But before we get all excited and start spending zillions on gorgeous new ones, it's peony cleaning up time. The fungus diseases that plague peonies overwinter on dead peony leaves and flowers, so getting rid of all traces of same is the best defense against future infection. There is no applied control, organic or otherwise, as effective as simply being tidy to the nth degree.
Cut stems down to an inch or so above ground, preferably while the leaves are still firmly attached. It's always a wrench to remove a whole bush full of beautiful fall foliage, but snipping off all of this year's growth before it falls apart makes the subsequent raking of leftovers far less of a chore.
Making bouquets helps; peony leaves and fall flowers are pretty much foolproof.
Needless to say, none of the detritus should go on the compost. Sending it to the landfill is ungreen. Burning it is against the law in many places. Fortunately, the diseases are mostly specific to peonies and there is almost always some dumping spot -- in the woods for instance -- where peonies will not be planted in the foreseeable future.
It doesn't hurt to get rid of the mulch, too. Very small bits of former peony are undoubtedly embedded in it. And as a side benefit, mulch removal exposes the plant bases so you can get a good look at them. Everything is probably fine, but if you see humped up crowns you know it would be wise to divide and reset the plants.
Check out Leslie Land's fun and informative new blog section "Eek of the Week," on LeslieLand.com. The latest post deconstructs a disturbing new product -- individually wrapped prunes -- and gives a mouth-watering recipe for Prunes in Armagnac
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