Irene Virag's Garden Party

I'm Irene Virag -- a writer, a gardener, a cancer survivor. I think ideas are like plants. They need nurturing to grow. And gardeners share both. So welcome to my blog. It’s all about what’s happening in my garden and beyond.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Little Bit of Heaven

I spent a little time in peony heaven recently and I'm so glad I did. Actually, it's a 7-acre wonderland of sun-dappled terraced hillsides in Thomaston, Connecticut, where Kasha and David Furman nurture hundreds of tree peonies. I tell their story and the story of their nursery, Cricket Hill Garden, in my column.

I was enchanted by the woody deciduous shrubs that the Chinese have revered for more than 2,000 years and that plant explorers brought back to Europe in the 1700s. Just take a look at Coral Terrace and I'm sure you'll understand.
I'll be adding a few tree peonies to my garden in the fall, which is the perfect time for planting since that's when they're dormant. Take care of your tree peony and it will reward you with true beauty. In time, one plant will perfume your spring garden with 50 or more colorful 8-inch flowers.

Make sure it has plenty of room to reach its potential – most tree peonies mature into four-by-four-foot woody shrubs with deep roots. Depending on the variety, some grow into 10-foot-tall superstars, although that might take 100 years or so. Plant it in dappled shade so flowers last longer. Kasha and David place charming handpainted umbrellas in the garden to protect the blooms. Good drainage is essential – a raised bed or slope is the perfect place. Which is why David and Kasha bought their gently sloping property in the Litchfield Hills and why they dug the peony beds three feet deep, then filled in with wood chips and other organic matter. You'll also want to make sure your tree peony is at least eight feet from large trees so it doesn’t have to compete for water and nutrients.

Unlike other garden divas, tree peonies don’t require a lot of fuss. It's hard to believe that flowers this gorgeous demand so little.

But it's true. Protect them during their first winter with a blanket of mulch, and water during the growing season if conditions are dry. Once established, tree peonies are drought tolerant. Feed plants every couple of weeks with liquid fish-seaweed fertilizer. Kasha and David also like a rock powder amendment called Azomite that replenishes the soil with 67 minerals.

When the flower show ends, deadhead faded blooms so young plants don’t put their energy into making seeds. Around the first frost, remove leaves but don’t cut the woody stems. You wouldn’t want to lose a single bloom.

After a day at Cricket Hill Garden, I can hardly wait to grow my own tree peonies. Here are two of my favorites -- Snow Lotus and Yang Gui Fei Wearing a Crown of Kingfisher Feathers.

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Anonymous cgwynn said...

I was looking for info on the geraniums that I read in the Newsday

11/12/2007 10:31 AM  

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