About CPS / SCP

About the Founder by Len Monkman

Our founder John Simkins is indeed a remarkable individual. In one of our issues I hope to give you a brief history of his life (to-date!) but with limited space I would like to point out that to start a new society in one’s eightieth year is itself remarkable.

John is an OHA Master Gardener as many of you will know, who specializes in peonies growing about 1200 of them around his home and maintaining a hive of bees to ensure fertilization. He is a past President of the American Peony Society and also the Oakville Horticultural Society (more than once), a past director of the RBG and OHA and a professional member and past Director of the Garden Writers of America. He finds time to write a weekly column for the Oakville Beaver. In his “spare time” he serves his church as a bell ringer, prayer giver, reader and chalice bearer and sets up coffee service for the mid week morning service.

On top of all this he also does volunteer Horticultural Therapy at the Oakville hospital with geriatric patients. As has been said many times “If you want something doing ask a busy person?” That would be John.

About the Society

The Canadian Peony Society was formed in January 1998. Our Constitution was adopted at the first Annual meeting in June 98.

Our aims are: to promote the growing, improving and use of peonies in the garden and for home decoration; to encourage peony breeding to produce distinctly Canadian peony hybrids; to locate and record locally bred peonies, and produce a national registry of collections and their location; and, to sponsor an annual peony show and encourage regional shows.

The Society’s activities include: an online discussion group on Yahoo; plant sales; a seed exchange; and an annual national flower show. In addition, regional chapters of the Society are being formed, whose activities include local educational meetings, garden tours, and root sales. There is an active Breeding Program and a Heritage programme is being organised. Membership is open to anyone with an interest in peonies.

Enquiries about the Canadian Peony Society may be directed to

Au sujet de la Société canadienne de la pivoine

La Société canadienne de la pivoine fut créée en janvier 1998. Notre Constitution fut adoptée durant la première réunion annuelle en juin 98.

Notre but est de promouvoir la culture, l’amélioration et l’utilisation des pivoines dans l’aménagement de nos jardins; d’encourager l’hybridation des pivoines de façon à obtenir des pivoines typiquement canadiennes, de localiser et d’enregistrer les pivoines développées chez-nous et de créer un registre national des collections et de leur localisation et enfin offrir une exposition annuelle des pivoines et encourager des expositions régionales.

Les activités de la Société incluent un groupe de discussion sur Yahoo, la vente de racines, l’échange de graines et une Exposition florale nationale annuelle (Annual National Flower show). De plus des filiales régionales de la Société sont en développement; leurs activités incluent des réunions locales éducatives, des visites de jardins et la vente de racines. Il existe un programme d’hybridation en pleine activité et un programme Patrimoine est en cours d’organisation, La Société accueille autant les novices que les spécialistes des pivoines.

Flower Forms in Peonies

by Reiner Jakubowksi

There are five basic flower forms generally acknowledged to occur in herbaceous peonies. Unfortunately, the demarcation where one form leaves off, and another begins, is not always distinct, nor sharply defined.

Some varieties may express themselves as different forms one year to the next in response to weather or nutrient levels, and other varieties defy flower form classification because they display two or more forms on the same plant during any given season. The following is an attempt to clarify flower forms, at least in my own mind.

This is the basic simple peony with a number of petals surrounding a center composed of functional stamens and carpels.

Five petals is the normal number found in wild peonies but cultivated varieties generally have more than this, often nine to twelve. Even with twelve petals they may start to overlap with the semi-doubles for show purposes. Singles have pollen-bearing anthers and there is a sharp demarcation between petals and the stamens in the centre.

Examples include: ‘Sea Shell’, ‘Krinkled White’, ‘Pico’, ‘White Wings’, ‘Dawn Pink’, ‘Josette’, ‘America’, ‘Spellbinder’, ‘President Lincoln’, ‘Scarlet O’Hara’.

Single Peony

This form very much resembles the singles to many people. Closer examination of the anthers reveals that there is no free pollen. This results in a flower that has the simplicity in form of a single while maintaining the petals in pristine condition unsoiled by dropped pollen.

The Japanese people prized these characteristics and many of the first peonies of this type were imported from Japan.
The stamens have begun the transformation towards doubling, and pollen, though often present, is encased in tissue and unavailable, but it has been excised and used in cross-pollination by some peony breeders, notably Edward Auten Jr.

Anthers are the pollen bearing structures of the flower and they are supported on slender stalks termed filaments, which taken together make up the stamens.

In the Japanese form the filaments have broadened and flattened to some degree and the anthers are incompletely developed, also called abortive by some authors. The transformed stamens at this stage are termed staminodes and these are the distinguishing characteristic of Japanese form peonies.

During World War II there was some pressure to rename this flower form and the term most preferred at the time was “Staminodal”. A descriptive term such as this may have helped avoid much of the confusion and error with which we have to deal today when talking about “Japanese” and ‘Anemone” forms. As a result it is unreliable to depend on published registration information to determine flower form where Japanese and Anemone types are concerned.

Staminodes may be in a colour contrasting with the guard petals. Almost invariably the edges, especially at the tip, are yellow, representing what remains of the pollen or its pigments. Even when the staminodes are yellow all over, close examination will reveal either a change in shade or texture along the edges.

Examples include: ‘Westerner’, ‘Sword Dance’, ‘Nippon Brilliant’, ‘Nippon Beauty’, ‘Shaylor’s Sunburst’, ‘Rosaurea’

Japanese Peony

These blooms represent the next progression in “all-over stamen transformation” doubling (the Japanese form being the first stage).

The staminodes have transformed even further and have lost any resemblance to the filaments and anthers from which they were derived. They look more petal-like, albeit very narrow in many cases, and are now referred to as petalodes, or sometimes petaloids by some authors.

Petalodes are almost always a single colour throughout, which can be the same as the guard petals or a contrasting colour, often yellow or white.

Many of the Anemone type peonies have a strong superficial resemblance to the Japanese form and this, along with a few other factors, has resulted in most of them being registered as Japanese.

Anemones seem to have been ignored ever since Alice Harding wrote (about 1920) that there were very few good examples of this form. Much has changed since then and today some of the most striking peonies are to be found in this class.

The American Peony Society Handbook of 1953 describes anemone type peonies in an adequate manner, yet in that same document where representatives of the various types are listed, Anemones are nowhere to be found.

Instead, it lists “Novelties. All distinctly different Japanese.”, and includes as examples: ‘Bowl of Beauty’, ‘Break o’ Day’, ‘Do Tell’, ‘Dragon’s Nest’, ‘Fancy Nancy’, ‘Gay Paree’ and ‘Prairie Afire’.

Add to these ‘White Cap’ and ‘Butter Bowl’ and you would have a fine collection of distinctive and interesting peonies for the garden.

Anemone Peony

These have a profusion of outer petals that are derived from the transformation of stamens. The transformation begins at the outer edges of the boss of stamens and proceeds towards the centre but always there are functional stamens remaining. The better forms have a distinct centre made up of pollen bearing stamens and functional carpels.
Examples include:

‘Minnie Shaylor’, ‘Marie Jacquin’, ‘Miss America’, ‘Rare China’, ‘Red Goddess’, ‘The Mighty Mo’, ‘Lady Alexandra Duff’, ‘Silvia Saunders’, ‘Helen Matthews’, ‘Alexander Woollcott’.

Semi-double Peony

All superficial evidence of stamens is normally lacking in doubles since most of these have been fully transformed into petals. Careful searching may turn up a few in much reduced numbers but typically, when present, they are not seen unless carefully looked for.

Functional carpels are present in some varieties but absent, due to complete transformation, in others.

In the days when doubles were so highly esteemed, almost to the exclusion of all other forms, there were crown, bomb, semi-rose, and full rose doubles designated. Today the American Peony Society distinguishes only the bomb type, in which the guard petals are longer than the transformed petals, as distinct from the others for show class purposes.

The CPS does not yet have separate classes for the bomb doubles.

Examples include:‘Red Charm’, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, ‘Karl Rosenfield’, ‘Festiva Maxima’, ‘M. Jules Elie’, ‘Kansas’, ‘Ann Cousins’, ‘Louise Lossing’, ‘Shannon’

Double Peony

Showing Peonies

The following is quoted from the Ontario Judging and Exhibiting Standards for Horticulture and Floral Design, 2003 Edition.

Five basic flower forms are generally acknowledged. Sometimes classes are combined into one when the number of entries dictates such action. For instance, doubles are sometimes shown with semi-doubles in one class and anemones are usually shown with the Japanese form though some anemones are shown as doubles. Three peonies, when shown, may be entered under ‘Flowering Shrubs’ or in their own class in the Peony section.


Single: Peony with 5 or 10 petals (sometimes more) surrounding a centre composed of stamens and carpels. Singles have pollen-bearing anthers. Examples: ‘Sea Shell’, ‘Krinkled White’.

Japanese: This form very much resembles the singles. Closer examination of the anthers reveals that there is no free pollen. The stamens have begun the transformation towards doubling, and pollen, though often present, is encased in tissue and unavailable. Examples: ‘Flying Tiger’, ‘Snowy Hills’. The filaments, which support the anthers, have also become some-what flattened. These transformed stamens are termed staminodes and are usually coloured with a yellow edge or tip. Examples: ‘Westerner’, Sword Dance’.

Anemone: These blooms represent the next progression in doubling. The staminodes have transformed even further and have lost any resemblance to the filaments and anthers from which they were derived. They look more petal-like, albeit narrower, and are now referred to as petaloids. They tend to be of one colour, which can be the same as the guard petals or a contrasting colour, often yellow or white. Examples: ‘Gay Paree’, White Cap’.

Semi-Double: These have a profusion of petals but always have pollen-bearing stamens and carpels. Examples: ‘Minnie Chiller’, ‘Marie Jacqui’, ‘Miss America’.

Double: Evidence of stamens and carpels is normally lacking since these have been fully transformed into petal. Careful searching may turn up a few of these structures in much reduced form. Typically, when present, they are not seen unless carefully examined. Examples: ‘Red Charm’, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’.

Points to consider


  • In Singles and Japanese, the outer petals should form a cupped pattern.
  • Stamens and/or staminodes should be firmly held to make a compact centre.
  • Singles, Japanese and Anemone forms look best when freshly opened while they still retain a cupped form.
  • Doubles should have recurved petals to form a fine rosebud centre. doubles generally need to be fully open when judged.

Conditioning and Grooming:

  • Specimens should be disbudded unless schedule calls for buds or multiple bloom on one stem.


  • All leaves except the uppermost are typically removed.

Pests & Disease

Recognizing Root Knot & Lemoine Disease

by Don Hollingsworth, APS Director – Maryville, Missouri in cooperation with the Canadian Peony Society.
Photos & editing by Reiner Jakubowski

The food storage roots of well-grown healthy peonies will generally by symmetrical in outline and in cross section, smooth of surface. If there are branch storage roots, expect them to be smaller but otherwise similar. Also, by late summer, as we get into digging season, expect the current year feeder roots (those which have not taken on food storage character) to be mostly gone. New white feeder roots will be showing on peonies dug in later autumn when cool moist soil enables the next growth cycle to get underway. Peony roots showing distortion of growth may signal disease.

When cleaning peony roots for processing, seeing sequenced lumps of varying sizes that are interrupting the expected straight surface suggests Lemoine Disease (Figure 1, red arrow). Confirm the diagnosis by cutting across a lump.

On the exposed face of the cut will be seen an irregularly shaped inclusion, usually surrounded by healthy tissue (Figure 1a). The inclusion color will be light-yellow, of smooth texture. Normal tissue is an opaque milky-white, rich with starch. The infected plant may or may not be suspected unless looking at the roots upon being dug and cleaned.

Known only in peonies, I find no modern plant pathology research on Lemoine Disease. The name “Lemoine Disease” was given by early growers upon finding it in plants received from Europe. Not all plants are affected alike. For example, insofar as I am aware there is no stock of peony (lactiflora) ALICE HARDING that is free of Lemoine symptoms, nevertheless the plant is very vigorous and flowers beautifully. Another peony lifted because of poor growth was found to be in the last stages of deterioration, the roots “pitted” where the infection sites had become open to the surface (Fig 1 above -White arrow- the onset of pitting)

In the past, virus origin was speculated. But what is the vector? In 40 years I have never seen evidence of natural transfer between adjacent plants. Close trimming to eliminate symptoms has never yielded a healthy plant for us. With few exceptions, plants found infected here got to incineration or landfill. The exceptions are plants held for breeding interest, there being no evidence of transmission through seeds. My observations lead me to conclude transfer is largely or entirely by mankind in sap residues on cutting tools. Sanitation is essential. We routinely dip cutting tools in ordinary rubbing alcohol as a disinfectant upon finishing each essential. We routinely dip cutting tools in ordinary rubbing alcohol as a disinfectant upon finishing each plant.

Root Knot Nematode

Meloidogyne Hapla

Unlike Lemoine lumps, root knot nematode infestation is typically first noticed upon seeing much-branched feeder roots bearing small galls (figure 2).

Each gall is a “ball” of root tissue which has grown around one or more living parasites. Branching results when the root tip is destroyed (fig 3, white arrow). Later in autumn on rootlets of the new cycle, the symptoms will be first noticed as a thickening, the branching and crooking may already be present. (fig 3, red arrow)

Figure 4 Infestation builds with egg-layering females, rootlets become much-branched and present themselves as ‘wads’ of rootlets. Root-knot nematodes are suppressed in clay soil where air spaces are small. When surviving only close to the surface they are vulnerable to winter frost. Sandy soils are deeply well aerated, enabling them to succeed at greater depth where there is protection from severe winter cold.

Severe infestations usually develop over two or more seasons. Plants will become sickly, the stems remaining thin and short, flowering fails. Accordingly, when properly planted peonies are not growing as expected it makes sense to inspect roots by taking up sample plants for diagnosis. Second season infection often shows what might be called side galls because the imperfection will show on only one side (Fig.5).

When a malady is found the first concern is to practice careful sanitation. Contain the roots and adjacent soil so they can be removed from the premises without spreading contamination. This is where that old and persistent rule, “never replant a peony without replacing all of the soil”, gains credibility. It makes no sense to put a new division into a nest of corruption. If in doubt whether the site can be successfully cleaned, grow a plant that is not susceptible for three years or more. True grasses are generally not susceptible. No known chemical treatments labelled to control root knot

Figure 5 Second season infection shows side galls nematodes are available to home gardeners.

The female root knot nematode is an obligatory and sedentary parasite. “Obligatory” in that is cannot mature nor reproduce unless it successfully parasitizes a host; “sedentary” means it becomes stationary. The nematode is genetically endowed to invade the physiology of the host plant, alter the root growth pattern around it, but is then unable to move. To accomplish this, the offspring, tiny nymphs that can move perhaps a couple of inches under their own power, must enter a growing root tip where the cells are dividing. The parasite retards the plant by preventing normal root reach, limiting water uptake, mineral uptake and competing for nutrients that would otherwise be used by the plant.

How do these tiny nymphs get spread greater distances? On infested planter pieces, in soil sticking to tools, on shoes, or animals and in run-off water. So, pay attention not only to your own plants, but also to the plants you may obtain from other gardeners or commercial sources.

The next issue is whether to try saving an infested plant. It can usually be done. The first step is to wash the roots free of soil on a grassy spot where the runoff drains away from growing areas. Remove all small roots at their point of origin – this is normal practice anyway – with the caution that infected waste needs to be carefully contained and destroyed. That takes care of the easy part.

Examine larger storage roots for any surface irregularities that might signal embedded older nematode galls. Nematode sites incorporated into bigger roots will have also grown larger with secondary infestation. Cut away root sections showing large irregularities. Small imperfections may be cored out, including any internal specks of discoloration. One member of any forked pair of roots should be removed, the point of separation examined, discoloured tissue removed.

Underground peony anatomy is made of two primary organs. One is stem tissue (the crown), the other is the roots. New root growth can come from either, but the nematode can only parasitize at the actively dividing cells of a growing root tip. True crown tissue is inherently without root-knot parasites, although nymphs can be carried on the surface and a good scrubbing may be helpful. Because the crown of a well-known peony plant normally contains substantial stored food, it is possible to produce planter pieces without support from true roots. One may also graft crown buds onto nematode free roots for added strength. Thus an observant and careful gardener may clean up infested stock and grow nematode free plants. Part of prudence will be to grow the plants in a quarantine area for the first cycle so they can be examined again before lining out with other stock.

For additional information, obtain the American Peony Society’s publications Handbook of the Peony, see pages 70-86, and APS, 75 Years see Chapter 4, Diseases and Pests.

Botrytis paeoniae

A fungal disease more prominent especially in very wet seasons. The stems of your plant develop cankers or blacken at the base and fall over or simply wilt. Leaves may show black or brown patches and buds may turn brown and fail to open. Good culture and sanitation in the garden can help prevent or correct these problems. Plants need good drainage and air circulation, so do not crowd. Remove any affected foliage at the first sign of disease and deadhead religiously, removing all flower parts and petals from the garden. Cut off all foliage just below soil level after a killing frost in the fall and remove it and any debris from the area — do not compost. If botrytis was present the previous spring, add a shallow layer of sand around the plants and crowns. Fungal spores overwinter at the base of the plants, and spring rains then splash the spores up onto the new shoots. Removing any debris and old foliage and covering the soil with sand helps prevent reinfection.

Life Cycle
Botrytis fungi are both saprophytic and parasitic. The spore-producing structures of the fungus develop along the base of the rotting stalks and survive in debris left in the garden over the winter. In the spring, spores form and spread to dying, wounded, or extremely soft plant tissues. As the disease progresses, a gray mold develops. The gray mold is made up of spores that are either wind-blown or splashed onto new tissues and infect.

Phytophthora cactorum

Another blight may also appear, but the two diseases are hard to tell apart, this disease is usually fatal to the plant and infected plants should be dug up and destroyed, and the soil replaced before replanting.

Diseases of Herbaceous and Tree Peonies

by Serge Fafard, Les Jardins Osiris

The most common diseases of peonies are:

  • Cladosporium paeoniae – this causes brown spots on leaves which appear after the bloom.
  • Botrytis paeoniae – This produces gray mould on both tree and herbaceous peonies
  • Phytophthora cactorum – a fungal disease which turns stems of herbaceous peonies black and eventually kills them.
  • Powdery mildew – this disease produces a white powdery film on the surface of leaves, generally after flowering.
  • Verticillium – this causes peonies to wilt.

To avoid diseases, prevention is the best solution.

  1. Always plant your peony roots in well-drained soil and try to build the soil up a little on top of the peony so that rainwater runs off and does not accumulate in a dip in the soil. If water accumulates around the peony roots, they will rot. Leave sufficient space between peonies so that air can circulate properly as this will reduce the incidence of mildew.
  2. Keep the peony clean all summer long by taking off any leaves and flowers showing signs of disease. In the fall, cut all of the stems of herbaceous peonies at about 5 cm above soil level, and throw them in the garbage. Do not ever compost any peony debris, as you risk spreading fungal diseases.
  3. Don’t fertilize with high levels of nitrogen as peonies prefer more potash, which stimulates flowering instead of fast green growth.
  4. Don’t put straw or compost up next to the stems of peonies because too much humidity in that area from either product will cause Botrytis to spread.


  1. In the spring, even before seeing any sign of disease, you should take preventative measures.
  2. As producers, we have permission from the Minister of Agriculture to use various systemic products such as Captan, Royral and Senator. We use them rarely, preferring to use biological controls.
  3. For those who do not have a permit from the Minister of Agriculture, you could use Safer’s Defender or Bordeaux by Wilson.
  4. To combat Powdery Mildew, there are always the old, traditional methods that our ancestors used, such as urine on the foliage, but the smell it leaves behind is very disagreeable! Spraying a mixture of milk and water – one part 3.25% milk with five parts water might be preferable. Alternatively, you can spray with a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and water – 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, ½ tsp of liquid soap, 4 litres of water.
  5. I’d like to mention as well something I use which is rarely mentioned when talking about treating fungal problems in peonies. It’s iodine – the type which is sold to farmers to cleanse the vats and all of the pipes used for storing and transporting milk. I get mine from Laboratoires Ultrateck, but it can be purchased from any vendor of this type of iodine.

To treat many diseases such as blackened buds, wilting, mildew or airborn botrytis, I use a foliar spray made up of 3ml of iodine to 20 liters of water. If the problem is on the roots, you have to soak the plant with a large quantity of liquid (the same proportions as set out above) so that it will destroy fungal problems on the roots. Pour the solution on slowly and allow to penetrate well.

I find Iodine is also very useful in treating nematodes. Nematodes (Meloidogyne) are microscopic worms which attach themselves to peony roots and which cause a decline in health over time. As the years pass, the stems become shorter and shorter, the flowers become smaller and paler, and the size of your plant shrinks. Nematodes love sandy, poor soil. We soak plants suspected of having nematodes in the same way as we do peonies with root problems, as mentioned above.

Pivoines arbustives et herbacées – Les maladies

by Serge Fafard, Les jardins Osiris

Les maladies les plus courantes sont :

  • Cladosporium paeoniae : Taches brunes sur les feuilles sur les pivoines herbacées et arbustives, après la fleuraison.
  • Botritis paeoniae : Pourriture grise chez les pivoines arbustives et herbacées.
  • Phythophthora cactorum: Mildou qui fait mourir les tiges des pivoines herbacées.
  • Le Mildiou poudreux produit une couche grise poudreuse sur la surface des feuilles.
  • Verticillium: Flétrissement chez les pivoines arbustives et herbacées.

Pour éviter les maladies, la prévention est le meilleur moyen pour éliminer tous les types de champignons.

  1. Toujours planter dans un sol bien drainé, il faut que la pivoine soit sur une partie convexe du sol et non concave. Il ne faut pas que le surplus d’eau s’accumule à la base car la pivoine n’aime pas les sols trop humides.Un bon espacement entre les plants est aussi recommandé, une bonne circulation d’air aide beaucoup à réduire le mildiou.
  2. Nettoyer la pivoine tout au long de la saison en lui enlevant toutes les parties sèches autant le feuillage que les fleurs fanées après la floraison. À l’automne coupé toutes les tiges des pivoines herbacées (à 5 cm du sol) et les jeter aux poubelles et non pas au compost. (Elles peuvent provoquer des maladies fongiques dans le compost.)
  3. Éviter les engrais à trop forte quantité d’azote, la pivoine préfère les engrais avec plus de potasse, ce qui stimule la floraison.
  4. Éviter de mettre le paillis ou le compost près du pied des pivoines, car le paillis garde trop d’humidité et provoque du Botrytis. Quant au compost, en plus s’il n’est pas suffisamment composté, il peut lui aussi provoquer du botrytis.

Les Soins

  1. Au printemps, avant même qu’apparaissent les premiers signes de maladies, il est recommandé de faire quelques applications préventives. Par la suite, si le temps est humide il faudra répéter une fois à l’été et une autre à l’automne.
  2. Pour faire ces applications, ceux qui ont un permis du Ministère de l’Agriculture peuvent utiliser des produits systémiques comme le Captan, le Rovral, et le Senator.
  3. Pour ceux qui ne possèdent pas de permis, vous pouvez utiliser des produits biologiques ( ou presque) qui sont en vente libre. Je vous suggère le ‘Defender’ de la compagnie Safer’s ou bien le ‘Bordeaux’ de la compagnie Wilson.
  4. Pour combattre le mildiou poudreux ( feuillage devenant tout gris durant la saison, avec une fine couche de poudre) il reste toujours les anciennes méthodes que nos ancêtres utilisaient soit l’application d’urine sur le feuillage avec un inconvénient majeur soit la mauvaise odeur. Ou bien l’application de lait soit une partie de lait 3,25 % pour cinq parties d’eau. Ou encore l’utilisation de bicarbonate de soude (de la petite vache), 1 cuillère à thé de bicarbonate de soude, 1\2 cuillère à thé de savon liquide, mélangé avec 4 litres d’eau.
  5. J’aimerais mentionner un autre produit dont on parle rarement et que j’utilise fréquemment pour soigner toutes les maladies des pivoines. Ce produit c’est l’iode.Cet iode est le même qui est vendu aux agriculteurs pour nettoyer les cuves à lait ainsi que toute la tuyauterie utilisée pour la traite des vaches laitières. En ce qui me concerne je me procure mon iode à la compagnie ( Laboratoires Ultratek).

Pour traiter les maladies comme la rouille des boutons, le flétrissement, le mildiou ou le botrytis aérien, j’utilise l’iode de façon foliaire. Je dilue 3 ml d’iode dans 20 litres d’eau que j’applique (en spray) sur le feuillage des pivoines malades.Pour ce qui est du Botrytis qui est aux racines des pivoines, il faut traiter par immersion, c’est-à-dire verser une grande quantité de liquide (3 ml d’iode par 20 litres d’eau) pour que celui-ci pénètre le plus profondément possible afin de détruire les champignons des racines.

L’iode est aussi très efficace pour éliminer les nématodes. Les nématodes (Meloidogyne) ce sont des vers microscopiques qui s’attaquent aux racines des pivoines et qui peuvent causer sa perte à long terme. L’action des nématodes est favorisée par des sols légers et pauvres, donc sablonneux. Voici les symptômes qui pourraient vous indiquer que votre plante est attaquée par les nématodes. D’année en année, les tiges deviennent plus courtes, les fleurs de plus en plus petites et plus pâles, et la dimension de votre plant diminue. Pour traiter contre les nématodes, nous utilisons l’iode et nous procédons avec la méthode par immersion – versez lentement la solution dans le sol autour de la pivoine pour que ça puisse pénétrer le plus possible, afin d’éliminer les champignons.

  • Planting of Herbaceous and Intersectional Hybrids
  • Seasonal Care for Herbaceous and Intersectional Hybrids
  • Tree Peonies
  • Drying Peonies
  • Hybridizing your Own Peonies
  • Cutting and Storing Peony Flowers for Later Use

There are over 5,000 varieties of the common garden or herbaceous peony. Fall is the opportune time to plant your freshly dug roots. If you purchase a potted root these can be planted anytime of the year. Plant the crown at no deeper than 2″ below soil. If too low or too high it will hinder flowering. Plant in full sun with well drained soil. Never plant your peony in the same location where another peony has been planted before. Plant with well rotted manure in the planting hole and never use fresh manure. Make sure that the eyes and crown do not come into contact with the manure. Make sure to mulch your peony the first winter after planting. Remove mulch in spring when first roots emerge from soil. All peonies require a cold period (vernalization)

Spent flowers can be removed or left on, as you like. Some peonies, especially singles and semi-doubles, produce decorative seed heads after flowering. If you are collecting peony seeds, they are ripe just when pods begin to open in the fall. Peony cultivars do not come true from seed but seeds can be planted and many will germinate and grow, potentially giving new varieties.

Fertlizing may not be necessary if planted in heavy clay, however in sandy soil periodic top dressing with well aged compost in the fall helps maintain soil fertility. Apply compost around the peony but not directly on the crown. You can also use non-organic fertilizers as long as amounts of nitrogen are lower than the phosphorous and potassium. A ratio of 1:2:1(Nitrogen: Phosphorous: Potassium) is often recommended. There are no fertilizer recommendations that are applicable to all situations, but if you feel you have to fertilize, apply a half cup of 10-15-10 in early spring and another half cup just after flowering.

Once established peonies are reasonably drought resistant. If the first spring after planting is very dry the plants will benefit from receiving some water. Drip irrigation is always preferred to overhead watering as it reduces the chances of fungal diseases.

Herbaceous and species:
When planting your herbaceous roots make sure that the bud (little pink nub) is 1″ to 2″ below soil level. A 3 to 5 eye root will generally flower within 2 years of planting.

Plants will grow between 2 and 4feet tall, in a sunny location (at least 6 hours)in well drained, organic rich soil. Although peonies will tolerate a wide range of soil types. Top dress your peonies each fall with compost to improve soil structure and remember not to place compost directly on crown of plant. Never use fresh manure.

Planting Itersectional Hybrids (cross between a herbaceous and a tree peony) are a little different than herbaceous. Like the herbaceous they like full sun (6 hours or more) and well drained compost rich soil. They can grow up to 4 feet across and live for years with minimal care. Plant your root so the first eye above the crown is at soil level. Eyes may be on the crown or the stem. All visible eyes on crown should be 5 to 10cm under the soil surface and roots always pointing downward. Remember to mulch your Itoh for the first winter and never use fresh manure.

Fall Cleanup:
Remember to never cut down foliage right after flowering. This will remove the plants ability to make and store food reserves for next year’s growth and flowering. Peony foliage looks good after flowering, and many peonies have foliage that turns colour, providing fall interest. Foliage should remain on plant until touched by frost. In late fall cut herbaceous foliage to an inch (2.5cm) above ground, and cut the Itoh Group hybrids at about four inches (10cm). Dispose of foliage in garbage as this can overwinter fungal organisms.

Seasonal Care for Herbaceous and Intersectionals

Early Spring: If you have insufficient spring rains water. Side dress plants with compost or aged manure. If botrytis blight was present the previous season, cover ground around plant with a thin (one-quarter inch) layer of sand. Set stakes or other supports in place now.

Mid-Spring: Watch for signs of botrytis blight, removing any diseased tissue immediately. Train plants through supports. Remove side buds if exhibition-size blooms are desired.

Late Spring: Deadhead Peonies religiously and remove all fallen petals or blooms from the garden. If you wish to collect seeds leave spent blooms on your plants.

Summer: Herbaceous Peonies do best with an inch of water a week. Check for seeds from your peonies and when ripe (pods open and they turn dark brown or black)remove from seedheads.

Fall: Cut stems of Herbaceous Peonies back to soil level. Dig and divide plants now if necessary. Mulch new plantings with hay or evergreen boughs after the ground freezes.

Tree Peonies

Tree peonies are not trees at all, but, they are true peonies. They have woody perennial stems, and are relatively hardy multi-stemmed shrubs, that can grow from four to six feet high and just as wide. Their ultimate size depends on their growing conditions. There are a few that have a dwarf habit. Blooms look like crepe or tissue, in an array of colours including white, pink, red, purple, and yellow, blends of colour and flares or blotches.

Tree Peonies do best in a sunny to partly shady site, holding their flower colour longer if planted when morning sun provides most of the light, in average, well-drained, evenly moist garden soil high in organic matter. Space plants 3-feet apart for a hedge. Tree peonies rarely need pruning, except to maintain a desired shape and size or to remove damaged canes.

Bareroot Tree Peony – photo courtesy of Walters Gardens Tree Peonies are grafted plants. Plant the graft union 4 to 6 inches below the soil surface as shown in the photo. This helps the plant develop its own roots. The graft union looks like a bulge on the main stem just above the roots. After planting, only an inch or two of the woody stem may show above the ground.

Tree Peonies are slow-growing plants that reach mature size in 5 to 10 years. Try not to transplant them, as this will slow their growth as they re-establish their roots in the new location. Tree Peonies can live up to 100 years or more!
The need for fertilizer is dependent on local garden conditions and specific recommendations cannot be given. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. Balanced fertilizers or those designed for flower or vegetable garden use should work well. A healthy soil almost always grows healthy plants of any kind. Regular application of good compost creates a loose, friable, well-drained and well aerated soil for all your plants.

Buying Tree Peonies

In Canada there is no one currently propagating tree peonies in numbers sufficient enough for commercial production. There are some hobbyists grafting on a small scale and they sometimes offer a few, but other than that, all tree peonies available will have been imported and are most usually available in the garden centres in spring as bare root plants packaged in boxes. Almost all will have been grafted onto herbaceous roots, something easily seen by looking at the root. Herbaceous roots grow much more rapidly in diameter than does the tree peony stem to which it’s grafted. This abrupt change in diameter happens at the graft union and is an important reference point when planting the peony.

When purchasing one of these boxed tree peonies it is very important to select one that shows healthy buds, but that has not yet begun any stem growth. Buds should be firm and show a bit of pink colour. Any peony that has already leafed out should not be considered unless the vendor offers an adequate guarantee. You do not want the tree peony to begin growth until you have planted it. The sooner you plant these tree peonies, the better their chance of survival. If you can’t plant them right away, then cold storage is advised.

You may also find tree peonies offered as potted plants. Check them carefully to satisfy yourself that it is a healthy specimen, or wait until mid-summer or fall before making a purchase. Let the garden centre have the risk of growing it through the summer.

Many of these peonies are sold only by colour though you may find the cultivar name on a small paper band encircling the stem near the base. Look for this and record the name as it may allow you to find a lot of information about your peony.

You may also find roots at specialty nurseries. This will probably entail importing tree peonies yourself, but many of the American nurseries will ship to Canada. Be prepared to pay. but if you are looking for specific named varieties there is a little alternative at this time.


Named varieties of peonies do not come true from seeds, and so they must be vegetatively propagated. This is the main reason for their greater cost when compared to other common garden plants. In tree peonies this is exacerbated by the need to graft, which is a labour intensive and therefore costly operation.

Grafting is the method of choice for producing large numbers of new plants. It is a skill that is fairly easy to learn. Roots from herbaceous peonies are generally used as nurse roots, and grafting is normally done in early August, though success can be achieved earlier than this and well into fall.

Lee Valley has a tool that will make this task a little less labour intensive.,47236&p=64798

The omega-shaped cut of this grafting tool eliminates the fiddly (and often inaccurate) work of V-notch and whip grafting. As long as you have rootstock and scion of the same diameter, two centered omega cuts will fit them together perfectly, giving you a stable graft, with maximum cambium contact, ready for taping. With a good taping job, no wax or whipping is needed.

A six-sided grooved anvil keeps the cutting stock centered as you notch it. If the anvil wears over time, you can rotate it to one of the other five grooves. If the blade should dull, you have two spares for replacement. The only poorly functioning part of this tool is the bypass pruner tip. Do not expect it to make the kind of cuts you are accustomed to. Fortunately, the rest of the tool more than compensates. Order # BL132 @ $21.50.

A few tree peonies have a stoloniferous growth habit, and these lend themselves more readily to propagation by division. If you otherwise have the need to dig or move your tree peony, then dividing it can be an option at this time, but it is not a method of propagation that yields many new plants and it sets back the plant.

There have been many reports of propagating from cuttings but this method has never developed a commercial following. Reported success is very low, and much more care and attention to details are needed compared to grafting.

Seedlings will not be identical to the parent. It is from planting seeds that new varieties are born. Seed germination is not difficult but does require some readily available basic knowledge.

Drying Peonies

by Lex Landon

One of the most often heard complaints about peonies is how fleeting the flowers are. There is a way to make them outlast any other flower in the garden, well into fall, past Christmas, and even until the next blooming season comes around. Dry them.

The idea of drying peonies was first brought to my attention at our Annual Show in Regina in 2002, when Anne Leskiw of the Prairie Peony Society gave some of those attending a brief demonstration of the technique. It took me two years to manage to get some silica gel crystals and blooming peonies together at the same time, but last June I gave it a try. The results were fabulous! I was amazed at how the colours retained their vibrancy, and at how lifelike the flowers look. We had the ten blooms I dried on display at Canada BLooms and had more than one person ask how we had managed to get the flowers to bloom out of season. They thought they were fresh.

I make no claims whatsoever to be an expert on how to do this, and in fact, would like any other members who have experience with drying peonies to share with us. These are the basic steps I used.

First, acquire some silica gel crystals. These are available through Lee Valley stores or their mail order catalogue, and some craft stores. I put a quarter inch layer of crystal in the bottom of a rectangular plastic container about 8″ x 12″ in size. Then I cut two or three fresh blooms leaving about a half inch of stem. I settled the stem first into the crystals, then carefully sifted crystals over the flowers until they were completely coverd, taking care to maintain the petals in their natural position. I placed the lid on and kept the container tightly closed for about three days. Then I removed the lid and carefully poured off the crystals. It was as easy as that. Not knowing what to expect, I started with several small single side buds, moved on to a full sized semi double, and ended up trying a pair of full double flowers. All turned out very well. The next step is to get Reiner out of his peony garden long enough to build a display box for them. As beautiful a sthe flowers are, they will be set off much more attractively when out of my Tupperware.

Cutting and Storing Peony Flowers for Later Use

by Don Hollingsworth, Maryville. Missouri

Peony flowers have been long known for retaining their suitability for floral decoration after several weeks in cold storage. Prior to the technical advancements in refrigeration and transportation following World War II, peonies were a major item in the florist trade. They were shipped in iced boxcars by rail into the big eastern markets. This same durability can be used to advantage at home.

Ready-to-open peony buds can be packaged dry in plastic, until brought out for use, and stored flat on the shelves of a household refrigerator. One may be surprised at how many buds can be so stored on one shelf. When cut at the most favorable stage of development, some kinds can be held for three weeks or more and still have a good vase life.

The longest storage life is obtained at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0C). However, a refrigerator is more like 36-40 degrees(2-4C). The cold serves to slow development of the flower. At the higher refrigerator temperature, storage life is somewhat shortened. With experience (or luck) this may be partly compensated for by cutting at a slightly tighter bud stage.

The stage at which to cut is somewhat guided by science, but in practice it is a skill that can be expected to improve with experience. For shorter period storage and with the more doubled flowers the rule of thumb is to take the flowers when in the soft bud stage. This means that when squeezed between thumb and fingers the center of the bud feels about like a fresh marshmallow. For the many-petalled, full double flowers, part of the petals will be unfurled.

The more single flower types, especially those of the exhibition classes Single, Japanese and Anemone, which open more easily, ought to be somewhat more firm than the fresh marshmallow test. The outer petals, which in these sorts are a prominent part of the opened flower form, having continued to expand in the restriction of the package may be thus distorted in shape.

The Bomb form flower, which is similar in anatomy to the singles but with much larger center petals, and the Semi-Doubles, which have looser petalage than the full doubles, also open more easily. For the florist trade channels, growers will cut buds comparatively hard. The general rule there is to cut when the bud covers are loosened and the true color of the petals is showing. Again, more double sorts must be more opened.

Cut softer, any peony opens sooner, if harder it develops more slowly. The one extreme is that they can be cut so hard that they never open.The other is that they can be cut so soft that they expend their vase life potential while yet in storage and the petals fall when taken out or too soon thereafter. A useful precaution is to cut half again or twice as many buds as you think you will need to allow for losses.

For packaging, we put the cut stems in salvaged newspaper plastic bagsSunday edition bags preferredand tie them tightly. In a pinch we use grocery plastics. The plastic is breathableallows exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Karen Gast, PhD., Extension Horticulturist at Kansas State University, who has the cut flower peony research and demonstration project there, uses the 2-gallon size zipper bags or equal. A key consideration is that you want 100% humidity around the buds/stems so that humidity loss is minimized. Frost-free refrigerators can be harsh, unless the stems are packaged adequately. Using the salvaged bags requires taping abrasion holes, for example.

The length to cut stems depends on what you expect to need. Dont take too much foliage off the plant. The fact is that every leaf removed represents a loss of growth capacity. Therefore, when one needs long stems, only a few can be taken from a plant while still protecting the ability of the plant to produce and store food necessary for performance next year. The long necked peony varieties allow more flexibility in cutting pressure than do the sorts which have flowers closer to the bush (but which are more favored for flowering in the landscape). We take 14-18 inches for exhibition flowers and shorter for many other uses.

Remove almost all of the leaves of stems to be stored, both those stems to be used in floral decoration and those to be held for competitive exhibition. This reduces bulk in the storage space and greatly reduces the surface area giving off moisture in the bags.

Humidity will condense on the inside of the bags. After the leaves have been stripped and the stem lengths adjusted, we arrange the buds in a bundle which will fit in the plastic bag, taking care that all unfurled petals are kept up-facing, and roll the bundle in one layer of newsprint. The paper keeps the buds from lying against the moist plastic.

Fungus spots on your buds may be botrytisit will continue to develop in the cold humid conditions of storage. The dramatic spoilage will sharpen perceptions for the future!

What remains is how to handle the flowers upon taking them out of storage. They will be wilted and the cut ends will have dried. Re-cut the ends to fresh tissue and give them time to freshen and open in deep water away from heat and drafts. Vase-life extenders may be added to the water, although for one- or two-day events there may be no practical benefit from additives. We place the stems to take up water and to finish opening at least 12 hours before we will set them up for viewing. Tighter buds will need additional time.

Peony flowers to be used right away will be at their best if cut before they are fully open. Condition the flowers in a cool room, out of drafts, in deep water for a few hours before arranging them for best vase life.

Hollingsworth Nursery
28747 290 Street/Maryville, MO 64468.


Hybridizing Peonies

by Margaret Sequeira

Hybridizing is as simple as playing bee. Yes, I said bee. Hybridizing is full of wonder, leaving us full of delighted anticipation.

Choose the plants which characteristics you most admire. eg: the size of bloom from one and the height of another.

Once you have chosen your parent plants it is time to get to work!!

You need to collect pollen (stamens) from the father as soon as it begins to bloom. Place in a well ventilated and dark area on tinfoil for 24 to 48 hours to dry. Once dry the pollen will fall off the stamens and you can pour into an airtight container for future use. Most parents do not bloom at the same time. If this is your predicament once you have collected the pollen store in a cool place until needed. (refrigerator)

Once you have chosen the the mother watch the bud as soon as it starts to show colour remove petals and stamens.

Cover the carpels and stigma all over with the pollen.

When you have completed this make sure you cover the cross with a paper bag. This will keep the selection clean. After a few weeks the bag can be removed. (This can be left on as well. Many breeders have too many bags to remove and choose not to)

Make sure you keep track of your crosses for future reference. In September, collect the seeds when pods mature. Mix 1ml bleach to 100ml water and rinse seeds, then rinse in fresh water. These seeds may be planted directly to the garden.

Or you can put the seeds in a Ziploc bag containing damp vermiculite. Store them in a warm, dark room. Check seeds every week. After a few months, you should see a small white root appear on the seeds. When root has reached a half inch, place in another Ziploc bag with humid vermiculite. Place bag in refridgerator. Check seeds regularly. After a few months you should see a tiny leaf, (plumule).
When the plumule appears, remove the germinated seed from the refridgerator.

Plant in a 4″pot with potting mix. Keep in the house, in a sunny place (no direct sun) until your last frost outside. After that, you can plant it in your garden. In the fall, protect it with a mulch.

Your seedlings will take 3 to 4 years before its first flower when you will finally know if you succeeded in your choices.

Good Luck hybridizing and remember, BE PATIENT.

Perfecting Peonies by Blaine Marchand

The peony gardens at the Central Experimental Farm hold one of the largest Canadian collections of peonies created by Arthur Percy (A.P.) Saunders. Born in London, Ontario, in 1869, both his father, William, and his mother, Sarah Agnes, were self-taught enthusiastic botanists. His father became the first Director of the Experimental Farms of Canada in 1897 and held this position until 1911. Their son and his siblings (four brothers and one sister) were brought up in an atmosphere of horticulture and collecting of plants.

The Saunders family was a cultured family, given to gatherings where various members played musical instruments, sang songs and recited poetry. A.P. Saunders studied art in France and this training gave him a sense of colour that helped greatly when he began to work on hybridizing peonies.

Educated at the University of Toronto (BA), Göttingen/Berlin (Chemistry) and John Hopkins University (PhD), in 1900 he became a professor of chemistry at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York (about a four hour drive south of Ottawa). Originally founded in 1793 as the Hamilton-Oneida Academy, it was officially chartered in 1812 as a liberal arts college for men (which it remained until the 1960s).

It was at Hamitlon when A.P. Saunders was provided with a house on College Hill, including a space for a garden, that he began growing plants, including peonies. He immediately started detailed garden notebooks which he maintained throughout his long life.

Peonies require a period of cold dormancy and the climate of northern New York state was ideal. As a result, about 1905, Saunders began to focus on growing peonies. At that time, he already had 248 plants in his gardens, many sent by growers from around the world.

Saunders started his systematic work on species hybrids in 1917. He had perfected his hybridization techniques at the Experimental Farm. During one visit in 1928, Saunders took pollen from P. coriacea, a species peony from Spain and the mountainous regions of Morocco. He later received a division of the plant itself and began hybridizing, crossing the hybrids P. albiflora and P. coriacea. In 1939, this resulted in a group of peonies with single to semi-double flowers of a most unusual colour – lavender.

Professor Saunders was a popular teacher. Students nicknamed him “Stinky” due to the smells that emanated from experiments performed in his chemistry lab. He was often seen driving about the college in his Model A Ford roadster, in winter wearing a raccoon coat and sometimes a straw hat. Students gathered in his house to listen to string quartets and to sit around him in the cluttered library as he read aloud from books.

His fondness for Hamilton College can be found in some of the names he gave to his peonies. Here are some examples.

Ellen Cowley (Saunders1940 – a semi-double hybrid of a deep bright cherry)
The daughter of Hamilton College president, William Harold Cowley, Ellen Cowley was born at 8am on the morning of graduation day of the class of 1940. Her father went straight from the hospital to commencement ceremony at 10am. It is said while he made it through the service, in his excitement he did mix up a few diplomas. To honour the event, Saunders named a new hybrid after the new baby daughter.

Alexander Woollcott (Saunders, 1941 – a semi-double hybrid of a shining crimson)
Alexander Humphreys Woollcott, a graduate of Hamilton College, was a renowned American critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine, as well as a member of the infamous Algonquin Round Table. He gained fame as a result of his witty and acerbic observations, becoming the most quoted man of his generation. He died suddenly in 1943, having suffered a stroke in the middle of radio broadcast. He is buried in the Hamilton College cemetery. The peony named after him is considered a planting companion to Ellen Cowley.

Grace Root (Saunders, 1940 – a single hybrid of clear light salmon pink)
Grace Cogswell Root was married to Edward W. Root, a professor of art appreciation at Hamilton College. Professor Root’s grandfather, Oren Root, had purchased a house near the College and built an extensive garden. Grace and Edward expanded and developed the garden, which became known as The Glen. After her husband’s death, Grace created the Root Glen Foundation so it remained a place of beauty open to the public. In 1971, Grace transferred ownership of the Glen to Hamilton College. Among the plants found in the 7.5 acre garden are 19 herbaceous and 49 tree peonies hybridized by A.P. Saunders.

Silvia Saunders (Saunders, 1921 – semi-double hybrid of bright clear rose-pink, fading lighter toward the center)
The daughter of A.P and Louise Saunders, Silvia Saunders was born in 1901 and raised on College Hill. After working as a commercial artist in New York and then a photographer, she returned to Hamilton in 1951 to take care of her parents and help her father with his hybrid peony business. Continuing the Saunders tradition, their home was opened for cultural and musical evenings and annual Christmas parties. In 1995, on the first anniversary of her death, the Saunders family home was dedicated in her honor and became a student residence. Silvia Saunders is buried next to her parents in the Hamilton College cemetery.

Creating new peonies

Arthur Percy (A.P.) Saunders, over his long career as a peony hybridizer, had over 17,224 seedlings (hybrids, tree peonies and species peonies) in his gardens. He propagated and named only 271 of them. Interestingly, only 11 of these were officially registered. An additional 15 of his peonies were either sold or given away by him as unnamed seedlings and these were later named by other peony enthusiasts. So, it is important to realize, as Saunders did, that not every peony seedling is worth naming.

The American Peony Society (APS) is responsible for registering new introductions using the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, guidelines published by the International Society for Horticultural Science. Reiner Jakubowski, APS registrar (and former President of the Canadian Peony Society or CPS), has been fulfilling this task since 2004 and is the third-longest serving registrar in the APS history. In a recent interview, Mr., Jakubowski said the most important purpose of registration is to achieve some control of the names and to prevent duplication.

At its very beginning, in 1903, the APS was interested in bringing order to the chaos that was peony nomenclature. In the first years, the Society worked with Cornell University and the Society’s own membership to determine which peonies were worth keeping in commerce. AP Saunders was involved in this phase as he was then Secretary of the Society and one of his responsibilities was publishing the lists of peonies in commerce in the Society’s Bulletin, as well as analyzing the results.

As registrar, Mr. Jakubowski does not assess the quality of the plant, which is outside his scope. Rather he tries to ensure that the name being proposed by the breeder has not been used before. He does admit that despite attempts over the years since the APS began, duplicate names have occurred for various reasons, including alternate spellings of names.

He noted that the number of peonies registered annually has gone from 11 in 2009 to 80 and 86 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Over the last nine years, hybridizers in the United States have led the way in terms of registering new introductions with 176 offerings. In terms of other countries, growers in Sweden registered 51, in Canada and Germany 37 each, in Austria and China 17, in the Ukraine and the Netherlands 7, followed by 2 in Slovakia and 1 each in Norway and New Zealand. Over the past 100 years, most of the important breeding work of peonies has been done in the US. Many of the lineages of today’s introductions can be traced back to A.P. Saunders.

Mr. Jakubowski believes that if gardeners are interested in breeding peonies, they should pursue it. There are two ways to create new peonies. The first is to collect the seeds produced by open pollination of peonies, done by bees, or through the seed program offered by the American and Canadian peony societies. Seeds can either be planted directly into the ground or be placed in individual baggies of vermiculite in a fridge. It is important to know that peony seeds require a two-stage dormancy – first warm and moist during which time they grow a root as temperatures dip a bit, followed by a cold period. Information on germinating peony seeds can be found elsewhere in this section of articles.

A.P. Saunders once said: “The actual process of fertilization… with the peony (is) easy. You simply bring some pollen on one plant and put it on the stigma of a flower of another plant, and leave nature to do the rest”. So following his lead, the second option is to choose which peonies you wish to cross. This second option, in Mr. Jakubowski’s view, is the most satisfying because seeds are produced through controlled pollination. You choose which two peonies you want to cross. Quebec peony seller, Manon Capano, has an excellent site to inform beginner hybridizers,

Mr. Jakubowski stressed it’s important to use good breeding stock – peonies that have aesthetic appeal (colour and bloom form, foliage) and are known to be fertile. Not all peonies are fertile. By looking at the parentage used by breeders from A.P. Saunders to modern day ones, Mr. Jakubowski added, will give beginners clues as to good potential peony parents. Information on the peonies that have been used in breeding can also be found in the Excel spread sheet, Peony Parents, which is available on the Canadian Peony Society website:

Before registering a seedling deemed worthy, it is important that there be more than one plant. Registration costs just $25 US. A visit to the APS website at and clicking on the Cultivar Reg. tab will provide details about the traits or characteristics of the peony that need to be recorded during the growing season. Mr. Jakubowski recommends breeders not rely on memory as some requirements necessitate measurement. A photograph of the peony to be named is also helpful. Once accepted, the information on the peony and a photograph is published in the APS Bulletin, which is quarterly.

As of 2017, the APS has registered 2,786 peonies since the Sciety started. He estimates there are 11 to 12,000 peonies in the APS database. Peonies introduced prior to 1923 are not registered but are part of the record and in the registry. And, Mr. Jakubowski believes there are many more as peony enthusiasts do not always register their introductions for various reasons. In addition, he concluded there are many peonies of which he has no knowledge of or for which reliable documentation has not been found.

Gift poem by Blaine Marchand


A.P. Saunders pauses before he begins hybridization, Clinton, NY, 1917

Sable brush in hand,
amid cupped peonies drenched
in sunlight, iridescent as fine china,
the memory of my father
blooms. So devoted
to this flower he had three beds,
each with three neat rows,
curved into the expanse of lawn at the Farm. This shimmer of him in his prime
is sweet, infused, tinged
with fragrance –
honey and rose, musk and lemon. Industrious bees, diligent,
as he always was, hover,
their wingbeat vibrations shaking down
the gold dust frit of pollen.
He taught me so much –
careful observation to ensure best choice, dexterity to transfer the gilt grains
from plant to plant, stamen to stigma, patience as nature does its work
and the need to jot note after note.
The peony is mythic with romance, promises a happy marriage and honor,
and he was blessed with that
as am I. But born with a painter’s eye
and a scientific disposition, I imagine more – the gift of grander beauty, earlier flowering, as yet unseen dazzling colours,
assured that with assist from a skilled hand the plants of earth will respond
and reward us with radiance,
offer moments of calm and solace
amid the uncertainty, the griefs life brings.

Controlled Germination Of Peony Seeds Indoors by Don Hollingsworth

American Peony Society Bulletin No. 214. June, 1975. (pp 27-30).

A peony seed germinates in response to the same sequence of environmental conditions whether it is out of doors where nature has full sway, or is kept indoors in contrived conditions. In either case the minimum requirements of a particular seed must be met or it will fail. Each peony seed has its own individual variations, among which may be its inherent germination timing. This may present an advantage in nature by increasing the probability that at least some of the seedlings are ready to grow at the best time in the spring. For the same reason however, others may not be sufficiently ready and are then lost.
The germination pattern of most peony species conforms to the same general sequence so that most viable seeds can be successfully germinated indoors through the use of one general procedure. Enough is now known about what must be done that an informed and attentive handler may proceed with a great deal of confidence.

Several specific benefits make indoor germination an attractive choice:

  • A larger percentage of seedlings can be brought into growth the spring following harvest, perhaps all viable seeds in most instances.
  • A greater percentage of surviving plants can be developed from some seed lots.
  • In hybrid crosses which use PAEONIA LACTIFLORA as seed parent there are numerous varieties to choose among. Some varieties will produce better germinating seeds from a particular pollinator than do others. The early germination process permits the hybridist to observe these results and plan appropriate adjustments prior to the next pollinating season.
  • Every peony grower may gain the satisfaction of knowing first hand how the germination process operates and become able to use this knowledge from which to provide instruction to others who may be intrigued with the possibility of creating new varieties.

As with any technique, practice sharpens the skill of the operator. Peony growers who have not already learned the process will probably enjoy a trial experience with it. The necessary materials are easily acquired. I use polyethylene plastic sandwich bags or small freezer bags, the paper-covered wire ties that come with the bags, and tags which are home cut from salvaged food packages. Lately, I have purchased Twist-Tags, a one-piece combination tie and tag. I now use horticultural grade vermiculite (Terra-Lite), exclusively, for keeping the seeds moist in the bags. In addition, I have access to a salvaged household refrigerator that still refrigerates, which is a great help, making it possible to simulate the winter period any time of the year.


1. Harvesting:
Collect each pod of seeds when the dark color of the maturing seed coats has developed, but preferably before the natural moisture has dried from them. In Missouri, this stage will be reached during mid-July to September, depending on the species involved. Drought will hasten ripening; humid weather will retard it.

2. Cleaning and watersoak period:
Put the seeds to soak immediately in tap water and wash them clean. I usually allow them to soak for several days, especially if they had become dry, but the water should be changed daily so that it does not become foul. Remove any “mushy” or rotting seeds as their condition becomes evident.

3. Packaging to retain moisture:
Any time after the seeds have become fully plump and are no longer taking up water, they should be transferred to a plastic bag containing a small amount of moistened sterile medium, such as horticultural grade vermiculite. Avoid prepared potting mixes that contain added fertilizer nutrients. It may be desirable to disinfect seeds before bagging by dipping them for several minutes in a solution made of one part Chlorox in nine parts water.

Tightly close the seed bag to preserve moisture, using a paper-covered wire closure that is durably made so that it will survive repeated openings. Attach a tag on which may be written the identification of the seed lot and inspection notes as germination progresses.

4. Incubation period:
Place the bags of moist seeds in a warm area, preferably not less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Holding the seeds moist at this temperature will permit the necessary internal changes to go forward, yet permit the control of the date at which root development gets underway. If held in the 60’s (degrees F.), the internal changes will still go forward but many seeds will initiate root growth at random times, confronting the handler with the necessity of repeated transfers of the rooted seeds to the cold period. Place a thermometer with the seed bags and read it regularly to be sure that the chosen area remains warm enough. I find the garage to be satisfactory during hot weather. Later, when outside temperatures are cooler, I move the bags to a shelf above the hot water heater. Allow the moist seeds to incubate as much as four months if time permits. When seeds fail to root at the next step it is probably due to the insufficient warm incubation.

Every two or three weeks during the incubation period, open the bags and inspect the seeds. Some seeds will be dead and will eventually rot, whereupon they should be promptly removed. If mold appears on the coats of seemingly sound seeds, this may also signal that they are dead. Also, it may be that either the mold or I eventually destroyed their ability to germinate, for I’ve tried washing them carefully and treating them with Captan, but cannot specifically recall germination from any seeds that had become moldy.

5. Rooting period:
Not later than four or five months ahead of the local time for spring planting, move the bagged seeds to a cooler temperature, ranging from 50 to 60 degrees. In Missouri, this should be no later than mid-November. After one week of the lower temperature, some seeds should be found swelled with growth at the hilum (the scar left by separation from the pod) and may have a tiny white root protruding. Some seeds will respond faster than others, and this perhaps is a sign of inherently greater vigor.

6. Repackaging rooted seeds:
Leave the rooted seeds in the bag with their slower mates for up to another month. However, when rooted seeds have been inspected and are being repackaged, I prefer to place them so that there is three inches or more of medium under them in the bag so that the root has space to grow straight down. While experience does not show this to be necessary for the plant, it cuts down on root tangling and permits easier separation of the small plants when next handled.

7. Cold period:
Most of the seeds which have become ready to root during the foregoing sequence will do so within a month after the first roots have appeared. It is now necessary to give the rooted seedlings a period of temperatures around 40 °F which will overcome winter dormancy and release the ability to grow the above-ground portion of the plant, just as is necessary for mature peonies. A household electric refrigerator, cave, cold corner of the garage or possibly a covered window well may provide the desired temperature. Again, keep a thermometer with the seedling bags so that you know what the temperature is.

When the winter dormancy has been diminished for a particular seedling, it will signal its readiness by commencing the extension of its plumule or leaf, comparable to the late winter stretching of peony buds underground. A few seedlings will show this readiness within eight weeks after root growth started, in which case colder temperature down to near freezing may be given to hold them back. Others may take much longer, some requiring twelve weeks or more. If planted in warm soil before this readiness has developed, a seedling is likely to fail. While the soil remains cold, however, the reduction of dormancy can go forward and the seedling may eventually develop. Very slow seedlings may sometimes be brought into planthood by leaving them in a refrigerator until the plumule shows, after which they can be brought out and planted to grow.

8. Planting out:
Germinated seedlings produced by the foregoing method are properly thought of as transplants. When they are ready to grow they may be transferred to pots, greenhouse flats, cold frame or open ground in a well-lighted area. The soil should be free of grubs or other root-feeding soil insects and the area protected from animals by wire mesh or other guard. Squirrels will dig the seeds and pets may break off the shoots. In the Missouri climate some shading from intense sunlight is necessary to avoid sun-burning of the leaves in late June. A shade made of ordinary fly screen has served well for this purpose.

9. Seeds remaining ungerminated:
Seeds that did not root during Step Five, above, may be returned to warm incubation and held for another attempt at rooting in early fall. Unless you are curious to see first hands whether germination takes place, these will be about as well provided for outdoors in a protected site where they are to grow as you can do for them indoors.


Peony Parents prepared by Reiner Jakubowski

The Canadian Peony Society

Frequently Asked Questions

Why won't my peonies bloom?
Peonies don’t bloom because of cultural problems or disease. There are many possible reasons for the lack of flowers.

  • Planted too deep: If the eyes are more than two inches underground, lift and replant.
  • Small divisions: When very small divisions are planted flowers take longer to appear. Divisions with 3-5 eyes will reach blooming size more quickly than the much smaller 2-3 eye divisions often sold in garden centres.
  • Too young, or moved and divided too often: Allow the plant more time to develop; it should be in the same spot for at least five years.
  • Large clumps transplanted without proper division: Divide (3 -5 eyes per division) and replant.
    Undernourished: Buds form but don’t develop. Top dress with compost, avoiding the crown of the plant. Peonies will not flourish if soil is poor or competition from nearby shrubs and trees.
  • Over fertilized: Plants have deep green foliage but form no buds. Water thoroughly to was away excess nitrogen and cut down on fertilizer.
  • Too much shade: Plants will be tall and lanky; replant in full sun(6 or more hours) or part shade(4 to 6 hours). An hour or two less won’t make much difference but heavy partial shade will reduce the likelihood of flowers.
  • Not enough moisture: Water to bottom of roots. (Established plants will bloom even when severely drought-stressed, although not profusely.
  • Root competition from neighboring trees or shrubs: Replant outside the neighbour’s root zone.
  • Buds develop but fail to open: These may be damaged by late frost, disease, drought, or being waterlogged.
  • Root system undermined by gophers or moles: Put in a wire mesh barrier around the bed.
What is peony name registration, and how does one go about it?
Plants in cultivation are given identifiers, which in most cases are names but can also be coded numbers. The objective is a unique name or epithet for each cultivar so that confusion between vendors and consumers, whether they e large agricultural businesses or backyard gardeners, is eliminated. When you order ‘Red Charm’ you should get ‘Red Charm’ no matter from where in the world you order it. A system such as this needs someone to control and oversee it, and so the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS)appoints International Cultivar Registration Authorities (ICRA) to be responsible for any given plant group in cultivation. The American Peony Society is the ICRA for cultivated peonies. Their website ( has a Cultivar Registration page where more information can be found. Available is a down loadable Registration Form and a document which explains most of the items asked for in the registration form. Peony names already in use and therefore normally not available can be found in the Peony Checklist. The International Registrar for peonies can be contacted at Essential in the registration process is that you must have a cultivar. A single plant is not a cultivar, no matter how pretty or worthy it is. You must first propagate it by appropriate means (in the case of peonies, by vegetative means) so that you have a number of identical plants that are shown to retain the desirable characteristics for which it was chosen. A cultivar, a unique name, the completed registration form, photos showing plant and flower, and US$20.00 are the basic requirements for name registration. Don’t worry too much about all the details (which are found in the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants). The registrar will ask for any important information you may have missed. (Reiner Jakubowski)
Do the flowers of peonies change colour?
Yes and no… Young plants take time to mature and they often produce flowers that are not the same form or colour as those seen on mature plants of the same v variety. As the plant matures however the flower form and colour stabilizes. Weather can also affect to some extent flower colour, especially the lighter coloured flowers. A cool damp spring seems to make the whites a little less brilliant and any pink tinges become more accentuated. Can a white peony become a red peony? I don’t believe so. Judging by the number of times I get asked this question though, some people are seeing red flowers where white ones used to grow and vice versa. One possible explanation for such a radical change is that a peony seed has germinated on top of the original plant and over time has taken over the location. The flowers that the owner now sees are those of a different plant growing where the old plant once stood. (Lindsay D’Aoust)
I have collected peony seed in recent years, and would like to know how to tell if it is still viable.
There is no quick way to tell if the seeds are still viable so you just proceed as if they were. I always handle seeds the same way regardless of where they come from or how long they’ve been lying around. First I wash them with soapy water, then soak them in a solution of one part bleach, 9 parts water. After rinsing them well, I soak them in water, sometimes up to a week, but change the water at least once a day. This lets the seeds take up moisture. Seeds that sink are considered okay, those that remain floating are probably hollow and if that’s the case, they won’t grow. Once you start his process, you have to be prepared to continue it through the germination because what you’ve done is stimulated the seed to begin growth. After the seeds are soaked, I put them into barely damp vermiculite in a sealed bag. Milled peat moss works too. Place them in a warm place, such as on top of the refridgerator, above the water heater in the basement, or any place where they will be warm. After a week, some may be mouldy. Throw those seeds out before the mould spreads to the others. Keep checking and remove any others that become mouldy. So, now you know which ones aren’t viable, but I don’t know how you could predict that otherwise. Some seeds are so shriveled up that it’s a pretty good guess that they’ll never grow, but I have sometimes been surprised. (Reiner Jakubowski)
I have ants on my peonies what can I do to get rid of them? Will they hurt my plants?
Ants do not affect the bloom or performance of your peonies. They are attracted to the sap excreted from the bud. Once the bloom opens you will find fewer ants. Before bringing a cut bloom in hang your bloom upside down and give it a light shake to remove any unwanted hitchhikers. (Margaret Sequeira)
My tree peony has grown new stems which have produced different looking leaves and blooms from the original plant. What has happened, and what should I do about it?
When you see stems with foliage noticeably different from the tree peony’s foliage, this indicates that stems are growing from the nurse root onto which the tree peony was grafted. This happens for a couple of reasons. The nurse root may have come from a plant that has the ability to grow stems from a piece of root, or there was some crown material left on the nurse root from which stems can eventually grow. In both cases, the herbaceous stems will draw energy from the nurse root and chances are good that you will eventually lose the tree peony. The herbaceous stems should be cut off as you see them appear, but a better solution is to dig the plant in the fall and remove the nurse root entirely, provided that the tree peony has grown its own roots. (Reiner Jakubowski)
Why do the buds on my peony sometimes turn black and dry up early in the season?
Likely the buds have been damaged by frost or a fungal infection. What you describe is often called bud blast. It can be caused by environmental conditions at a critical stage of development such as frost or drought. It can also be caused by a fungal attack, usually during cold wet periods. In these cases the problem is unlikely to be repeated the following year and the plant will likely continue to thrive. If the problem happens next year you might also suspect a nutritional problem, likely not enough potassium, too much shade or that the plant is planted too deeply. All of these are correctable by either adding fertilizer or moving the plant to a more suitable location in the case of shade or planting too deeply. Bud blast often occurs in newly planted peonies. Peonies form their buds in t he fall. If a plant is divided and replanted in the fall (as it should be) the previously formed buds will continue their growth in the spring on a much-reduced root system. Often the newly divided plant does not have the “strength” to fully develop all the buds and they just dry up. As the plant matures this problem disappears. (Lindsay D’Aoust)
Some garden centres and retail stores sell potted peonies in the spring. I have read that the best time to plant peonies is in the fall. Can potted peonies be planted in spring or must they be kept in the pot until the fall? Are there any special instructions if planted early?
Plant a containerized peony as soon as you can get it into the ground. If it is a herbaceous peony, try to disturb the soil around the root system as little as possible. If the crown tissue is not exposed, plant it such that you maintain the same level in the soil. If, however, the root was too shallowly planted in the original container leaving the woody crown exposed, reposition the plant an inch or so below the soil surface such that the exposed crown is covered with an inch or so of soil. Tree peonies are planted at the correct level. Yours will likely need to be repositioned. Carefully shake off the soil from the roots to see the graft point. Replant the peony with the graft point 10cm below the soil line, 15cm would be even better. Tree peonies are usually grafted onto sections of herbaceous root. This herbaceous root sustains the tree peony only for a few years. The tree peony needs to grow its own roots so tree peony wood must in contact with the soil. When buying a containerized peony from a garden centre, ask when it was planted i.e. last fall or within the last few months. A peony potted up in the fall is a better option than one potted up in late winter, early spring. Though containers are not ideal growing environments for the bulky roots of peonies, at least those potted up in the fall have had the opportunity to put out some feeder roots. This is not the case for those peonies potted up in late winter, early spring. Summer can be tough time for a peony that has not had the benefit of fall root growth. Peonies being the tough plants they are however, will usually recover. They have suffered a set back though and will likely not establish as quickly as those planted in the fall. In areas where the falls are very rainy and the summers cool, some gardeners have success with spring planting. It is however a trade off between two evils; very wet falls that can cause rot in young plants and facing summer with few new feeder roots. If the summer is cool the lack of feeder roots is less of a problem. (Lindsay D’Aoust)
My tree peony has grown new stems which have produced different looking leaves and blooms from the original plant. What has happened, and what should I do about it?
When you see stems with foliage noticeably different from the tree peony’s foliage, this indicates that stems are growing from the nurse root onto which the tree peony was grafted. This happens for a couple of reasons. The nurse root may have come from a plant that has the ability to grow stems from a piece of root, or there was some crown material left on the nurse root from which stems can eventually grow. In both cases, the herbaceous stems will draw energy from the nurse root and chances are good that you will eventually lose the tree peony. The herbaceous stems should be cut off as you see them appear, but a better solution is to dig the plant in the fall and remove the nurse root entirely, provided that the tree peony has grown its own roots. (Reiner Jakubowski)

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