Monthly Archives: July 2013

Paeonia lactiflora forms – the ladies of the garden

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Paeonia ‘White wings’

Their season is so brief. My paeonias now carry clusters of plump seedpods – which I belatedly remove. After the flowers they leave elegant, quite large, clumps of shiny, dark green divided foliage that are a lush foil for other plants. I have had my original three paeonias for twenty years or so. They were a present from an aunt, chosen from Kelway’s catalogue. Last year these were supplemented by a fourth, ‘Kansas’, that was discovered languishing and desiccated on the 50% off the end-of-season plant sale stall. She was given a position in some shade and this year she has developed into a somewhat leggy lady and delivered several double red flowers.

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Paeonia ‘Kansas’

Although their season is so short, they are some of the most cherished plants in the garden. The ladies of the garden, one visits to pay one’s respects and stand in awe of their splendid and extravagant flowers. Of my original three, ‘White Wings’ is the most spectacular and produces large flowers of quite exceptional beauty.  This would be one of my eight ‘desert island’ plants, even though she only has flowers for a fortnight. Paeonias are investments that will last for many years but they do take space and their position is best planned for.  It is said that paeonias hate disturbance and, once established, cannot be moved. However…

Last year I moved a fern that was growing in the vicinity of one of my original paeonias. This spring, when removing the fern’s old foliage I discovered a couple of young paeonia leaves poking out from its base. I prepared a planting position, digging in composted manure, filling the hole with water and allowing this to drain before extracting the tuberous root of the paeonia from the fern’s roots. The tuber lay in my hand like a plump brown mouse. There was a distinct sense of it’s being a living, almost breathing creature. This was quickly installed in its new home. It is rather a dry position and it hasn’t made much growth, but looks happy and self composed. Flowers are hoped for in a year or two.

Susan A. Tindall

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Watering plants in dry spells

Watering plants manually during dry spells is time-consuming as they should be “deep-watered” so the water penetrates to the roots, but is essential to keep them alive and well.  Wafting water over the foliage of a plant may make you feel virtuous, but does nothing for the plants!   

Plants that have been in the garden for a year or more have generally developed a good root system. Apart from plants with rigid leaves – such as hollies – it is generally easy to restrict watering until the plant is noticeably stressed. The leaves will be flaccid and drooping, and plants have a “stretched” appearance. Shrubs around a metre high should be given a full-sized watering can of water (8 litres), sometimes two. Young trees may need several full cans. Give half a can to each needy herbaceous plant. Be aware that water can “run-off” without noticeably penetrating the soil. If you review the plants you’ve watered after an hour they should have noticeably revived. This can help to give you a feel for their appearance when they are in need of water again. 

Recently planted specimens have not had time to reach out beyond the former confines of the pot. Get the water right into their base. They only need a small amount, but may need watering every couple of days.

To freshen your garden with new purchases consider drought resistant plants such as Salvias, Sedums, Cistus and Helichrysum. Try the Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), or even the South African ‘Delosperma’ forms with flowers that blaze like neon. 

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Salvia microphylla

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Cistus ‘Silver Pink’

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Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’           

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Delosperma cooperi

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