Monday, August 13

Help Me, My Friends, For I Am Weak...

I went to the garden center today to get some potting soil because I have a few plants that desperately need to be repotted if they are to survive the winter indoors. (I learned my lesson last year--my rosemary was so rootbound that even overwatering it would have been fine for once. It only made it through mid-December.) I should have known better than to venture into a garden center shortly after having collected a surprise check from my second job... I really should have known better.

You know how these garden center visits go at this time of the year, right? As you drive there, you remind yourself that you are, indeed, a plant addict and feel smug that you've successfully gotten through Step 1: Acknowledging that you have a Problem. Then you comment out loud that you really don't have space for anything else, anyway, and resolve that you are ONLY going to the part of the store where the one specific thing you need resides. You are going to put it on your cart, and then you are going to proceed directly to the cash registers--no moving your head to either side as you walk down the aisles, even. You can do it, you tell yourself. For you are Strong.

You enter the building like a woman on a mission... and before you know it, you have your bag of potting soil. Plus 2 ceramic pots that were marked 30% off at the entrance to the potting soil room. Your cart then heads to the annuals section as if it has a mind of its own. (It must want to look for bargains to fill those new pots.) In the annuals section, you score 3 "annual" ornamental grasses marked as hardy to a zone warmer than you but bearing the same botanical name as the three you overwintered in your garden this past year--'Frosted Curls' sedge, to be precise--and a tiny "fall magic" pot of the 'Angelina' sedum that so entranced you in a picture on someone else's blog but was sold out of the perennials section by the time you went looking for it.

By this time, you feel a little lucky, so you stride toward the perennials section and find that they a running an unadvertised Buy-X-Get-X-Free deal. 'Silver Queen' ajuga jumps onto your cart (after all, who couldn't use more groundcover?) and she is followed quite cozily by the inky purple 'Arthur Branch' sedum that you drooled over this weekend at the botanical garden, where it was sprawling through 'Silver Falls' dichondra.

2 pots of hardy plumbago that you figure can be divided into 3 different clumps each before they are planted are squeezed into the last corner... what a bargain, and won't they look stunning in the fall tucked in between your 'Diablo' ninebark and the chartreuse leaves of 'Sum and Substance' hosta?... at which point you realize with horror that your cart is almost full.

So you head toward the cash register to see what kind of damage you've done--but to get there, you have to walk the gauntlet of clearance tables. "All Peonies 50% Off" catches your eye, as you know they had some lovely tree peonies earlier in the season that were a little rich for your blood at $40-some...

But enough of this *ahem* hypothetical situation. Let's get right to the part where I admit that I need your help. Before anyone jumps in, I don't particularly want suggestions on how to avoid my next plant bender. (Heck, I wear the same clothes for so many years in a row that I figure I have earned the right to splurge occasionally on plants with my frugality. Some women are clotheshorses, I'm a plant-horse.)

No, what I really need is advice on how to site and care for my new tree peony! All I can think about is that when I first looked them up in an Allan Armitage book, the first line under paeonia suffruticosa read something like this: "The proper care and cultivation of tree peonies remains shrouded in mystery..."

Yikes. That sounds even more daunting than a late summer trip to the garden center. Help!

18 comments:

Blackswamp_Girl said...

P.S. I obviously ramble even more when I'm stressed! :)

P.P.S. I am serious about wanting the advice. I know that Kylee has at least a tree peony or two, because I've seen her post about them. I'm going to go check out her blog to see what I can glean... but is anyone else able to help me out, too?

Carol said...

I can't provide any advice on the tree peony, as I don't have one. I just wanted to comment to let you know I enjoyed your post. I don't know what else they had for sale, but your purchases all seem quite reasonable to me. Better to buy now than to pay full price earlier in the year, right?

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Heather said...

Sorry, I know nothing on the topic, but I must comment to express my jealousy. My husband and I stopped by our local garden center yesterday and it looked like it had been robbed. Nothing left in the annual section and I don't know enough yet to buy perennials intelligently so I wisely stayed away. Some day. Good luck with the tree peony which I'm off to google because I haven't the faintest idea what it looks like!

Layanee said...

Is that all you bought? LOL :)

Tree peonies - A bit of shade, high canopy if possible! I do know that they do not like their roots disturbed before the fall. You have picked them up to plant at a safe time! I have a couple and while they will never get to be as big as those in the Pacific Northwest I do get a couple of blooms per year and they are huge! Good job!

LostRoses said...

Your foray into the clearance-laden nursery is a familiar story. Well, someone has to buy all those gorgeous plants at markdown prices!

Tree peonies - I've had one for about 8 years. The first two years I got only one bloom each year, but they were spectacular! I decided it was in too much shade and moved it to the back yard where it never bloomed again. I really should move it once more but I have no idea where to! I'll have to think about Layanee's suggestion of high canopy shade. Good luck!

EAL said...

They don't like to be moved ever once you've planted them, but they like it even less when your husband cuts one down thinking it a big weed in an underutilized spot. It had been doing fine (for 7 years) until then. For me they are not front-of-the-border plants; the bloom period is far too short.

Otherwise, I'd say more sun than shade. I'm hoping mine comes back because he didn't pull it up by the roots, just chopped it.

I am really hoping to visit the Cleveland Flower Show next year--and for peonies, there is a magnificent tree peony collection at some public garden south of Rochester. Gotta get to that next May.

snappy said...

Sounds very familiar going out shopping and coming back with plants (Especially bargains..who cannot resist two for ones, or three for £10).
Im a plants horse like you.Clothes are bought seldom, new plants, seeds, and bulbs often.
Once I get a garden it will be even worse.
Good Post :)

Colleen said...

I know absolutely nothing about tree peonies (other than the fact that they are absolutely gorgeous!) but your post had me smiling. I've been there, sister, oh I've been there! I choose to look at it as practicality rather than weakness, though. As some of the other commenters have said, it's much better to get these great plants at a bargain that at full price, and, besides, despite what most garden centers try to push, fall is prime planting season, and we are very, very close.... (how's that for enabling?)

Sounds like you got some nice stuff!

ellipsisknits said...

My mother and grandmother both grow (a) tree peony without too much ado. Part shade, protected from noon sun...they don't seem fussy. My mother's is not doing terribly well, but it gets very little sun, and all of it at noon, and is right next to a patio (alkaline soil?) but even it sends up a few flowers every year, the leaves are just discolored. Grandmother's does much better, and she is a very laissez-faire gardener.

-C

bill said...

no experience with tree peonies.

also i'm afraid i won't be able to help with your plant addiction either. i have the same problem myself.

Annie in Austin said...

You're only going to get comments from enablers, Kim - we love the bargain table! I think your Ceratostigmna, Diablo, Sum & Substance will be great.

Your soil is sandy OH and my tree peony grew in alkaline IL Z5 so I don't know if my experience helps. Mine was very small when I bought it. I planted it about 8-feet east of a semi-dwarf crab apple so it would get full morning sun, but shade in the scorching afternoon. We used to use a lot of mushroom compost in those days, and lots of shredded pine mulch. The peony had very few blooms for three years, then took off and made a dozen flowers a year - quite heartstopping!

Before we put that house up for sale I dug up the peony and took it to my friend Barb's house. That was in March, which is not advised, but it gave her twenty flowers the following spring.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

lisa said...

Hahahaha! Great post, and unfortunately I am another "plantaholic" enabler, but I agree with the rationalization that it's practicality at its' finest! ;-) As for tree peonies, I just got one this year, so no expertise to share as yet. But if fellow commenters are correct in their advice, then mine are sited well...*whew*!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

All (tree) peonies should come with a *do not disturb* sign. Don't plant them too deep and leave them well alone once you have planted them. Sun or light to semi shade are fine.

I had a tree peonie in my previous garden that did very well in heavy clay and full sun.

Fun post!

bs said...

i'm with the don't know nothing bout no tree peonies people. but i wanted to say how much i enjoyed your post! that's exactly the feeling of being subsumed by shopping for plants... it's not the worst sin to have. and the rationalizing about never shopping for clothes sounds familiar too. you have a great voice.

p.s. sign me up for some amaranth seeds would you??

Blackswamp_Girl said...

... and I also should have known that you all would be a bunch of enablers! *grin*

Carol, I don't know what all I missed out on, either, because I literally ran out of time at the garden center! I dare not go back and find out, either!

Heather, you have much better willpower than I! Seriously, though, that's very smart. You'll gain a better idea of what grows in different conditions, what kind of damage is tolerable when "saving" plants from the clearance tables, and so forth. And then you too might be tempted... ;)

layanee, see my comment to Carol above--given a second cart and another hour of open store, I might have done even more damage! Thanks for the advice on tree peonies, btw. I'd like to see a flower now and then, but honestly I just love the foliage and the plant itself. I'll have to post some pics of the old ones in my neighborhood soon.

lost roses, thanks for the info on your experience with tree peonies, too. And you're right, someone had to give all of those plants a good home. :)

eal... ouch. No husband here, but I will have to watch a certain four-legged "Garden Assistant" and have just nixed one of the spots I was considering for the tree peony accordingly. (It was too near to the soon-to-be fence that I'm sure she'll run the length of.) Too bad, as the sun/shade there seems like it would be perfect according to what I'm hearing from everyone!

(Oh, I think that the Flower Show happens every other year. So maybe I'll make it up to the Buffalo Garden Walk in 08 and you can make it down to Cleveland in 09.)

snappy, you will definitely be even more "dangerous" when you get a garden! In the meantime, though, your apartment looks quite lovely full of flowers... hope you enjoy them during your week off.

Colleen, true--I can just pretend that I'm one step ahead for once in my life, and ready for fall planting! :) (I do like fall planting, actually... much nicer to work in the garden then than in the heat of July, honestly.)

ellipsisknits, thanks for the information. Your mom's with the discolored leaves sounds an awful lot like the very front one in a row of tree peonies down the street. All of them are on the West side of a house right next to the neighbor's driveway, but the first one gets the brunt of the sun since it's on the south side and has full sun all afternoon. Like your Mom's, it flowers but the leaves are pretty discolored. I think I'll find some morning sun only for this one.

Well, bill, at least we all can celebrate--er, commiserate--our plant buying addictions together, right? *grin*

Annie, thanks! Your IL spot sounds like one of the areas I have picked out for the tree peony... but it will get the benefit of shade from a cherry, not a crabapple. I would be happy with a dozen blooms--I really like the foliage for its primitive/exotic look--but how funny that it gave your friend even more flowers after being moved at an odd time. Murphy's Laws of the Garden. :)

lisa, glad to make you smile... it has sounded like you needed a good laugh these days! Mine will be right behind yours, I guess, so if you notice anything I need to think about with mine as they both grow I will appreciate the heads up!

yolanda elizabet, thanks for the advice on tree peonies. I'm feeling better and better about the space I have picked out as I read about others' experiences!

bs, subsumed is such a great word for it! I'm glad that you enjoyed sharing my temporary insanity via the post. And as for that amaranth, most definitely--Nick may not be able to handle it, though. ;) Just email me at blackswampgirl at yahoo dot com with your address sometime when you think about it.

Kerri said...

Kim, as you've found out, we all applaud that kind of behavior...because it makes us feel...well, normal! :)
Your post was a treat to read. I feel like a greedy child whenever I'm in a nursery...especially if there are reduced prices!
Would you believe I recently visited a new perennial nursery...close by, that I've been meaning to stop at...and bought only one plant? Well, it's true (they weren't on sale :)
I found a Brunnera Jack Frost that I'd been wanting.
Hey, being addicted to plants is better than some other addictions, right? LOL
Enjoyed catching up with all your recent posts. Glad you made it to the CBG. Those trips are always fascinating.
I'm glad you got some advise on tree peonies. Mine are all the other kind, so can't offer any advise. But I will say that I've moved ordinary peonies with great success, even though they're not supposed to like being disturbed. I moved them from clay soil and gave them lots of lovely compost.

The Illustrated Garden said...

Oh, yes... those clearance tables will get you every time! Judging from the number of comments here, we need to start a support group!! Wonderful post.

Kylee said...

You want ME to help you NOT BUY anything at a garden center?? *rolls on the floor laughing hilariously* I'll come and HELP you buy! Should I bring the van?

Tree peonies - I have two of them. Mom has three or four, at least. Plant in the fall, Don't prune. Except when you feel like you must, as my mother did (it was really growing out of control) and hers survived that just fine. If I remember right, she really pruned it, too.

I don't do anything special with my tree peonies than I do with my regular ones. The most spectacular one ('Sahohime') is in full sun in the Japanese garden, which also has small stones around most everything (read: heat magnet). The other one (unknown magenta) is in part sun (about five hours of it, midday) and it does fine there, too, but it's a younger tree than 'Sahohime'.

A quick call to Lowe's there in Chagrin Falls (you know the one - not the chain) should get you more info, too, because that's who I purchased it from at the CGS in 2005.

Post a Comment

One of my favorite things about blogging is the interaction--posts are often simply the beginning of an interesting conversation! So thanks for taking the time to join the discussion, and please know that I enjoy reading each and every comment left here. I try to answer as many as I can.