Some June Scraps
By: Julie Barnes
Peonies have been stalwarts of spring and summer gardens for decades with their
outstanding large flowers. But, a gardener’s love affair for them can be short
lived when a rain storm brings them crashing down. Under the weight of the huge
double flowers, weak stems easily give way. Single flower varieties are
becoming more available that withstand rain better than the older double hybrids.
For many, there has been the common myth that ants are responsible for peony buds opening.
There is no evidence to support that. A sugary substance produced by developing peony buds is
most likely what the ants find to be irresistible. While reveling in the sweet nectar, they may
drive away some insect pests. So, if you want to bring peony blooms indoors without ant hitch
hikers; gently shake the flowers, maybe submerge the buds completely in water for a short time,
or else set the cut flowers in a shady outdoor area for a few hours until the ants disperse. Peonies
blossom all at once early in the season, but, their bloom time can be extended through cold, dry
storage: When the first crack of color appears on the hard green bud, cut the stem (about 16 in.
long), remove most of the leaves. Wrap as many as 10 stems in three layers of tissue paper
marking the date on the outside and refrigerate. For up to three weeks, stems can be taken out
and given fresh cuts before placing in water to rehydrate, opening fully within two days.
If you want to grow great annuals try following these three simple steps:
1.) Encourage more compact growth and branching by pinching the growth tip of
the plant back to the leaf axil. Also remove flowers so the plant can divert it’s
energy into growth rather than blooms.
2.) When ready to plant: Remove plants by squeezing or pushing them up from
the bottom of cell packs, or for pots by turning the container upside down and
tapping the edges slightly until the plant falls out in your hand. Most cell pack and container
grown annuals will have well developed or dense roots. Gently loosen the roots or cut down the
sides of the root ball with a knife. Roots that are left woven together will not
spread into surrounding soil and will need more frequent watering.
Prepare a planting hole that is slightly larger than the plant size. Set the plant inside of it at the
same depth that it grew in the pot, spread the roots, fill the hole and lightly firm the soil around
Water plants well.
3.) About every three weeks during the growing season fertilize your plants. Foliar feeding
works faster than root feeding because it puts the nutrients where the plants can use them
immediately. To foliar feed: Spray diluted liquid fertilizer directly on the annuals’ leaves
preferably on cloudy days or in the evening, so it does not burn leaves.