Peonies forum: Late Spring Frost/Snow Protection for Frost Sensitive Peonies

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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
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LizinElizabeth
Jun 16, 2015 8:19 AM CST
Background: Our crazy late snows/frost then hail have played havoc with my early peonies for (HOPEFULLY) the last time! This year's 10 inches of snow on Mother's Day and several below freezing nights and rainy days severely damaged several of my earlier rising peonies. Not all of them are early bloomers but several varieties had significant growth and some buds killed by Mother Nature this year, probably worse than in any previous year. So this fall/winter next spring I'm doing something about it!
I've mentioned this idea in other threads but I'm committed completely now--just put in an order for garden fleece through Amazon-- http://www.amazon.com/Heavyweight-Garden-Fleece-Protect-agai...
I've also purchased several tomato cages to cut down to make a base for the fleece to rest on. I also plan to cover the tops of the tomato cages with hardware cloth--probably the cheaper green plastic version with the same small openings since I think it'll be easier to work with. I plan to put the hardware cloth on the tops of the cages when they're installed this fall and have all of the garden fleece cut to size; that way I can just throw it over the cages and secure it with landscape pins (or rocks if the ground is frozen) as needed. I thought about just using heavy plastic but the purpose of this exercise isn't to keep all moisture out but to keep tender growth just a bit warmer and to keep the heavy snow from crushing the new growth.
I already do some frost damage mitigation on a few peonies. The way I've done it so far is to place large, heavy pots near each peony to be used as covers as needed. This is very effective and I'll continue to do it for the few peonies that are most frost sensitive but it sure is a pain to move those heavy pots around in the cold. I normally end up covering/uncovering at least 5 times each spring. I'm thinking with the tomato cages/garden fleece I can just put the fleece in place when the 1st late spring peony killing weather is expected and maybe even leave it there until the danger is past; I'll have to play that part by ear based on expected weather. Once frost damage weather is over I'll leave the hardware cloth in place until the peonies are almost tall enough to hit it, hopefully providing some hail protection.
So what am I not taking into consideration? Does anyone see any major flaws in my half-baked plan? I'll do some version of it anyway--I've already purchased most of the materials needed to put it in place. If anyone out there has anything that might improve my chances of success please yell out.
I'm not sure which peonies I'll be using for this experiment, can't remember all of the names of those most damaged. I know Pink Hawaiian Coral and Flame were 2, though. I'll make a list over the next couple of days and post in case any of you are interested in following my experiment. I hope you are--it'll get lonely posting here without feedback....
I think I'll take pics of the pathetic growth of those peonies destined to be the test subjects of this experiment and post them later today. You'll see from those that I really have nothing to lose by this trial and maybe have some pretty peony blooms to gain if I succeed!
Liz
[Last edited by LizinElizabeth - Jun 16, 2015 8:19 AM (+)]
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graycrna4u
Jun 17, 2015 6:21 PM CST
Good luck Liz! When are you moving south? I hope all goes well for you.
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Jun 17, 2015 8:55 PM CST
I wish you luck too, Liz! At my age, it sounds too much work for me. But if you are to have any nice blooms, I guess this is what you have to do. I wonder if you can use those popup greenhouses or covers. See this link for more info:

http://www.nuvueproducts.com/frost_protection.html

http://www.nuvueproducts.com/heavy_winter_protection.html
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
Jun 17, 2015 9:22 PM CST
That's funny, graycrna4u, we probably will retire somewhere further south but not for another 10 years or so. My husband is pushing for Florida but I've told him no because my peonies won't bloom there! Trying for zone 7 at the warmest.
Karen, those are really cool looking! I might just have to try a few, see what works best!
I took some pictures today to document why I'm willing to go through this work. I was going to take pics of all of the damage as well as the newer growth but they just looked too sad, so here's the worst hit of the bunch:
Auten's Pride
Thumb of 2015-06-18/LizinElizabeth/5796e7

Battleflag-this was one I got from Fina 2 years ago, had huge roots, and put out several flowers last spring. Was just budding when we had the Mother's Day from H@ll and the crazy below freezing week afterward.

Thumb of 2015-06-18/LizinElizabeth/0e5e42


Bride's Dream-Doesn't look too bad unless you know it was 18 inches tall before MD, only around 6" now.
Thumb of 2015-06-18/LizinElizabeth/0229c8

Mackinac Grand-this one was 2' tall with 2 big buds pre-MD, now maybe 6". Sad, just sad....
Thumb of 2015-06-18/LizinElizabeth/faa8b5

Maestro--another that was growing nicely with a bud pre-MD.
Thumb of 2015-06-18/LizinElizabeth/a4466d

There were 17 that were severely damaged by weather. I'll probably add another 3 or so to the experiment, just whichever foliage looks worst from our hail. Here's hoping next year these look better!
Liz

graycrna4u
Jun 18, 2015 6:19 PM CST
Liz and Kousa, are you interested in some fresh High Noon seeds this fall? My new TP looks to be making quite a few. Let me know.
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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kousa
Jun 18, 2015 6:49 PM CST
Thanks for offering, graycrna4u. I still have seeds that I picked up from the seminar last year. I am planning to plant them soon. I'd like to give these a try before I get anymore seeds. It is very nice of you to offer them. Are you going to plant some yourself?


Liz, those damaged plants look really bad. No wonder you are frustrated. Now that I have seen these damages, I am amazed that your other peonies can brush Mother Nature aside and continue to bud and flower for you. Just incredible. What a testament to the toughness of these plants.
[Last edited by kousa - Jun 18, 2015 6:56 PM (+)]
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Name: Annette
Duluth, Ga (Zone 7a)
Charter ATP Member Birds Tropicals Hummingbirder Bulbs Region: Georgia
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Cem9165
Jun 18, 2015 9:21 PM CST
Liz, I feel your pain about the frost damage, and I live in zone 7a/7b. This is the 1st year I had so many plants affected. I initially thought it was botrytis, but it wasn't. I also had to trim many of my plants due to the damage Crying

I will be following this thread closely to see what happens with your plants next year. I'm sorry to see that you had so much damage this spring.
"Aspire to inspire before you expire"

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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
Jun 19, 2015 8:04 PM CST

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It's too much work for me. I love growing peonies because of their ease of care. Once in a while I will have an issue with some due to weather but they always bounce back without any trouble. That's why I love em.

Best of luck on your project.
Tracey
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
Jun 19, 2015 9:19 PM CST
Yeah, this is the worst I've seen, hopefully next spring will be better. Most of the significant damage was limited to one bed. Guess I know not to put anything I'm really attached to in that one! Here's hoping the improvised frost/hail damage prevention methods work next year.
Karen, it is amazing how the vast majority managed to pull through. I don't think a single one completely avoided damage. Some of the earlier bloomers had buds that were deformed, even if there were other buds that opened well. My double fernleaf looked pretty sad this year! Even the early growers thad aren't early bloomers had snapped stems, sheared buds and some seriously deformed stems--several looked like a major series of S curves! I could barely get the stems that I cut of Heidi in the vase because of deformed stems. And this is the first year I've ever had deer eat buds and blooms. Don't know what to expect next! Late bloomers seem to be doing pretty good right now, though, so the season isn't a complete loss. And it looks like most survived. I do need to move some though. There is absolutely no reason my Bartzella shouldn't be large by now except for location.
Graycrna4u, I don't think I saw a picture of your High Noon when it bloomed, was it beautiful? I have one but it's tiny, probably a few years off from blooming. I'd certainly take some seed though, let me know if I can collect any of mine for you. The only trees that I have that didn't have the buds destroyed are Phoenix White, Alice Harding and Yae-zakura. Yae-zakura was more white that I expected, it's supposed to be a pale pink. Phoenix White bloomed much larger than in previous years, was quite pretty this season. Think Karen's recommended fertilizer improved the size on several of my peonies, that's the only positive for the bloom season so thanks for the tip, Karen! I can also let some herbaceous go to seed if there are any you're interested in trying. I had several that bloomed last year that didn't this year, though.
Tracey, the initial setup will be a bit of a pain but I think it'll be worth it. I'll have the majority of it set up this fall when I cut back foliage for the season.
Has anyone actually cut down many tomato cages to use for peony rings? Those things are surprisingly tough! I thought I'd be able to use the tin snips that we typically use to cut the wire mesh fencing but it didn't even dent it! I might still be trying to get the things cut in half this fall! I've done 3 so far, need to cut 10 in half....might have do some improvising.....
Liz
[Last edited by LizinElizabeth - Jun 19, 2015 9:22 PM (+)]
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graycrna4u
Jun 22, 2015 6:13 PM CST
Here are some pictures of High Noon. I got it for $49 and it had seven buds on it.
Thumb of 2015-06-23/graycrna4u/0655f1


Thumb of 2015-06-23/graycrna4u/a01c07




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
Jun 22, 2015 6:40 PM CST

Moderator

Beautiful plant. oh what a find !
Tracey
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
Jun 22, 2015 9:25 PM CST
Great find, graycrna4u! Congratulations, bet you're excited! I actually got a tip that one of the larger nurseries here carries tree peonies in the spring. It's not close (nothing is to Elizabeth!) but I'll make the trek next spring. Otherwise it's mail order for me! Already scouting out new spots for an order from Tree Peony Garden....
Liz

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