There are a number of challenging plants that most good gardeners would like to grow and these include peonies (sometimes referred to as a peony roses as the flower resemble roses although the peonies are not related to roses). Of all the peonies, tree peonies are the most difficult plants to grow.
The desire to grow or admire peonies is not a modern phenomenon. Peonies grown in China were once a luxury item, selling for the equivalent of thousands of dollars for one flower stem.
The genus name Paeonia is derived from Paion, the physician to the gods in Greek mythology, implying praise for something of exceptional quality. Peonies are also very difficult plants to grow. Despite this, the good points about peonies, which make them so desirable in a cool climate garden are:
- they are among the largest garden flowers with a range of colours from lemon yellow to shades or red and pink to almost black.
- the colourful flowers are at their peak throughout spring and are a decorative addition to any cottage garden.
- herbaceous peonies are grown for cut flowers, are perennial and reach a height of almost 1m (3′).
- they are rare and difficult plants to grow, so when grown well are a triumph for any gardener.
- mostly used for perennial borders because of their profusion of bloom and their attractive foliage.
There are many species and cultivated varieties of peonies but they are broadly divided into two groups in the garden:
- tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa Hybrids), which are shrubby plants not trees that do not die down below ground in winter
- herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), smaller growing plants that do die down to below ground in winter and reshoot in spring.
All peonies need cool climates and are best grown only in the colder parts of Australia including mountain districts, parts of Victoria and Tasmania.
Tree peony details
Of the two types, the tree peony is the harder plant to grow. As well, plants are extremely expensive to buy and tend to be available only from specialist nurseries. When buying tree peonies always look for named varieties and ask for cultural notes to accompany your purchase. Plants can be bought in pots or as tubers when dormant.
Recommended varieties: Although tree peonies are notoriously difficult to grow there are some recommended varieties that are a little more vigorous and so easier to grow. These are all forms of Japanese tree peonies.Four varieties recommended by John Roberts are : ‘Souvenir de Maxime Cornu’ (Paeonia xlemoinei)commonly sold as ‘Kinshe’- a large, full double yellow flower, tipped with orange
- ‘Happy Days’- yellow flower
- ‘Black Panther’- black-red flower with yellow anthers
- ‘Thunderbolt’ – dark red flower
- Raised garden beds which provides good drainage which is essential.
- Application of some form of lime such as dolomite which is essential for peonies to grow well. Best soil pH is 7-7.5. Add dolomite lime to soil when planting.
- They will grow in sun and probably best with just the edge off the sun and need protection from scorching sun.
- Protection from the wind because the stems can snap in strong wind, especially with the herbaceous peonies.
- Mulch to protect root zone.
Peonies can be found at the following specialist nurseries and are not usually available in areas where the peonies won’t grow. Peonies are sold when the plants are dormant in winter (around June). Herbaceous Peonies are also sold as potted specimens throughout the year.
The Heritage Nursery
Banks St, Weston Park, Yarralumla, 2600
Phone: (02) 6281 7373
Kirkconnell Limberlost Nursery
Sunny Corner Road Yetholme 2795
Phone: (02) 6337 5290
Phone: (02) 6021 6247
Mount Boyce Nursery
Phone: (02) 4787 8339.
355 Great Western Highway
Phone: (02) 4787 5133
Mt Murray Nursery
Headlam Rd, Moss Vale
(02) 4869 4111
Blows Bros Nursery
150 Sturt Valley Road Stirling 5152
Phone: (08) 8339 1309
91 Mt Barker Rd Stirling 5152
Phone: (08) 8339 1595
Dicksonia Rare Plants
341 Mt Macedon Road Mt Macedon 3441
Phone: (03) 5426 3075
4 Banksia Road Heidelberg
Phone: (03) 9458 8433
Tesselaar Bulbs and Flowers
357 Monbulk Road Silvan 3795
Phone: (03) 9737 9811
156 Townsend Road Whittington 3219
Phone: (03) 5248 1458
Wishing Well Nursery
407 Monbulk Road Monbulk 3793
Phone: (03) 9756 6107
Phone: (03) 9737 9202
470 MONBULK ROAD, MONBULK, 3793
Phone: 1300 606 242
Misty Downs Nursery
2301 Midland Hwy, Springmount 3364
Phone: (03) 5345 2847
283 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, 3000
Phone: 0417 015 520
Victoria Street, Youngtown TAS 7249
Phone: (03) 6343 1800
New Town Station Nursery
65 Bellevue Parade New Town 7008
Phone: (03) 6228 7705
PO Box 435 Devonport 7310
Phone: (03) 6424 5847
Van Diemens Quality Bulbs
363 Table Cape Rd, Wynyard, 7325
Phone: 1800 179 113