Paeonia mascula

Jane McGary
Thu, 07 Apr 2011 08:51:37 PDT
It's puzzling that Mary Sue Ittner, on the northern California coast, 
would lost Mediterranean Paeonia species in the garden. As far as I 
know, nothing eats the roots. They are subject to Botrytis and 
perhaps other diseases.

I grew Paeonia mascula in a couple of forms for many years in my 
previous garden (the large plants are still there, and about to 
flower, as I saw Tuesday when I was out there cleaning up a bit). 
They have also self-sown. When Josef Halda was collecting wild 
Paeonia seed a lot I bought quite a few species and had them in 
various parts of that garden, particularly on the east side of a 
large shrub border, since Josef told me that when young these plants 
do best in part shade. Last year I dug and potted quite a few of my 
species peonies and brought them to my new garden. Most of them 
survived the move and I'm happy to see some of my favorites emerging 
with buds now. I don't know how they'll handle the clay soil here but 
I put them on a fairly steep bank that has a bit leafier soil than 
the flatter parts of the lot. I saw that some of the plants I dug are 
coming back in their original sites from roots I missed; some kinds 
of peonies will do this, others not.

The single flowers of species Paeonia don't last as long as the 
garden hybrids' flowers but they're very welcome in early spring, and 
the foliage is good all summer. As Mary Sue mentioned, germination is 
slow; the plants have hypogeal germination, meaning they make a 
radicle (initial root) the first season and then put their first leaf 
above ground the second season. However, it's well worth the wait. I 
keep my seedling plants in 6-inch pots until they have been above 
ground for two years, then plant out the roots when the leaves wither 
in fall. You need to keep the crowns near the soil surface.

Another thing I would mention about Paeonia seed is that it has a lot 
of moisture in it. When I was doing the intake phase of the NARGS 
seed exchange in the mid-1990s, I noticed that donations including 
Paeonia sometimes had mold problems because of moisture from the 
Paeonia seeds affecting the whole package. Wrapping the big seeds in 
waxed paper would help prevent this.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

At 07:40 AM 4/7/2011, you wrote:
>The few times I've seen species of Paeonia I've been enchanted but
>always thought where I live in Northern California I wouldn't be able
>to grow them. Then I saw one in a garden in South Australia where I
>was told it bloomed before the summer heat set in and then remained
>dormant in summer. Early in the history of this list I organized
>Topics of the Week for almost 2 and a half years and Jim Waddick who
>is an expert on this genus and who has written a  book about it was
>kind enough to provide wonderful introductions.
><… >

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