Peonies forum: Digging and dividing a fern leaf peony

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Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Aug 19, 2013 4:23 PM CST
Now is the time to think of dividing or relocating peonies, in this case an old heirloom double fernleaf. My method is to use a stream of water to remove the soil around them rather than just dig them with a fork or shovel. They have a more delicate root system than the typical herbaceous peony and require a more gentle handling. Pic #1 is the plant to be dug.
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Pic #2 is the hose nozzle system I prefer.


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Pic #3 after the flushing



Ready to lift from the water. Use a pair of scissors to cut the fine feeder roots as far away as possible from the main roots. When the clum is ready to lift, it will appear to float in the water. Reach under the root ball and lift straight up. Never try to lift it by the old cutoff stems. You will break off several eyes if you pull a stem off. The eyes are sometimes connected to the base of the stems.


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Pic #4 washed clump.




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Pics #5 & #6 are the finished divisions.


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Lastly, save all the broken off roots whether they have eyes or not. Some say the fern leaf can produce adventitious eyes from root slices so one has nothing to lose by planting them and possibly a $50 plant gained. This is just my experiences with fern leafs and may not work well for someone else. The procedure works best with a raised bed but will also work for grade level plantings.

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
Aug 19, 2013 5:05 PM CST
I don't have any fernleafs yet, have some bareroots coming for this fall, but this information is wonderful! Is there any way to bookmark a thread on this forum? I definitely want to be able to refer to your directions when I need to divide in a few years....
Liz
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Aug 19, 2013 7:54 PM CST
I was able to add this page to 'favorites' which may be equal to bookmarking. You should be able to make a note of the path statement as we oldtimers call it.

The thread "Digging and dividing a fern leaf peony" in Peonies forum
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
Aug 19, 2013 8:43 PM CST
Got it! Thanks, Oldgardenrose!
Liz
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 3, 2013 4:42 PM CST
Add a little more peony activity to fill in a dull period until the fall shipments for everyone arrives. The first two pics are of a 'Wind Chimes' which I planted in a raised bed and then planted a magnolia bush too closely to it. Too much shade. All the listed peonies were dug by flushing water in order to preserve as many roots as possible.


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Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 3, 2013 4:47 PM CST
This single FL was in a small circular bed with 3 other doubles. Decided to transplant these and plant the wind chimes in their place which is next to 'Early Scout'.


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Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 3, 2013 4:53 PM CST
This is a double which was salvaged in '09 from a tiny sliver of root containing one very small eye. Takes some patience but it now is a good $50 plant essentially for free.


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Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 3, 2013 5:00 PM CST
Last one is a double which, like the other doubles including the one at the top of this thread, were divided off one very old heirloom double passed down from my wife's grandmother. It may or may not be a true species example.


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Name: Tracey
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
Forum moderator Hybridizer Tomato Heads Pollen collector Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Cat Lover
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Garden Photography Seed Starter Region: Wisconsin
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magnolialover
Sep 4, 2013 4:51 PM CST

Moderator

Jerry you should contact Trish and Dave about placing this in the ideas area so that it is more visible to all members. Just a thought Smiling Nicely done and very useful information.
Tracey
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 5, 2013 3:27 PM CST
As I had mentioned previously, there will usually be a few broken roots without eyes when a fernie is dug and divided. I came up with 8 small roots which I planted in these cc containers filled with sand and watered with a mild fertilizer solution. The containers are drilled at the four quadrants and in the center by using a 1/4th inch drill and then padded at the bottom with a doubled piece of paper towel in order to keep the sand in but permit the water to drain. 8 containers could have 8 more plants given some time and patience. Just an experiment but 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'. I have 4 more with cut pieces of root so I could be having a sale in a couple of years.

I have no interest in publicity but everyone is welcome to use any pictures or text of mine in any way they choose as long as they do not try to con someone else.
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Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 7, 2013 5:31 PM CST
Finished replanting the fernies in the raised bed. This time, I covered the entire section with 1 to 2 inches of sand to compensate for the soil settling over a 4 year period. Most of the originals were budding at the surface of the soil and the new replants were placed with the eyes just under 2 inches from the top of the blocks as measured with a straightedge placed across the bed. The sand should provide some physical protection and will be easily brushed aside if needed in the Spring. Looking forward to a really nice display next Spring.
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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 8, 2013 9:51 AM CST
I'm looking forward to the pictures of your new raised bed next spring! Do you leave the pots with the broken roots out all winter there? I have a couple of large plastic pots already with broken bits in them, think their 3 gallons, that I was going to leave out to see if anything sprouts. Haven't decided if I'm going to try to sink them in a raised bed or just leave them in a protected spot. Most of the winter I think they'd be fine but we typically have at least 7-10 nights of -10 degrees or so during the winter, think those might be a challenge for anything in the plastic pots.
Liz
Name: Tracey
Wisconsin (Zone 5a)
Forum moderator Hybridizer Tomato Heads Pollen collector Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Cat Lover
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator Charter ATP Member Garden Photography Seed Starter Region: Wisconsin
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magnolialover
Sep 8, 2013 10:11 AM CST

Moderator

You do such good work, Jerry. That bed looks perfect. It will be a super home for your peonies.
Tracey
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 8, 2013 12:09 PM CST
I think the fernies will survive in zone 3 which would be much colder than -10. I have seen the frost line or freeze level as much as 24 inches underground when the temp hit -15 and the fernies in that area survive just fine. Apparently, freezing does not bother them. Probably better for them rather than keeping them above freezing. I plan to leave mine out all winter and let the strong ones survive. No need to coddle them. Same way with some seeds which I had harvested from my species P.tenuifolia (single). The cc containers just fit in the hollowed sections of the concrete block walls of the beds and will offer some shelter from any extreme cold but one could gather all the pots together and throw an old blanket or quilt over them for the winter.

I chose sand this time for a cover over the crowns instead of potting soil because last year the potting soil seemed to hold too much moisture. We shall see next Spring if that was a good choice.
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Sep 8, 2013 1:59 PM CST
Samples.
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Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Oct 3, 2013 7:44 AM CST
Just had my theory of using water pressure to dig fernies validated this morning. The local gas company is installing a new gas main along our street and used an unusual method of locating the gas drop lines to the homes. They had a power washer with an extended nozzle tube to flush away the soil and a large vacuum system to draw the slurry out of the hole. All of this is a commercial truck-mounted system of water and slurry tanks. Digs down about 4 feet and doesn't even scratch the gas lines.
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Oct 3, 2013 9:33 AM CST
Pics of the operation.
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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
Image
LizinElizabeth
May 26, 2016 7:05 AM CST
good info!
Liz
Name: Jerry
Salem, IL
Charter ATP Member
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Oldgardenrose
Aug 5, 2016 7:02 PM CST
I dug a mature clump of single FL today for a donation to the local gardening club. It was in that location for 7 years and it is obviously ready to be divided. I have found the clumps reach a peak then just settle down to very slow growth. This one can be divided into at least 4 good divisions and will prosper for another 5 to 6 years. I always dig the FL with a water pressure hose nozzle in order to save most of the roots intact. One can see the feeder roots to judge how effective the method is. Always lift the clump from underneath, never pick it up by the stems. Note there are many eyes connected to the bases of the stems and breaking a stem off will most likely result in a lost eye.

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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
Image
LizinElizabeth
Aug 5, 2016 7:23 PM CST
Would it be completely weird if I said that is a BEAUTIFUL root? Who besides a peony lover would say a root is beautiful???!!!!
Liz

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