The Proven Ability Of Peonies To Sleep Through Severe Winters

September finally arrives after a normal hot, dry August when we did not care much whether school kept or not. But now September is as welcome as April in the spring.

Showers, cool nights, shorter days and reviving nature get under the gardener’s skin. Digging, dividing, planting, weeding – all become less of a drudgery and more of a pleasure. With a hitch in our belts and new faith in our hearts we plan and work for those things which we know are so vital to the success of next year’s gardens.

Peonies are America’s favorite perennial flowers. They were the cherished “pineys” in our grandmothers’ gardens and have marched along for many years with increasing popularity. Scientifically, they are called “Paeonia” in honor of the mythical Dr. Paeon, who according to legend, used their roots to heal the wounds of Pluto.

The popularity of the peony is well justified because of its stellar qualities. Its extreme hardy character is proven by its ability to sleep through severe winters with temperatures as low as 50 degrees below zero, and then awaken in the spring uninjured.

Dependability is also one of the peony’s major characteristics.  Unfailing bloom year after year is certainly a great asset to any flower.  Records show that some specimen plants more than 150 years old have not failed a single year to flower during that period. Excessively cold, rainy, spring seasons, of course, are not favorable for the production of fine blooms. Sometimes the buds far advanced by unseasonably warm early spring weather are damaged by late freezes.

By making a careful selection of varieties, the bloom period can be extended for about six weeks and longer if singles and tree peonies are included. The colors range from white through various shades of pink to deep red. There are also yellows marked with shades of red and some pure sulfur yellows. The flower types vary from dainty, single ones to those which are fully double. Most of the varieties have sturdy stems and make good cut flowers. The peony could justly be named the “Memorial Flower” since it is the principal flower used for the decoration of graves on Memorial Day. Many persons grow peonies principally for this purpose and numerous large commercial growers ship thousands of the flowers for Memorial Day use.

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