Culinary note: The petals can be added to salads, or cooked slightly and sweetened for a treat. Peony water was also once considered a delicacy and the blooms can be floated in punches. For more details about edible flowers click here.
Germination of Tree Peony seed can be slow and erratic but is well worth the effort. The easiest method of sowing tree peonies is quite different to the most seeds. Place seeds in a polythene bag with some lightly moist vermiculite of seed sowing compost. Put a twist tie around the top of the bag and put in a warm place (but not in full sun) for 3 months at a temperature of 21C (70F). During this period the root system of the peony plants will start to develop. Once the roots are 2.5cm (1") in length, move the bags to a cooler position at a temperature of 5C (40F) for 10-12 weeks.
Keep a close eye on the bags of developing seedlings. Immediately the shoots appear remove them from the bags and pot up the peony seedlings individually into 7.5cm (3") pots. These should be grown on in a cool place until the seedling has developed into a good sized plant. Gradually acclimatise young Tree Peony plants to outdoor conditions before moving them outside. Plant out on well drained, rich fertile soil at the same depth as in the original pot, spacing each plant 45cm (18") apart. Choose a sunny or semi shaded position that is sheltered from cold winds and shaded from strong early morning sunlight.
Water regularly until plants are fully established. Prune well established tree peonies in spring whilst dormant, removing crossing and damaged stems to create a healthy open framework. After pruning, apply a mulch of well rotted manure or compost around the base of the plant. With patience, dedicated gardeners will be rewarded with beautiful Tree Peony flowers from between 5 and 7 years from sowing. Caution: All parts are harmful if eaten.
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