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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Transplanting Peonies : Rejuvenating the Peony Garden

Saving the Peonies: In late Summer, 2011, many of the peonies in the Peony Garden located along the Waterfront Trail just south of the building (bunker) were covered in mildew, and not looking at all healthy. Clearly, something had to be done to save these plants, and soon.

The Problem: Peonies love sun and well-drained soil, and about half of the three-year-old peony bed was now in the shade of a thriving Kentucky Coffee tree at the south end of the bed. As well, irrigation for a new rhododendron and azalea bed adjacent to the peony garden had increased the moisture levels to both. Wet plus shade equals mildew.

The Solution: BRG Head Gardener, Para Kanp, outlined a plan of action to rejuvenate the entire Peony Garden: Remove the mulch and all the plants, modify the shape of the bed away from the Kentucky Coffee tree and extend towards the Rose Garden, add more soil to raise the bed above the surrounding lawn and improve drainage, then replant the peonies and relocate shrubs to other beds.

Volunteer David Culham Digging Peonies
First, you dig up the peonies, as David Culham demonstrates. About 200 plants were lifted and placed at either end of the bed to await transplanting. Water had started to stagnate in the bed, causing the peonies to wilt.

Cutting Back Peonies before Transplanting
Root balls were kept out of the sun, and foliage is cut back before re-planting. Peonies were placed on plastic sheeting to aid ease of movement (drag them around) and to keep soil from piling on lawn.

Volunteer Terry Butt Helping rebuild Peony Bed
City staff with machines turn over soil and bring in new Triple Mix to top up and raise the bed. The finishing touches to leveling the new raised bed were done by hand and rake.

Terry and Para Leveling Raised Peony Bed
Tractor and trucks did most of the heavy lifting involved in this re-do. Peonies were transplanted as fast as new sections of the bed were ready, as seen in the photo above; Peonies with foliage pruned back are spaced on 24 inch centers and watered in. Peonies must be planted at the correct depth; Too deep or too shallow means no blooms.

New Border Peony Garden Outlined in Landscape Paint
The orange paint line marks the new south edge of the Peony Garden, about 6 feet in from the previous border. The lost garden space was recouped by adding onto the west side of the bed (photo below).

Extending the Garden Bed
The west side of the Peony Garden was extended as shown above to keep the total garden bed area about the same, or slightly larger than before. Staff and volunteers removed all the plants within a few hours of fast work. The large shrub in the foreground is one of several relocated to other shrub beds.

Para Kanp (foreground) Leveling New Bed
As fast as plants are being dug up, Para is already preparing the new part of the bed for receiving the transplants.
Revamped Peony Garden
David Culham supplied this photo showing the new, improved and totally redone Peony Garden. The grass in the foreground covers a large area formerly part of the bed. After the peonies were transplanted, a layer of mulch (make sure mulch does not touch stems) provides winter protection. New drip irrigation was laid among the plants.

A large, healthy iris that came from the garden center with the original peony plants has thrived at the south end of the bed; It's now in the center of the revitalized peony garden.

The bulk of the work (machinery, trucks) took place over two intensive days; The finishing touches (mulch, irrigation, hand-checking depths) took place over several weeks.

Everyone involved in this project, as well as many from the surrounding community, look forward to this popular part of the garden providing a great display next June.

Related Peony Posts: See Yellow Peony post and Peonies in Bloom.

Vandalism Peonies January 2012:

Burned Burlap Fencing BRG
Garden staff discovered vandalism that occurred the evening or night of Thursday January 5. About 30 peony plants were uprooted from the partly frozen soil and left with roots exposed. Though the peonies were replanted as soon as possible, Para does not expect them to survive. As well, burlap snow fencing on the adjacent rhodo bed was removed and burned at the base of this light pole in front of the peony bed.

To alert the community to watch for future vandalism, David Culham spoke to the Mississauga News (see story):

'[We] know police can't protect the garden at night, so we hope locals will keep their eyes peeled and report anything suspicious,' he told the News.