Wendy Harris Peony Patch

Wendy Harris Peony Patch

Hi Wendy,

Below is your peony growing guide, tailored specifically for your soil and situation, following our detailed discussion. I've selected varieties with high confidence for success, all available in the commercial wholesale market. Following my recommendation to plant 30 of each variety will bring you below your goal of a thousand, leaving space for experimentation and fun.

Embrace the staple group of peonies we discussed; they're set to improve yearly. Yet, allow yourself to explore and fall for new varieties like Lemon Chiffon and Etched Salmon. These additions promise to make your flowers unique. Observing local preferences can offer insights, but remember, peonies like yours will be cherished for centuries, standing as classics long into the future.

Shout out to your future achievements! Should you need any advice, a quick DM on Instagram is the way to go. For more extensive support, like a fall recap or addressing disease concerns, I'm here for another consult. But truly, I believe this guide sets you on the path to success. Remember, focus on the positives and learn from every outcome. This simple approach will ensure your peony journey is fun and rewarding.

Happy peony growing,


Wendy's Peony Growing Guide:

Introduction: This guide is crafted for Wendy Harris, focusing on cultivating peonies in Massachusetts, optimizing growth and bloom in the unique climate northwest of Boston, towards Framingham.

Variety Selection & Sourcing:

  • Target late-blooming varieties for resilience and extended flowering periods.
  • Source from reputable wholesalers in Europe or the U.S. Recommended varieties include Jacorma Whopper, Vivid Rose, Myrtle Gentry, Susie Q, Lady Orchid, Elsa Sass, Marie Lamone, Henry Sass, Pillow Talk, and prefer Festiva Maxima for its stem strength as a value peony. Aim for a minimum of 30 plants per variety.

Soil Preparation:

  • Procure approximately 35 cubic yards of compost from Black Earth Compost Company, top dressing (laying down on top of the soil) it on your sandy soil to enrich the planting areas.
  • Add greensand, rock phosphate, and granular azomite as top dressing to support healthy growth and blooming.
In our discussions about your garden's sandy soil, I've tailored a strategy for optimal peony growth. Black Earth Compost Company, located near you, emerged as a top choice for your soil needs after evaluating their soil science. Their product, based on a thorough search, seems to be the finest available in your region. Although I haven't checked their pricing, for your project—spanning an estimated 10,000 square feet and requiring differentiation between planting and walking paths—you'll need approximately 35 cubic yards of compost for planting your peonies. This volume is likely available in 10 or 20 cubic yard deliveries.
    • Green Sand: This is a naturally occurring mineral known for its ability to release potassium slowly and improve soil structure. For peonies, green sand enhances root health and flower vitality. You will need 10 bags, each weighing 30 to 50 pounds.

    • Rock Phosphate: An essential source of phosphorus, rock phosphate supports strong root development and boosts blooming in peonies. Plan to acquire 10 bags, with weights ranging from 30 to 50 pounds per bag.

    • Azomite: A mineral-rich rock dust, azomite supplies plants with a broad spectrum of trace minerals, promoting overall plant health and disease resistance. Your peony garden will benefit from 10 bags.


  • Mix the three above amendments together. In the late fall or late winter depending on snow fall. Lightly sprinkle an 1/8 of a cup of the blended amendments at edge of the planting hole of the peonies. Always lay soil amendments along the top towards the edge or "drip line" of a plant as opposed to near the eyes of the peonies. Keeping amendments away from the eyes is best. 
  • Store these supplies in a dry, dark place to extend their usefulness, ideally lasting around two years.

Garden Layout:
  • Design both planting rows and walking paths to be three feet wide for ease of access and maintenance.
  • Use landscape flags for planning—white for planting areas, green for paths, and pink for peony locations.

Garden Layout Steps

  1. Paths and Planting Zones: For both ease of access and aesthetic harmony, I recommend designing your garden with both the planting rows and walking paths at a width of three feet. The length of these rows and paths will naturally depend on the dimensions of your property, but keeping the width consistent ensures a balanced look and functional space.

  2. Peony Spacing: To allow your peonies ample room to flourish, position them with a 24-inch gap between the edges of their planting "eyes." This spacing promotes healthy growth and air circulation, reducing the risk of disease.

  3. Visualization with Flags: Before making any purchases, use landscape flags to outline your garden's layout. Opt for white flags to mark where each peony will be planted, green for delineating the walking paths, and pink to indicate the peonies themselves. This visual planning step is crucial for ensuring the garden meets your expectations and fits seamlessly into your space.

Organic Matter Sourcing

  1. Path Material: For the walking paths, a blend of woodchips and leaf litter will create a natural, permeable surface. Source these materials from local tree services or arborists, specifically requesting deliveries in late spring or summer to ensure the inclusion of leaf material. For paths that decompose more slowly, thus lasting longer, aim for a mix with a higher woodchip content—about 75% woodchips to 25% leaf litter is ideal.

Advanced Tips

  • If you opt for woodchips from a tree service, inquire about having them triple-shredded directly on your property for an additional fee. This process significantly reduces the size of the woodchips, allowing for quicker integration into the soil.

  • Alternatively, for a more refined path material, seek out local suppliers of triple-shredded hardwood mulch. Combining this with leaf litter (in a 50:50 ratio for quicker composting or 75:25 for slower decomposition) will yield an effective, attractive path material that gradually enriches the surrounding soil.

    Sunlight & Planting Depth:

    • The success of planting peonies hinges on two crucial factors: the depth at which the eyes are planted and ensuring ample sunlight. Peonies thrive in full sun, so select the sunniest spot on your property. Especially in northern locations, more sunlight translates to fewer disease issues like botrytis over time.

      Eye Depth: When handling a peony root, locate the largest cluster of healthy eyes, as this will dictate your planting depth. For your farm, plant them one inch below the soil line, then add an 1-2" inches of compost on top. This setup, after settling, optimizes planting depth.

      Direct Planting: It's essential to plant directly into your soil, whether it's sandy or a different texture, without mixing anything into the planting hole. The main cluster of eyes should be an inch below the grade. Gently pat down the soil and step back to ensure consistency with each planting.

      Orientation: Use last year's small brown stems as a guide for orientation rather than the root shape, which can vary. The collar, where eyes meet tuberous roots, is crucial for direction. Ensure that the central group of eyes points upward, slightly below the soil line, before topping with compost.

      Digging: Aim for holes wider rather than deeper, ideally double the width of the root. In sandy soil, you might find digging easier, though watch out for stones ;) This approach, especially with a comprehensive compost top dressing, promises a strong start for your peonies.

    .Investment in Infrastructure:
    • Quality tools are essential. Opt for durable wheelbarrows and shovels suitable for the specific tasks in your garden, ensuring longevity and efficiency.
    • Wheelbarrows: Choose durable models from reputable manufacturers like A.M. Leonard. A robust wheelbarrow is indispensable for transporting soil amendments and tools across your garden efficiently.
    • Shovels: For delicate, finishing work, the finely crafted shovels from Sneeboer, Netherlands, are unmatched in precision and are perfect for established gardens with refined soil. For the heavy-duty tasks encountered in newer gardens, A.M. Leonard offers sturdy shovels designed to handle rugged work without breaking.


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