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Botanical Heirlooms: Peonies


Peonies, although not natives, are much loved in America. They grow especially well in the Midwest and other regions with cold winters. They are said to last in gardens as long as 100 years, so are sometimes called the "Century Plant," though most gardeners do not live long enough to document this assertion.

Peonies usually bloom in May so are often described as Memorial Day flowers. However, their handsome leaves persist right into the fall, and it's the fall when they should be divided. A whole clump can be dug and then cut into sections, and each individual section when replanted will grow into a new plant. It will take each new division about 3 years to bloom well though.

Another strategy is to slice a portion off the side of an established plant, using a sharp spade. The transplant portion can then be located elsewhere while the mother plant remains in the original spot.

There are two very important rules to remember: always transplant a section of the original plant's root system that contains at least three eyes, which are the underground growth buds. And always make sure that the eyes are no deeper than 1 to 2 inches below the surface of the soil, or the new plant will never bloom. Dig the planting holes roughly twice as wide and twice as deep as the roots to be planted.

You may think that you have little that is valuable to bequeath to family and friends. However, a division of an established and much-loved peony from your garden is a fine heirloom legacy.

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