QUESTION: Some years our peonies bloom beautifully for several weeks, but sometimes the buds die before they open, or black spots develop on some of the plants and the leaves curl and die. Can you tell me what I’m doing wrong?
Sometimes it’s not anything you’re doing wrong. You may be able to blame the peony’s problem on the weather. Wet, cool weather provides perfect conditions for a fungal disease called botrytis, or gray mold.
Extension agents note that botrytis flourishes on a lot of plants this time of year if there is not enough sunshine and a lot of wet weather. There is a specific fungus, Botrytis paeoniae, that infects only peonies.
The blight can infect the young shoots as they emerge early in spring, and can infect buds or flowers at any stage. On plants that are in bud, the buds may swell but will die before they open. The infection can move into the stem and cause spots and discoloration. If the infection is severe, the leaves will turn brown and die back prematurely.
Good garden practices can help keep Botrytis from damaging the peonies. Inspect the plants and remove any parts covered in gray mold; place them in a bag to be discarded (don’t put them in the compost). Do this on a day when the weather is dry to avoid spreading the fungus. In the fall, clean up dead foliage and debris, cut the peony stalks at ground level and discard the debris to reduce the chance of the fungus spores returning the following spring.
May Garden Calendar
May is planting time in Middle Tennessee. Food or flowers? Why not both? See the May Landscape & Garden Calendar in The Tennessean for five ornamental and edible plants for your landscape.
Garden events in Middle Tennessee
Carmen Johnston, a Garden Lifestyle Expert for Southern Living Plant Collection, will host a session on spring-inspired ideas using the Southern Living Plant Collection Designer Series container gardens. The event starts at 10:30 a.m. at Home Depot on Moore’s Lane in Brentwood.
National Public Gardens Day at Cheekwood, celebrating public gardens and Cheekwood’s role in promoting environmental stewardship, plant conservation and community education. Live music in the Herb Garden 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.; guided garden tours on the hour. Special presentation with Cheekwood president Jane Offenbach at 1 p.m. Learn how to receive free admission at http://www.nationalpublicgardensday.org. More info at http://www.cheekwood.org.
May 11: Spring Festival & Plant Sale presented by the Wilson County Master Gardener Association. Guest speakers, demonstrations, food and concessions, gift baskets, crafts, gifts; flower garden and arboretum tours by tram. 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon, Tenn. Free admission and free parking.
Middle Tennessee Hosta Society sale, dozens of hosta varieties available. Sale opens at 8 a.m. at the Maryland Farms YMCA in Brentwood.
Robertson County Master Gardeners plant sale, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. (rain or shine), County Extension Plaza, 408 North Main St. (corner of North Main & 5th Ave.), Springfield, Tenn. For information: http://www.rcmga.org.
May 11: Wilson County Master Gardeners Spring Festival & Plant Sale, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center, Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon, Tenn. Speakers, demonstrations, food and concessions, crafts, gifts; garden and arboretum tram tours. Free admission and parking. http://wcmastergardener.org.
May 21: Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee meets at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall. Speaker is Jimmy Williams from Paris, Tenn, on “The Perennial Border from February through December.” Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7 p.m.
May 23: Middle Tennessee Hosta Society meets at Cheekwood’s Potter Room, 7 p.m. Featured speaker is Jason Rives, owner of Petals From the Past in Jemison. Ala.; topic is “Incorporating Antique Roses into the Hosta garden.”