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    Sept. 30: The Nashville Herb Society presents Through the Garden Gate: A Glimpse of Edwardian England, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Cheekwood Botanic Hall. Celebrate the gardens, foods and flowers that delighted Downton Abby family and friends at the turn of the 20th century. The event begins with a hearty Edwardian breakfast, followed by three speakers: Marta McDowell on Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life; Geraldine A. Laufer on Tussie Mussie – Victorian art of expressing yourself in the language of flowers; and Terry White, The English Garden event florist . Registration includes breakfast, box lunch in the garden with music, English tea and cookies. To learn more or to register, visit www.herbsocietynashvlle.org.

    Tips & tasks – September

    Cut the dead tops of coneflowers, but leave enough for goldfinches to enjoy the seeds.

    Plant cool-weather vegetables for a fall crop: spinach, mustard and turnip greens, radishes, leaf lettuce.

    Start a new lawn of cool-season grass, such as fescue, or refurbish or repair establish lawns.

    Don’t let the soil of newly planted grass dry out. New grass needs about an inch of water per week.

    It’s still warm, so continue to water and weed garden beds as needed.

    Remove dead foliage, spent flowers and other garden debris; replenish mulch as needed.

    Continue to harvest produce, which may be getting a boost now from slightly cooler weather. Keep watering sage, rosemary and other perennial herbs so they’ll be in good shape to get through winter.

    Prepare to bring houseplants back indoors: remove dead leaves, scrub soil from the sides of the pots, treat for insects. Bring tropical plants in before nighttime temperatures dip to 55 degrees.

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You can never have too many peonies

Peonies bloomed beautifully this spring.

I have some peonies that I inherited but they are under a big tree. Just this year they have bloomed and I love them. I know from experience that they don’t like to be moved so I am going to leave these where they are. I would, however, like to plant more. Any advice on light, soil, position in garden, and any problems they are prone to? – Patty O.

This was apparently a good year for peonies. Everyone who has them says they bloomed beautifully, and many who don’t have them say they’d like to add them to the garden. Now that their season in the sun has come and gone and their lovely flowers are just a fragrant memory, it’s no wonder a gardener might want to plant more. Here, again, are the basics:

Light: Full sun, but they can manage with a little shade in the afternoon. Soil: Work in plenty of organic material, because they must have good drainage. Position in the garden: Try not to make them compete with the roots of nearby trees and large shrubs.

Problems? Watch for botrytis, a common fungal disease that causes plants to wilt, leaves to develop black splotches and buds to dry up or turn brown and mushy. It doesn’t kill the plant, but it’s best to clean up around it as soon as you can. Remove and destroy infected leaves, and in the fall, cut the stalks down to the ground and dispose of them to prevent the disease from overwintering in the bed. To prevent the problem, The Southern Living Garden Book suggests spraying with a copper fungicide as new growth emerges in spring. (Always, always follow directions on the label of any chemical you use in the garden.)

Planting: Dig the soil deeply and work in plenty of organic matter, but plant the roots so that the eyes are only 1 inch below the surface; peonies that are planted too deep may not flower as well.

Waiting: Peonies are finicky, and often – usually – don’t bloom the first year. Be patient.

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2 Responses

  1. We don’t have peonies where I live but we did when I was growing up. I love them and agree that you can never have too many.

    • Sometimes I wish peonies bloomed all summer — but then they wouldn’t be as special. I enjoy them as long as I can, then reluctantly let them go.

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