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Stems keeling, please!

Posted by cailinriley z3 Calgary AB (My Page) on
Wed, May 31, 06 at 23:35

I often lurk in this forum--looking for photos, especially--but now I need someone's help.

Last year, I bought a small Paeonia anemoniflora. It survived the winter, and seemed to be growing well. Last weekend, I noticed that a couple of stems were lying on the ground. There seemed to be no blackening or unusual discolouring, but the leaves were obviously not doing well as they were wilting. I thought that a small animal (or my dogs) had somehow managed to bend the stems.

However, the same thing has happened to the remaining stems--except for one. I don't think it's botrytis, but I'm at a loss as to what it could be and what to do about it. I'm hoping that someone with more experience can help me save my plant. I love this variety, and it's not that easy to find around here.

Click to enlarge.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Stems keeling, please!

  • Posted by mozart2 Zone 5 Michigan (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 4, 06 at 16:14


I've enlarged the photo - in order to take a closer look - and from what I can see, the stems don't look "crushed" or "caved -in". From this observation, I would suspect either of the following:

Either your garden has gone through a heavy rainfall with the results that some of the stems were slightly weakened to the point that they can't - at this time - support the leaves.

Or - your garden has experienced a period of relatively drought - along the soil looks moist around the plant - and thus the plants don't have sufficient moisture/nutrients to "carry the load" of some of the leaves.

Or - your plant is planted in a somewhat compacted soil, i.e. clay, etc. and your peony is also suffering from either condition above.

A possible solution:

Place some 24 - 30 inch bamboo stakes - cheap and easily obtainable at most garden centers/hardware stores - and place them into the ground just outside the root area.

Gently pick up the fallen leaves and keep them in a more upright position by wrapping some string around one of the stakes, then wrap the string around another stake and continue the process until the leaves are secure in a more upright position.

I then might give this plant a dash of 1/4 strength water based - perferably organic based - i.e. fish emulsion - fertilizer and water the plant. Don't over fertilize - i.e. gallons of the stuff - and then let it rest and let the plant heal itself.

The use of an organic mulch of a few inches will help keep the root area moist and add nutrients as the mulch gradually "ages" or dissolves into the soil.

All of this fertilization process is greatly dependent upon your soil structure, the amount of watering/rainfall - current or recent and the needs of the peony. In short, don't become a "horticultural drug dealer" and overdose your plant. ;>)

In the meantime, I will suggest several excellent books for you to read the first few being very important and excellent reads.

How and Why of Better Gardening by Laurance Manning

This book is, unfortunately, out of print, but it is still the best book on the how and why of better gardening - written from the viewpoint of the needs of the plant, i.e. soil conditions for good root growth, etc. I have an old copy in my personal library and wouldn't depart with it or even loan it to someone. I'd suggest that you try to obtain a copy via your public library interlibrary loan system.

Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perenyi

Along with Laurence Manning's book, this is the other "best" book on the subject of gardening - read her chapters on "Failure" and on "Pruning" and you'll find out why. Like Manning's book, it is a treasure in my own personal library.

How to have a green thumb without an aching back: A new method of mulch gardening by Ruth Stout

Since organic mulching may greatly assist you in your gardening efforts, I am also highly recommending this little gem. Ruth is the sister of Rex Stout, the author of mystery stories. While I was serving as President of The Herb Guild - in Peoria, IL - many decades ago, I presented a very interesting 16mm film of showing her method of gardening and a bit of her "Yankee" eccentricity. The member of the Guild and I found out that she often garden (rural countryside of CT) in the nude. In the film, her husband commented that she must have spent a lot of time in the garden one day; he knew because the cars were traveling at a very slow pace for a long period of time around their rural home.

Oh well - a very spirited "young" lady in my book!

Peonies by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall

Finally, of course, there is this book on Peonies. A sumptuous, well illustrated, informational book.

Peonies by Allan Rogers

I don't have this second book in my personal library as yet, but since I've read it, I'll also give it my recommendation.

You can, of course, obtain each of these books at your library or through various used/new book sellers found at either or

Hope the "conjectured analysis and solution" from afar will resolve your concerns and bring them to a happy resolution. In the meantime, I do hope that you will find your "homework" assignment(s) to be both enjoyable and rewarding.

Best wishes in your endeavors.


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