In the past few days I noticed that my brave peonies had decided it was time to stick their noses up above the ground. Every year, I find myself anxiously awaiting the appearance of these delicate stalks and happy to see them pop up and slowly unfurl. I still sometimes find it amazing that these few buds will cover the area of a bushel basket in a mere month or so, and I find it still more miraculous as the enormous fat buds swell larger than these stems ever dreamed of being.
Herbaceous peony sprouts
No plant that I grow can beat the peony for low maintenance care here on the prairie. They ask only to be mowed off in the Fall and tossed a little fertilizer each Spring. A little fertilizer goes a long way in fact, and this year I'm going to try a little organic compost on each peony instead of my usual handful of high-calorie lawn fertilizer in an effort to try and keep them a bit more compact. Watering, deadheading, pruning, insecticides, and fungicides are not ever on the menu for herbaceous peonies in Kansas. The largest varieties might ask for a little stem support during their bloom periods, but I just plant them close and make them shoulder up against each other for support during the Kansas winds and storms.
05/25/2010 in my peony bed
Despite the recent cold and the rain and possible snow predicted this weekend, peonies are the one early plant that I never, ever worry will sustain frost damage or freeze back. I used to cover these early buds with blankets and milk jugs, but after a few years, I decided that this "lower" life form has a far better grasp of when their time has come than I do. Principally, the disastrous snow and freezes of mid-April in 2007 provided the evidence to me. In that rare year, when the lilac blooms froze on the stems, the daylilies were frost-bitten, and the fruit trees dropped their buds, the peonies simply smiled at the freak cold and perked right back up when the weather warmed. Not for nothing do peonies dot the oldest gravestones in comfortable ancient graveyards and are often the sole survivors at old abandoned homesites. They are, it seems, the wisest of the wise.