Planting shorter varieties = no staking??

summerstar(Z7VA)May 11, 2008

The first peonies I ever grew turned out to be really tall plants, over the 36" Gilbert Wild printed in their catalog. I was never able to find cages tall enough or figure out how to improvise and it just got frustrating. For my new garden I've decided to opt for the 28" to 34" height range, hoping I won't have to stake these. Am I right?

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The need to stake comes more from the weight of the bloom, rather than the over all height of the plant. The double bomb type blossoms are much heavier than the singles and are much more likely to require support. Most of the peony vendors that I have seen specify in their descriptions the ones that don't require support. Of course they are not always correct :)!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 10:21PM
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Last year in this forum I was discussing (with Jayco, I think) the height of Festiva Maxima peonies. His were much taller than mine. I don't fertilize and thought that might be the difference.

In Allan Rogers' book on peonies he says that a cool wet spring can add 8 inches to the height of some varieties. We have had a cold wet spring this year and I have never seen my FMs so tall!!! If it weren't pouring what feels like freezing rain I'd go out and measure them. Brrr, they are nowhere near blooming and still growing. They'll need support for sure this year.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 8:26AM
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jayco(5b NY)

Hi Rian -- yes, that was me (but I'm a she!) I also don't fertilize my peonies, though I do mulch them with some compost and wood chips. I think the height has to do with many factors. Mine get a lot of sun and are in heavy, moisture-retentive soil, which they seem to like.

BUT I still don't think shorter a FM would mean you don't get floppy flowers. I have a full double ('Lady Alexandra Duff') that is shorter than the 'Festiva Maxima,' but it still flops. Maybe not quite as badly, but if it rains, they are all doomed.

After a while of growing several different varieties, my feeling is that the majority of them flop without staking, the singles do better, the short singles do the best, but weather plays a big role as well.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 11:03AM
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Oops, sorry jayco, English really could use another gender-neutral pronoun. I did say in the original thread that I tried to support the FMs because of the trouble the big doubles had standing up to rain. When I don't get to it though, the smaller flowers that bloom later on and even the earlier larger flowers in the middle of the clump usually manage to stay upright...but maybe not this year.

Pick the early ones on the outer edge for bouquets just as they start to open up.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 12:04PM
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jayco(5b NY)

No need to apologize, Rian, I realize my screen name sounds male, though it didn't occur to me when I picked it... d'oh!

For me, part of growing peonies is just accepting that some of them will flop, because I'm too lazy to stake every stem. So I always cut a bunch for vases, and hope for a week without wind or rain. They are so beautiful, I guess they have to have one or two minor faults.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 12:20PM
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Nothing like a forum to get the truth. Thanks for the insight on the "Nature of Flopping Peonies" 101! Hollingsworth peonies appears to have honest descriptions, so I've used it to find varieties that are shorter. I'm also opting for singles and semi-double varieties to minimize staking. I'd deal with the flopping problem if I were a bit younger, but a back problem is causing me to reduce maintenance where I can. Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 1:13PM
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