Sleep, Creep, Leap
July 02 2021
Here’s a rule of thumb to keep in mind when you buy a new perennial (works for shrubs and trees also) : first year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap. In other words, the first summer you plant something new, don’t expect it to go crazy, it’s busy growing roots now that it’s out of the confines of the pot. The second year it will begin to reach its potential, growing bigger and better. A little die back on shrubs, roses or trees is not surprising after a harsh winter. By the third summer, off they go. Patience my dear, mostly these plants get bigger and better every year until they reach their full potential.
Peonies are slow to get established, bare root starts may take three years to produce flowers, but the upside is they’ll probably outlive you. They can live 50 years to a century. Moving them set them back, so it’s best to do it in the fall and don’t plant too deep-one to two inches only. It’s amazing to me that these plants (and many, many others) can survive our frozen solid ground, and that frost can go deep, up to three feet or more.
I bought this Buckeye Belle Peony last spring (it was a potted plant, not bare root) from a local greenhouse and it just sat there looking the same all summer as was expected. We do have, not far from where I live, a peony grower you can visit in June and see all the peonies fully grown in living color. It’s a feast for your eyes, though perhaps not your checkbook. Now, in its second year in my garden, my newest peony has one flower. One magnificent dark rich red merlot colored flower. “Good things come to those who wait” as the saying goes. Next year, of course, there will be more. Hopefully lots. But while this sole flower is with me, oh so briefly, I’ll soak it in, then move on to whatever is blooming next. Because that’s the way it works.
Oh, that ant thing? It’s a myth, they have nothing to do with the buds opening, they’re just attracted to the sugars on the flower buds. Life is a picnic occasionally.
Peony, Paeonia x ‘Buckeye Belle’, herbaceous peony, zone 4-8, 2’tall, 2-3’ wide.