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Peony planting and growing

Peony. - The herbaceous peony has long had a place in the garden; it has now been much improved and constitutes one of the very best plants known to cultivation. It is perfectly hardy, and free from the many diseases and insects that attack so many plants. It continues to bloom year after year without renewal, if the soil is well prepared and fertile. Fig. 250.

Inasmuch as the peony is such a strong grower and produces so many enormous flowers, it must have a soil that can supply abundant plant-food and moisture. The old-fashioned single and semi-double comparatively small-flowered kinds will give good results in any ordinary ground, but the newer highly improved sorts must be given better treatment.

This is one of the plants that profit by a very rich soil. The place should be very deeply plowed or else trenched; and if the land is in sod or is not in good heart, the preparation should begin the season before the peonies are planted. A deep moist loam suits them best; and as the plants grow and bloom, add bone meal and top-dress with manure. When making their growth and when in bloom, they should not be allowed to want for water.

The plants may be set in fall or spring, the latter being preferable in the North. Cover the crown bud 2 or 3 inches, being careful not to injure it. If the best blooms are desired, give plenty of room, as much as 3 x 4 feet. Peonies grow 2 to 3 feet or even more in height. Strong roots of some varieties will give bloom the first year; considerable bloom will come the second year; but the full bloom on most varieties should not be expected before the third year. The flowers may be brightened and their duration prolonged by partial shade while in bloom.

If old plants become weak, or if they drop their buds, dig them up and see whether the roots are not more or less dead and decayed; divide to fresh parts and replant in well-enriched ground; or purchase new plants.

Peonies are propagated by division of the roots in early fall, one good strong eye being left to each piece.

The peony has merit for its foliage as well as for its bloom, particularly when the soil is rich and the growth luxuriant. This value of the plant is commonly overlooked. The peony deserves its popularity.