Answer: The peony problem is probably botrytis, a fungal infection. The best control for it is to clean up all the affected plant parts as they happen in the spring and put them in the trash. Then in the fall do a thorough clean up and dispose of all the stems and foliage in the trash, cutting the stems as short down to the ground as possible. When the plant is affected by botrytis, there are black spots on the stems and foliage as well as trouble with the flowers. Another possible cause of the flower symptoms you described is thrips, an insect. These affect only the buds and blooms and you would not see and discoloring on the stems or foliage. You might want ot check with your local Cornell extension and see if they can help you diagnose the problem more specifically. Based on that, if a chemical control is needed they will have the most up to date information for use in New York state -- what is available to homeowners to use and how/when is best to apply it for maximum results.
The squirrels can sometimes be repelled by using one of the spray-on animal repellents labeled for squirrels. However, depending on where you garden, the damage might be caused by deer browsing -- I have not seen squirrels eat tulip or lily blooms although I have seen them damage or rearrange the bulbs. There are also repellents labeled for deer that might be effective. Be sure to apply and reapply per the label directions. I hope this helps!
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