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  • March garden tips & tasks

    If your fescue lawn looks a little skimpy, overseed early this month. Fescue grows best when the weather is still cool.

    Clip dead stems from perennial herbs – thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary. Pruning encourages vigorous new growth.

    Prune nandinas, flowering quince and other airy shrubs by reaching in and removing about a third of the branches at ground level.

    Remove mulch or leaves that may be covering perennials in garden beds.

    Prepare a new garden bed: Have the soil tested (check with your county’s Extension service). Remove grass and dig or till soil 8 to 10 inches deep and mix with soil amendments and organic matter to improve drainage.

    Add fertilizer lightly to perennials as soon as you see new growth. Too much fertilizer may result in lanky growth.

    Herb transplants that don’t mind cool weather -- parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano – can go in the ground now.

    When you cut daffodils to bring inside, cut the stems at an angle and place them in water right away. Change the water in the vase daily to keep them fresh longer.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    The Perennial Plant Society's annual Plant Sale will be April 8, opening at 9 a.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale offers newly released and hard-to-find perennials from top local nurseries -- more than 450 varieties of perennials, vines, grasses, shrubs and annuals. The event supports local scholarships for Tennessee horticulture students and monthly gardening programs, open to the public, at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. For information visit www.ppsmtn.org.

    The Herb Society of Nashville's annual Herb Sale will be April 29, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale will offer heirloom vegetables, rare varieties of perennial and annual herbs, handmade pottery herb markers and more. To learn more, visit herbsocietynashville.org.

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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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