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Grow with KARE: Great year for peonies!

Bel breaks down how you can find your favorite peony to plant this year!

CHASKA, Minn. — Bobby and I went out to look at the peonies at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and we were amazed!  The flowers this year were a bit behind, but it was worth the wait.  A bumper crop of incredible peonies blooms along the Lang Peony Walk.

But, why are they so special to Minnesota gardeners and gardens?

They love cold winters!

They are deer and rabbit resistant!

They are native plants first and foremost! So essential to pollinators.

And, of course, their beauty in the yard and landscape is amazing, as well. 

The Lang Peony Walk at the Arboretum was started in 1983.

There are 244 varieties of peonies in the collection.

Many of these are varieties have been lost to the trade or to home gardeners over time because many of our specimens were important root stock from peony hybridizers who are no longer alive. The Arboretum collection has many varieties treasured by researchers; it is considered a marquee collection nationally.

Many plants originated from the Brand Peony Farm in Faribault, which was the oldest nursery in the state, established by Oliver Brand in 1870. He was considered one, if not the best peony hybridizers in the world.

In 1895, Brand had more than 1,000 varieties, making it one of the largest collections of flowers in the world. By 1920, peonies were being shipped to all parts of the world and Faribault was called the Peony Capital of the World. Sadly, the farm was sold in 1956 and became a housing development in the 1990s.

We also have some valuable specimens from the Lin Peony Farm in Cologne - another top hybridizer.

Fun fact: The most popular peony in the world is a pink bomb peony - the Sarah Bernhardt! This pink double is considered the archetype, the very best peony - more than 20 million stems are shipped from Holland every year to florists around the world!

What is the origin of the peony?

They are native across the Northern Hemisphere from the western United States through Asia, with the greatest diversity in Europe.

What kinds of peonies are there? There are three kinds of peonies: 

  1. 1. Bush (perennial) 
  2. 2. Tree (woody) 
  3. Intersectional, which were developed by Mr. Itoh in Japan in 1948 - it was his breakthrough of being able to cross bush and tree peonies into the Itoh/Intersectional peonies. The intersectional/Itoh peonies have stronger stalks that may not need supports like the older bush and tree peonies.

What are the different types of Peony blooms? We have 6 flower types: 

  1. Single
  2. Japanese
  3. Anemeone
  4. Bomb
  5. Semi-Double
  6. Double

Are peonies good for any garden? Are they difficult to grow? Peonies are perfect for beginning gardeners. They take very little maintenance beyond full sun and sometimes supports to keep them from falling down. They like well-drained soil, not 'wet feet.' They add color and fragrance to a landscape and because they are taller, they can be a beautiful background plant in a design and they should come back fuller and better every year.

How to care for cut peonies: 

  1. Slice stems at an angle, don't cut them
  2. Remove all of their foliage
  3. Keep in cool water (change water daily, keep vase clean)
  4. If you have peonies that are not opening, put a little sugar in the vase


BOOK RESOURCE: Peony: The Best Varieties for Your Garden by David Michener and Carol Adelmen

You can find this book at the Arboretum Gift & Garden Store.

We answered your latest questions on our GROW with KARE Q&A, which aired on June 29.