recent years, I have cut the buds off already when they have almost finished blooming. I dry the buds: these can be used for decorating rooms, but you can also make bath salts, oils, peony liquor, etc. from them. Peonies are beautiful even after flowering. The varied colour of their leaves is delightful to watch even in autumn.
In late September-early October, I cut the peony flower stems leaving only about 10-15 cm stubbles. You have to leave a short part for the nutrients to reach the roots. In springtime, when the soil begins to thaw, I cut the stubbles totally off up to the buds. If I find an inflamed stubble, I pull it out and burn it in a fire.
Peony is also a medicinal plant. All parts of the plant – root, leaf, flower and seeds – contain valuable minerals and organic compounds that boost your health and help against many ailments. But this is another topic.
I look forward to the peonies flowering period every year. Peonies create beauty, they express abundance and love! At that time, I’m particularly happy!