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May 13, 2020 11:50 PM CST
Thread OP
Sacramento, CA (Zone 9b)
Hello, fellow peony lovers, I am writing to you all in great distress. I am about to lose my mind, I am so livid I really can't seem to find anywhere to let off my steam other than here, so please bear with me as I write about what has just happened to one of my peony plants.

Some context: I live in Zone 9, which makes planting and growing peonies a bit of a challenge because it gets so warm here, but I've made it happen. They are my pride and joy. I never get the big magnificent whole bush blooming, but I do get about 10-15 stems a year per plant and that's a good year. I know if I lived out in the midwest or somewhere northwest, I would have much better results, but I live close to central California, and this I the best I can do with my climate and circumstance. Through a lot of trials and errors and trying different varieties, I've got about 8 established plants in my garden.

Currently, I have (or HAD) a big beautiful established Festiva Maxima in my front yard. It's the only one that was established of this particular variety after planting multiple ones. This took about 5-6 years for it to get to where it's at now, and it had a magnificent blooming season this year. I took these photos about two weeks ago.
Thumb of 2020-05-14/amymonel/12a15e Thumb of 2020-05-14/amymonel/c6db2d

Because of my zone, I have to mulch all my peonies every year, give them extra food, and of course, throw ice on them in winter so they get cold enough. I have a sprinkler system, they take care of the watering. Sometimes when it gets over 100 degrees in summer for weeks on end, I go out there and water them extra at night. That's just the way it is here in California.

And then it happened.

We all know that we don't cut their beautiful green foliage down until it starts turning yellow in fall and we cut them down close to the ground in winter. That's the normal thing to do for peonies. Normal stuff. Well, my mother decided to live with us this spring and after this magnificent blooming season, she took it upon herself to prune the entire plant down to the ground. This happened yesterday, I didn't realize it until today when I walked outside to check on the plants, and the whole plant is missing. GONE. Those beautiful robust green leaves, all gone. All was left are some spent white petals on the dirt. I don't know whether to howl in anger or go find a hole and cry. These plants took me years to get them established. She just decided to CUT MY WHOLE PLANT DOWN. IN SPRING. There were still buds on that plant that hasn't bloomed yet. It's May ya'll. It's still Spring here.

Has this happened to anyone? Will the plant survive? I know they need the summer to absorb the nutrients so they'll grow back next year, but because she cut them down SO early, I don't think they've stored enough nutrients. What the heck do I do?

I've scoured the internet and never heard of people cutting the entire plant down in spring. What kind of nut job does this? Well, let me answer that – apparently my mother who has had too much time on her hands and quarantine has made her lose her marbles, she decided to take it upon herself to cut my entire plant down.

I don't understand it. I am just livid right now. It took me YEARS to get these dang plants to flower, and especially in this zone. I tried to be rational, I tried to be calm, but I am so angry ya'll. My blood pressure is going through the roof. I don't know what to do. Please advice.
Last edited by amymonel May 14, 2020 12:10 AM Icon for preview
May 14, 2020 1:03 AM CST
Name: Anya
Fairbanks, AK (Zone 3a)
Cat Lover
Dear amymonel! This is very sad Crying I can only imagine how angry you are. I never had this experience but I believe the peony will survive. It might not bloom nicely next year but it should survive. It even might shoot a few leaves soon, there are sleeping buds which can become active and grow. I wish you the best!
May 14, 2020 1:34 AM CST
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
I feel for you. But the peony will live. It's just going into dormancy early. The only thing that it may do is starting to grow too early. Even if that is the case, your area does not get cold enough for any growths to die out. Anyway, this is a great opportunity to experiment and observe whether this early pruning has any beneficial effect to your plant. What I would do now is to provide complete shade for the peony. You just don't want to expose the peony to any more stress from being exposed to the hot sun. Would love to hear back next year of your peony's growth.
May 14, 2020 11:25 AM CST
Name: Jasmin
Toronto, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Peonies Roses Clematis Native Plants and Wildflowers Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Bee Lover
Cat Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: Canadian Permaculture Garden Ideas: Level 2
I agree with Anya and Karen, it's very likely that the peony will survive. The plant was not weak before it started blooming. A strong, healthy plant could have enough food to survive for a couple of years minimum. I know this because I rescued several peonies.

Now the bigger problem is how to deal with you mother. Good luck Thinking
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."~Albert Einstein
May 14, 2020 11:33 AM CST
Name: Frank Richards
Clinton, Michigan (Zone 5b)

Hydrangeas Peonies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level
Happy Mother's Day!
May 14, 2020 11:36 AM CST
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Forum moderator Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Level 1
Welcome to the site!
As Yogi Berra said, β€œIt's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
May 14, 2020 12:08 PM CST
Name: Jasmin
Toronto, Ontario (Zone 5b)
Peonies Roses Clematis Native Plants and Wildflowers Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Bee Lover
Cat Lover Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: Canadian Permaculture Garden Ideas: Level 2
frankrichards16 said:Happy Mother's Day!

An acorn for making me laugh today Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing

@Amymonel, trust me, I know how you feel. Smiling
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."~Albert Einstein
May 14, 2020 12:13 PM CST
Name: Top
Missouri (Zone 6a)
Dahlias Daylilies Hummingbirder Irises Region: Missouri Peonies
Seed Starter Zinnias
Don't be surprised it if sends up a stem - it is still spring. Fires and relatives happen, yet plants survive.

The return of perennials in the spring can feel like once again seeing an old friend
May 14, 2020 12:41 PM CST
Thread OP
Sacramento, CA (Zone 9b)
Thank you guys for the encouraging words! I really appreciate it. It makes me feel a lot better hearing from you guys that it will survive. Should I give it extra mulch starting now to give it extra shade?
May 14, 2020 12:50 PM CST
Thread OP
Sacramento, CA (Zone 9b)
frankrichards16 said:Happy Mother's Day!

oh you're funny! I will try to be civil Smiling
May 15, 2020 7:11 AM CST
Name: Tracey
Midwest (Zone 5a)
Garden Photography Tomato Heads Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Pollen collector Forum moderator Hybridizer
Plant Database Moderator Cat Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Charter ATP Member Garden Ideas: Master Level Seed Starter
amymonel, my bet is such a healthy, cared for, lush peony will return. It may take a couple years to return to its old glory. You'll have to keep us posted on what happens here.
Avatar for pinkruffles
May 15, 2020 7:38 AM CST
PA (Zone 6a)
Amymonal, I'll bet almost every gardener has had your experience at one time or another. There were times I almost cried when my husband whacked down something he thought was a weed. It's times like that that I have to remind myself that a good husband, and definitely a good mother, are worth their weight in gold, but plants can be replaced! Smiling
Last edited by pinkruffles May 15, 2020 7:40 AM Icon for preview
May 15, 2020 7:48 AM CST
Name: Sulli
Philadelphia (Zone 7a)
Cat Lover Cut Flowers Dahlias Hellebores Irises Native Plants and Wildflowers
Region: Pennsylvania Peonies Roses
it will be fine, I've had a plant that the wind has knocked to the ground 2 seasons in a row, causing the stems to break and the foliage to wilt. That means I'm willfully cutting the damaged plant down in the middle of it's peak season and you know what, it's still putting up a few sad leaves to remind me it's there. I'm going to move it to a more sheltered space and let it limp along because I love the color-or I will in 3-4 years when I can get it to bloom because it's a very young root. Yours will be back blooming next year, don't worry!
May 15, 2020 10:20 AM CST

A few years back I landed in the ER and while I was hospitalized my brother decided to do me a favor and mow my lawn. He was a bit too enthusiastic in his approach and ended up mowing down two Bartzella peonies I had planted the previous Fall. D'Oh!
The plants survived but it took them an extra year to start blooming. Now they look great.

I agree with all above comments: chances are the plant will recover but to stay on the safe side forbid to anybody to touch your garden without your explicit authorization. I'll leave the use of death threats to your judgement. Hilarious!
May 17, 2020 3:53 AM CST
Thread OP
Sacramento, CA (Zone 9b)
Thank you guys for your stories and advices!! I feel much better now, knowing that we all go through those garden stories. I will keep everyone posted, I kept going out every day hoping to see a new leaf or a stem but no such luck so far.
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