The Peony – kicks the bucket in November

Peony in autumn
photo by SVSeekins

They make spring exciting: jumping out of the ground like cheerleaders & producing huge pom-pom flowers.  They even stand up to deer all summer.  Then it starts in September as soon as the fog & cooler temperatures arrive in Victoria  It’s not as exciting as their extravagant blooms, but Peonies add great fall interest with their changing leaf color.

Peony fall tidy up
photo by SVSeekins

By mid November they’re looking pretty shabby & the foliage starts to go a little slimy.  I’ve read that it’s better to cut these perennials back and not let the leafs rot on the ground.  Apparently the old material can hold & spread disease or bad bugs.  Either way, it’s the slimy foliage that convinces me to clean up.

crocosmia roots & all
photo by SVSeekins

There’s also something satisfying about rescuing the tomato cages that worked so hard to support the monster blooms last summer.  They stack up & fit nicely in the dry garden shed for the rainy season.

It’s been a full year since the crocosmia were welcome in this bed.  I carefully migrated the colony elsewhere to give the day lilies a fighting chance.  With the Peonies cut back, and the soil nicely soft, it’s an excellent opportunity to pull out any rogue crocosmia.  How many years will it take before the crocosmia is truly gone?

I’m leaving the day lilies alone until they die back completely this year.  Hopefully that’ll send as much energy as possible down into the roots so they’re healthier & ready to grow & form a bigger clump next year.  With all the spring crocus & daffodils in this bed, the lily leafs come out in time to hide the bulbs once their show wraps up.

I’m getting closer to being satisfied with this as a 4 season bed.

spring – action extravaganza – bulbs, peonies & Rhodos bloom
summer – solid border + day lily bloom
fall – fall foliage color
winter – hmm…  A little barren.    Any ideas?


© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

6 thoughts on “The Peony – kicks the bucket in November”

  1. It’s taken my peonies a long time to bloom and they are very slow to get up in the spring but I enjoy every moment of the blooms. I cut them down in the fall too and take away the foliage. One of mine has a companion plant friend, some kind of blue flower, It’s kind of neat to see it spring up and bloom, it’s a surprise each time it happens.

    1. All the peonies that I grow had to be moved away from the house foundation when we had to re-do drain tile. What I learned at that time is that peonies are particular about how deep in the ground they are transplanted. Some clumps successfully bloomed the following year. Others took a couple years. And there are a few that have grown each year, but have yet to bloom (4 years later). I’m still holding out to see if they’ll ever bloom. Perhaps i also divided them into pieces that were too small and the tubers are gathering strength…

  2. Winter ideas – I have found that some perennial grasses can have fall blooms that last well into winter. They add height and they sway beautifully in the cold November wind. Ours usually last until we get a brutal snow fall (Januaryish) that breaks the seed heads/blooms off.

  3. In Italy at this time of year, with temperatures similar to Victoria, they grow cyclamen (in pots at least) outside and they seem to thrive and bloom (usually seen in window boxes or balconies – most people live in apartments). I wonder how they would do in our gardens? I have a few in my grass that are miniatures, but the ones in Italy look like the potted variety all our grocery stores are selling in the flower section, often found outside. That may give you the winter colour for your peony bed?! But I don’t know if the deer would leave them alone…

    1. Unfortunately the larger varieties that you saw in Italy in December won’t winter over outside here.
      There are several varieties of cyclamen that survive on southern Vancouver Island though, smaller ones, like you have. Several have been planted in our garden with success. Most of the cyclamen bloom late August through November. I did find an unusual one at the Horticultural Center of the Pacific in 2010 & planted it under that Rhodo, just behind the peonies. Happily I did run across a survivor in December & it was blooming – granted it was pretty tiny. My fingers are crossed that it’ll gain strength & multiply like the cyclamen at Abkhazi Gardens. There’s also my favorite – called cyclamen coum that blooms later (about February). It is pricey, but wonderful. I’ve invested in several & put them below the apple trees. We all need a pick-me-up in February.

    2. This winter i noticed that Heike had several cyclamen on her front porch. (She said they were long living specimens from the grocery store) Apparently when the deer get really cocky, they’ll come right up to snack on the blooms. I’d love more cyclamen, but for now I’m putting in more snowdrops coz they look great in January & February before the peony get busy growing again.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.