Our Peony of the Month for June is the tree peony “Shunkoju”.
As summer months filled with flowers are almost here, the peony season is in full bloom and gardens around us look absolutely stunning! That is why this time, we are focusing on fresh, growing peonies and the horticultural aspect of our "Peony of the Month" series!
Join us in the "Peony of the Month Chat Show" to find out more!
The story of "Shunkoju".
"Shunkoju" is a Japanese tree peony that Siyuan, our artist, planted in her garden five years ago. This year, it finally flowered! Although it took quite a while for her to bloom, it was definitely worth the wait.
As "Shunkoju" is the first tree peony we feature in our project, we want to use this opportunity to tell you a little bit more about this rare and unique type of peony plant! Our expert, Heath Urquhart, helped us understand tree peonies better and offered us some tips on caring for them.
What Are Tree Peonies?
Tree peonies are native to China. In ancient times, they were favoured for their taste and medicinal rather than ornamental value. However, with time, their beauty started to be appreciated and featured in art as China's most loved and admired flower. You can read more about what peony flower symbolises in this article.
Tree peonies are not trees, but shrubs - at first sight, you can notice that they have hard, woody parts instead of stems. This is the main difference between them and herbaceous peonies. As a result, the plant doesn't die down completely in the winter - the woody stems will remain intact above the ground.
A peony lover will be pleased to know that tree peonies are very long-lived! If you take care of them, you will be able to admire their big, impressive flowers year after year.
This is the sight that warms our hearts after winter!
Although some people feel they need to protect their peonies from cold and frost, it would actually be a mistake to cover them at that stage! Frost is needed on top of them so that the flowers are activated to bloom.
Peonies thrive in the cold temperature and need it during their winter dormancy. Don't cover them, just let the nature do its thing!
Flowers of a Tree Peony
Tree peonies can be single or double-petal and come in a variety of colours. What is characteristic of them is that they have sumptuous, large, slightly flat flower heads with big, plate-like petals.
As a peony bud grows, it starts secreting a type of nectar that attracts ants looking for food. Bees are captivated by the sugar found in the nectar as well, and you can sometimes see them tapping on the flowers and flying away. While some people worry about ants, they do no harm to peonies, and their presence simply means that your flowers are very healthy and close to blooming!
Our June peony "Shunkoju" has the typical large tree peony flowers - double flower of petals carrying different shades of pink - pastel pink on the outside and in dark pink the centre.
She flowers mid-late season - in May or early June.
The big, lush leaves of a tree peony have decorative value on their own, and will look attractive even after the flowering period.
The foliage of "Shunkoju" is quite beautiful as well. Each of her leaves has a pink tip that adorns it. In addition, tree peonies can get quite tall, up to 6-7 feet tall, and their leaves that will turn lovely hues of russet and mauve in the autumn - she will remain an attractive part of your garden even later in the year!
Star-shaped, beautiful seedpod of “Shunkoju”
Some, but not all tree peonies will produce seedpods like these. You can grow new peonies from them! It is not difficult or complicated, but it requires plenty of patience.
If your peony produced a seedpod, wait till it swells and turns green-brown - which will mean the seeds are getting fertile. When the pods start cracking, you can harvest the seeds and place them in the ground in a cold spot. They won't necessarily germinate the first year, so don't lose hope if nothing happens - just wait for another year!
What Does a Tree Peony Need?
Tree peonies need a bit more space than herbaceous peonies but similar to intersectional peonies. Make sure to prune out dead stems before autumn.
New plants should be put in fertile, free-draining soil in a sheltered, yet sunny part of the garden. Maintain a good moisture content in the soil (but not to make it soggy), especially in the high summer heat. Feed in early spring as the new growth starts and again after flowering to boost next years buds. Use just a simple blood and bone fertiliser or rose fertiliser.
Botanical Art on Your Wall
All peonies from the Peony of the Month collection are painted by Siyuan Ren and turned into a limited edition series. There will be only 35 prints available of each peony. Each piece will be numbered and signed.