Peonies forum: Planting peonies and planting tulips and narcissus with peonies?

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Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Sep 24, 2016 6:28 PM CST
Hi everyone,

I'm completely new to peonies and have been enjoying all the posts in this forum. I just cleared a bed for peonies I purchased! It's raised about 10" above the level of the grass, and I dug down a good 14" to clear rocks. So that's about 24" of pure soil before roots will hit rocks. I hope this will be okay for my peonies! I bought Bowl of Beauty and Henry Bockstoce (bareroot) and I really want to do right by them.

So I know I should plant them 24 to 30" apart, but how do you measure that? Is it from the outermost root, or from the crowns of each plant?

And should I mix compost or fertilizer in with the soil when I plant them?

I also purchased a lot of bulbs....tulips, narcissus, grape hyacinth and lilies! I'm wondering if they go well when planted around peonies and if they do, then how close can I plant them? I'm thinking I would plant some lilies between the peonies, but I don't want to overcrowd. And I'd like to plant the others as graduated borders because they may bloom a bit before the peonies, and don't last as long. But again, I don't want to overcrowd....

Thanks for any and all advice. It will be greatly enjoyed by me AND my peonies!
AKA Joey.
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Winter Sowing Dahlias Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
Sep 25, 2016 10:43 AM CST
Hi Joanna, welcome to peony obsession! Sounds like you have a really good spot ready for your new roots, congratulations on doing it in the right order (I'm bad about buying roots then panicking when I can't find a good spot to plant them).

I've always measured by center point of the plant but it really depends on how you want your garden to look, if you want to walk between plants. The spacing for peonies is so that the roots don't get crowded (they hate that) and to allow air flow. If you're in a damp climate or water by traditional above ground sprinklers it's better to allow a bit more space between so that the mature plants aren't crowded to guard against mildew. This can mean just 2' apart for peonies that are 2' wide at maturity or 4' apart for peonies that are 4' wide at maturity so it's a judgment call based on plant size and climate. Here in CO we don't have the moisture associated issues lots face with peonies, especially since I water with drip lines, so mine are planted a bit closer together than I could get away with otherwise.

Compost is never a bad idea, just make sure it's well aged and won't burn the roots. A few members here swear by top dressing with compost and, judging by their pictures, it really works! I've started using Azomite and BulbTone around my peonies as suggested by another member. I never bothered to fertilize my peonies before and the difference in bloom size and number is amazing so now I'm a convert....

Bulbs are typically fine planted amongst peonies as they don't increase quickly and it's pretty easy to tell visually when the roots might be impacted. Some increase quicker than others so be ready to dig and divide your bulbs when it looks crowded and you should be good to go.
Liz
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Sep 25, 2016 11:42 AM CST
Thanks so much Liz!

When you use Azomite and BulbTone, do you just top dress? I'm unsure if I should mix some fertilizer into the soil when I plant. All the guides say that peonies love rich soil, but I've seen a couple that say not to mix fertilizer in when planting. It's difficult to know what to do because the printed guides often contradict each other.

AKA Joey.
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 25, 2016 11:56 AM CST
I have always had good luck with all of my peonies, FL, hybrid, and standard types, by digging the planting hole 8 or 10 inches deeper than required and sprinkling fertilizer in the bottom then covering it with soil before planting the roots. It gives the fertilizer time to dissolve and keeps the initial roots from possibly burning. The roots naturally grow toward the nutrients and gives them deep roots which is helpful in hot, dry areas. Surface application of nutrients in any form encourage the roots to stay shallow which is good for wet climates. Point is, there is no certain way to garden so one should pay attention to how plants either prosper or suffer. My yard may be totally different than another located just a couple hundred yards away.
Name: Liz Best
Elizabeth Colorado (Zone 4b)
Peonies Winter Sowing Dahlias Region: Colorado Plant and/or Seed Trader Enjoys or suffers cold winters
Hummingbirder Cat Lover Lilies Daylilies Dog Lover Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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LizinElizabeth
Sep 25, 2016 2:04 PM CST
Excellent points, Jerry!
Liz
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Oberon46
Sep 25, 2016 6:45 PM CST
I also dig a deeper hole and mix compost or bulb food in the bottom foot then mix it all up so as to not burn the peony roots. I usually try to put top dress with Azomite. I just ordered 49# from an outfit 'outside' and will have it transshipped through Portland to get around outrageous FedEx charges. We have the new bed (blended two old ones) and I need to get Damien to draw it for me so I can try to take a stab at being more orderly in planting. Can't decide if I want to line up the peonies at the back, fill in front with dahlias and lilies or spot the peonies throughout and backfill with dahlias and lilies and iris. I am sooooo bad at this.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 25, 2016 7:00 PM CST
There is also a general principle for all holes used for planting saying that the old soil should be mixed with the new soil in order to prevent the "well effect". One of the expert members had, in past threads, cautioned against simply digging a hole and placing the new plant in it. The roots will grow out to the edge of the hole and turn back into the richer soil which will, in time, cause the roots to strangle themselves or grow back across each other. I have a maple tree doing the exact same thing from having a raised bed around it.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
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joannakat
Sep 25, 2016 7:01 PM CST
Mary, thanks!

When I try to envision my garden arrangement, I close my eyes and see the end result in my mind's eye. It's worked well so far, even though I did overcrowd this year and some of my plants got crowded out by Black-eyed Susans. The year, I'm envisioning space here and there, so I hope it works! Hope to see pictures of your peonies when they come up!

Jerry, thanks too!

I'm debating whether to use fertilizer or not still. I've filled in a raised bed with Miracle Grow and the bag says it feeds for 3 months. I mixed compost in with that along with some of the sandy soil that was already here, and also used a soil booster whose bag says that it has earth-worm castings among other things. What a surprise to find that it also included live earth worms! The mix looks and feels lovely but because the Miracle Grow seems to contain "food," I'm unsure about what to do.

Also, if anyone has any thoughts on this product, I'd love to hear: http://www.whiteflowerfarm.com/daffodil-fertilizers#!product...

It looks very different from BulbTone (which looks amazing).
AKA Joey.
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 25, 2016 7:13 PM CST
I have used a lot of Miracle-Gro potting soil with mixed results. It usually contains a large percentage of peat moss which has a tendency to retain water. Mixing sandy soil with it is exactly the correct thing to do to help with drainage. Earthworms are a great bonus. I move any I find into my raised beds. The nutrients in the Miracle-Gro should provide all the food necessary for the first year. You want the roots to grow outward and seek more nutrients.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Image
joannakat
Sep 25, 2016 8:05 PM CST
Oldgardenrose said:There is also a general principle for all holes used for planting saying that the old soil should be mixed with the new soil in order to prevent the "well effect". One of the expert members had, in past threads, cautioned against simply digging a hole and placing the new plant in it. The roots will grow out to the edge of the hole and turn back into the richer soil which will, in time, cause the roots to strangle themselves or grow back across each other.


Wow, I never heard of that! So glad you explained. As luck would have it, the entire landscape where I live is on top of compacted rocks. They began only about 6" down so basically, we have sod on top of a few inches of topsoil and then it's rocks and more rocks. So I've dug them out to a depth of about 15" or so (what a pain) and then added another 10" of raised bed on top. I hope this will suffice for peonies, I never thought to ask. I just measured my bare root--it's 8" from end to end.

The upside of all this is that all the old soil (very sandy) has been mixed with the new stuff, and now I have enough rocks to build a rock wall around my raised bed!
AKA Joey.
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Oct 1, 2016 8:56 AM CST
Hi Joanna. I have been thinking about your subject, planting bulbs together with peonies. I have done what you did and I have not had much success. All of my bulbs do not bloom at the same time as the peonies. By the time the peonies bloom, all of my daffs and tulips are done. If you plan to have the blooms alternate then it is ok. Also, plant the bulbs in groups, not rows will have really nice effect.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Oberon46
Oct 2, 2016 10:10 AM CST
Karen, what about dahlias and iris. That is next to go into the bed around the peonies. I was thinking of sort of making a lazy looping line from one end of the bed to the other going in and out around the peonies. Do you think that putting grouping of iris and lilies would be better. Certainly easier from a weeding standpoint. I bought a 'shuffle weeder' this year as they use it in the botanical garden and it works well for them. I finally figured out it works best when used early on before the weeds form deeper roots. Otherwise all you are doing is essentially raking the top growth encouraging bushier weed regrowth.

As I have dug up the beds I run into a gazillion crocus bulbs. Hilarious! Those little fellows multiple like rabbits under the soil. Then they come up in lovely clumps in the spring. I think I have two kinds as they are two different sizes. When I come across them I just break up the clumps and strew them in the bed. Don't have much luck with daffys though. They survive but don't thrive. Oh, they form tons of new bulbs, and one year I dug them up, broke them up, replanted and didn't get much back. Will try again this year. Again I think I will plant in groups, not spread. Ideas?
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Oct 2, 2016 10:34 AM CST
Mary, iris works very nicely with peonies. But dahlias and lilies, not too well for me. They look kinda strange because the lilies and dahlias esp. the tall ones are so much taller than the mound shape of peonies so they sorta stick out. I think they can work but you have to place them strategically so that the difference in height does not detract from the bed but enhance the whole effect. Easy said than done though. Plants placement has been a hit and miss thing for me. Plants that combine well with peonies for me are iris, clematis, hardy geraniums, and daylilies. Grass is also very nice at hiding dying peony foliage in the fall.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
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Oberon46
Oct 2, 2016 10:53 AM CST
Well, clematis and daylilies are problematic. I have one clematis that is/was huge. A Russian strain I think with tiny little blue downward facing tulip shaped flowers. Very simple. Foliage is vibrant chartreuse. Too large and aggressive for the front bed. Just moved it out back to be near a trellis out in the sun. Maybe be a mistake as it tried/succeeded to jump from its former trellis to a tall white lilac and was totally infesting it when I found it. Cut it all out, even broke a limb on the lilac extracting it. The new trellis is close to an apple tree so will have to watch it in future.

Some daylilies work here. It isn't too late to break up a clump and see how they would work out front. They have thrived in my garden for several years now where all others have failed. Our winters have been very very mild the past few years so that might explain their survival. I have a common hardy geranium. My problem with it is that it self seeds terribly. I have them popping up all over the place. I vigorously deadheaded the one remaining one this fall. I was going to move it as it isn't happy where it is so could move it out front. It requires a fence around it as it tends to fall splat when maturing over the summer.

How about Trollius. Also wanted to put some ferns and hosta for filler and different leaf shapes.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
kousa
Oct 2, 2016 11:36 AM CST
I have never tried Trollius so I don't know. There are some hardy geraniums that do self sow. The ones that I have had not self sown. They are pretty nice. Here is Orion, blooms about the same time as the mid to late peonies. It blooms for like 2 months.
Thumb of 2016-10-02/kousa/5cd7c5

I just added Espresso geranium this year. Will see how that does. I would highly recommend Little Duckling Clematis and Arabella. In fact, I added clematis to my peonies bed after seeing gorgeous pics from Annette. So this is actually her idea that I pick up from.

Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Image
Oberon46
Oct 5, 2016 7:51 PM CST
How big do your clematis' get? And are they hardy? I would think they would be awfully long or tall. I will also look up the geraniums you mentioned. I am really tired of digging Johnson Blue (I think it is called) out of every nook and cranny.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
kousa
Oct 7, 2016 12:49 PM CST
Mary, I know for sure that Orion does not self sow. I am not sure about Espresso though because that is a new one for me. I also really like Havana Blues but this one sprawls and blooms from July to fall which does not coincide with blooming peony season. I am sorry but I don't know much about clematis hardiness. You maybe right that some clematis are not be hardy for your zone. The one that I have, Little Duckling is hardy to zone 4. Looks like most Proven Winners clematis are hardy to zone 4. They are 5-6ft tall but if you wrap around a support structure, it can be maintained at 3-4ft.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Image
Oberon46
Oct 8, 2016 11:14 AM CST
Up to 5' would be fine. As we know all zone 4's are not created equal. I have compared notes with other zone 4 people and we have some pretty significant differences like length of winter versus summer.
"What a person needs in gardening is a cast iron back with a hinge in it" Charles Dudley Warner (spelling edited by Dinu lol)
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Image
joannakat
Oct 8, 2016 5:45 PM CST
So, I think someone asked me to post pictures of my peonies once they get started. Well, here's my very first picture of my very first peony! I think it's absolutely beautiful and hope you do too!
Thumb of 2016-10-08/joannakat/fe6eac

AKA Joey.
Name: Joanna
North Central Massachusetts (N (Zone 5b)
Life & gardens: make them beautiful
Image
joannakat
Oct 8, 2016 5:48 PM CST
kousa said:Hi Joanna. I have been thinking about your subject, planting bulbs together with peonies. I have done what you did and I have not had much success. All of my bulbs do not bloom at the same time as the peonies. By the time the peonies bloom, all of my daffs and tulips are done. If you plan to have the blooms alternate then it is ok. Also, plant the bulbs in groups, not rows will have really nice effect.


Thanks Karen, that's exactly what I'm going for, to have something blooming at any given time but not necessarily blooming at the same time.

How do you plant bulbs in groups?
AKA Joey.

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