Photo: beautifulcataya (flickr)
Air temperatures cool dramatically at this time of the year, but soil temperatures cool more slowly. So we still have time to get bulbs and perennial plants in to the ground so that they can settle in before it freezes. The soil is still warmer, the deeper you dig, so that shrubs, which need a deep hole can be planted later than the smaller bulbs, for example.
One of the most gorgeous shrubs that can be planted late is the tree peony, Peony “suffruticosa” which does not die back in winter as the more familiar herbaceous peonies do. Mail order companies ship these plants in late October.
Tree peonies have flower petals with a magnificent silky sheen. Mature plants reach 4-5 feet and can produce in the spring as many as 50 exquisite blooms but they may take a few years to reach their full glory.
They grow best in full sun though in areas with very hot summers, they enjoy some light shade. Since they have attractive foliage, they make a fine small shrub as a single specimen or in a border all season long, but when they are in bloom they are the focal point of a garden.
There is such a richness in the colors of the flowers all shades of pink and rosy reds, even a lemony yellow, with shimmering petals. These sumptuous blossoms are so full of petals they are reminiscent of the skirts of ball gowns.