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May 2008

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Moving peonies, eradicating alstroemeria and admiring agapanthus

The winter was very busy in our garden. We had to make tough decisions and remove a number of trees. The reasons were various - some were diseased, some were beginning to take so much light from the perennial beds that the flowering performance of many of the perennials was deteriorating and some were just plain ugly and dangerous.

One family that were really suffering from poor light were the peonies. I love peonies. They can be difficult in the midlands. It is not the cold that is the problem, some can take temperatures as low as minus 10° Celsius, it is the damp coupled with the cold that they do not like, but I love a challenge. I moved around, with some trepidation, the various Paeonia lactiflora. I have done this before without any loss of flowers or vigour. I replanted them in enriched soil. Peonies are gross feeders and will not flower well unless in really good soil.

I approached Paeonia ‘Branklin' and Paeonia mlokosewitschii with extra trepidation. I have three clumps of the latter. They are all different but all beautiful. I added two peonies to my collection in the autumn, P. veitchii and P. cambessedesii. I was really worried about the cambessedesii in the cold wet winter. It comes from the Balearic Islands and does not like the wet. I didn't cover them, but I am happy to report that they came through unscathed as did all the ones I moved.

Peonies are gross feeders and will not flower well unless in really good soil.

I also grow the exquisite P.tenuifolia. I find this one very difficult to move as it has very deep roots. However this seems to be my lucky year and I now have two successful clumps of same. If you don't know this peony, it has fern-like leaves and single red flowers and is a delight. I am now on the lookout for P. ‘Smouthii'. This is a cross between tenuifolia and lactiflora and I'm told is very free flowering. P. anomala looks fabulous also. The possibilities are endless.

No luck however on another front. Am I ever going to be rid of alstroemeria? It is the bane of my life. I have used every method of eradication known on it and still it pops up. I would learn to live with it if it produced more flower and less leaf. I'm beginning to think concrete is the only answer. To add insult to injury I think Japanese anemone looks like it might have the same sort of tenacity. I have a clump of it in the wrong place.

I saw some of the most beautiful agapanthus in South Africa in February. They were of the species Agapanthus inapertus, which typically have drooping tubular florets. Now is a good time to plant them if you can get your hands on them. The varieties I saw were Agapanthus inapertus pendulus ‘Black Magic' and Agapanthus inapertus pendulus ‘Graskop' they come from

Kwa Zulu-Natal and are said to be very hardy. Both have navy blue flowers and the latter is the smaller of the two.

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