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Peonies: The PSL of Flowers

Someone I went to high school with recently posted on Facebook that peonies are the pumpkin spice latte of flowers. I suppose it was meant to be an insult, but I see it as just the opposite. Are pumpkin spice lattes delicious and loved by many? Yes. Are peonies beautiful and loved by many? Yes. I would rather have a latte than a cup sewer water, and I prefer a patch of peonies to crab grass. Take that, former classmate!

Peonies have earned the title "Queen of Flowers" for a reason. Their showy, fragrant blooms stop people in their tracks. A favorite of flower arrangements and bridal bouquets, these definitely qualify as the "thrill" of any garden. The best part? Peonies are incredibly low maintenance. Here's what you need to consider when choosing peonies for your garden.

They need full sun: I've tried to get around this one without much success. Peonies need sun to bloom, so get them in a space that gets as much as possible. I've planted them in "part sun" areas and they do alright, but they end up leaning over other plants to reach the sun. If you plant in mostly shade, the stems and leaves will grow but they won't flower.

Plant alone or as a hedge: Plant a peony today and in a couple years they will develop into the shape of a shrub. Intersperse them with your other medium- height perennials or in a group to serve as a back border. I've seen other gardeners plant them as a long, stand alone hedge. You can't go wrong!

Cutting for arrangements: I like to stick two or three stems in a vase on my dining room table. They last a decent amount of time and I don't need to put shoes on to enjoy the plant. If cutting, make sure you don't cut too far down the stem. The plant needs the stem and leaves to continue to grow (and produce a heartier, more robust plant next year), so don't cut anymore than 1/3 of the plant's total height.

Ants: Put the pesticides away! There's an old wives' tale that peonies need ants to bloom, and as with most tales it's founded in truth. The ants are attracted to the nectar inside, and during the process eat other flower-eating bugs that might attack the peony . If you want to bring some of that beauty indoors, try running the flowers under the hose and gently shaking them to get rid of the ants.

Move along Bambi! This may be the best part of all. When I finally broke down and accepted the fact that I can only plant deer resistant varieties in my garden, I was thrilled to find out my favorite flower made the cut.

Bloom time: One drawback of peonies is they have a fairly short blooming period. The blooming period occurs during late spring and early summer, and the flowers only last seven to ten days. If this bothers you, consider finding a variety with darker or glossy foliage for continued interest in your garden.

Peonies are a beautiful and surprisingly low maintenance flower that will enhance any landscape. So grab that latte and head over to the won't regret it. All hail the Queen!

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