Gardener's Grapevine 2012.04.18

Rain rain, go away, come again on a weekday. Preferably when I’m stuck inside at work so I can play in the dirt on the weekends.

Last Saturday I got the impression I was being told to do my housework and let the outside be. But it’s so terribly hard when those darn dandelions will not stop their ever-loving invasion of my flower bed and garden. I am so amazed at the advanced rate of growth of the perennials this year.

My daughter Jacquie brought me a start of her miniature hosta “Dragon Tails.” It is so cute with long yellow green leaves that twist and curl looking like a dragon’s tail. When she delivered it, it was about a half-inch tall. Three days later it is one and a half inches tall. It’s crazy. 

The house Art and I bought 26 years ago was originally built by a man named Stanager. Apparently the Stanagers liked peonies, because when we bought the house there were peonies coming up everywhere in the side yard. Every spring I dug them up and every spring more popped up.

They never bloomed because of how deep they were planted. I had to dig and dig to get to the roots, and as the old saying goes, I thought I’d be handed chopsticks by the time I got to the root base. Somehow I thought I might be on the other side of the world before the things were out of the ground.

Well, twenty plus years later, these plants which were little more than roots, are beautiful plants that every year grow more beautiful. Peonies do not like anything to mess with them when they set their blooms. The only thing they tolerate is the ants which crawl over the buds collecting the nectar and slowly unfurling the leaves of the flower.

Once open, a friend taught me an easy manner for dislodging the ants from the flowers so they can be brought inside without their little friends. Just simply turn the blooms upside down in a large pail of water and gently swirl them. Pull them out of the water and leave them upside down long enough to shed the water, then bring them inside. 

Here’s a little information on peonies. They prefer a cooler climate and do well in zones 3-8. Their roots do better if they are planted in the fall and are allowed a month or two to grow prior to the first heavy frost. The root stock bought in the spring is usually held over in cold chambers and has undergone great stress. They are hardy plants and will usually rebound, but it may take a while. 

Peonies prefer soil slightly acidic, but not extremely acidic like rhododendrons and azaleas do. To plant the rootstock, dig a hole deep enough to bury the entire root with the highest crown, but no deeper than two inches from ground level. If they are planted too deep they won’t bloom. It would be my guess that 100 years of being ignored will let the roots get deep enough for this to occur too. Case in point, our house.

Mulch around the planted root, but do not cover the top of it. Peonies do not like to stay wet and the soil must be well drained or their roots will rot and they will die. 

There are many new varieties of peonies and some are so very vibrant in color and size of bloom. They are an excellent choice for any garden. Just use the water trick before enjoying them inside.

  • Front.web
    NICE WORK—A spider remains at the center of a web, awaiting visitors, during a moist morning last month. The was built in front of Eagle Funeral Home in Morenci.
  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.