Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Memories of mom and fern peonies

My sister-in-law Peggy, a garden enthusiast in her own right, shared a special story with me recently. Many years ago, my mom had given her a fern leaf peony. This plant has followed my brother and his wife through a handful of moves over the years and it now thrives in their Minnesota garden. I was touched that one plant could mean so much to them and what a wonderful memory and tribute to my mom who died in 1992.

If you've been on this blog before, perhaps you've read some of my melancholy posts on my mom. I wish she could have seen and enjoyed this garden hobby with me. I was only 25 at the time of her death - still wallowing in apartment living - years away from cultivating any sort of green thumb at my own home. At that time, I probably couldn't have even told you what a peony looked like!

I now have the opportunity to cherish a piece of mom's garden history. Peggy asked if I wanted to share this fern peony (pictured above). She felt I should have have something of mom's - garden-related naturally. I am honored. Problem is, neither of us know how to split a fern peony. And because of the precious nature of this plant, neither one of us want to botch this job and leave us both plantless ....

Does anyone have any experience doing this and can offer us some advice?

Here's a few garden photos from Peggy ... Oh, there's one four-legged friend on here too.

Dwarf Garden Phlox "Pink Flame"

"Baby Sun" Coreopsis

Winston watching over the garden.

Thanks for sharing Peggy ... let's get this fern peony thing done!


Eve said...

I don't have any myself but here is what a friend said when I ask her:

"In late August, once it goes dormant, I just dig them up. The knobs (don't know the name) separate easily. I replant the ones that will stay immediately."

Kim in Fargo, ND said...

I bought one this spring and was told how to handle it by the nursery owner who grew it. It's the same process as for dividing peonies as eve describes above.

However, the nursery owner said that a "better" way to take a division of a large old peony is to dig a trench 6-8 inches away from the perimeter of the peony halfway around the plant. Shove a perennial fork straight down into the plant about a third of the way in on the trenched side. Pry up the smaller portion. She said it's guaranteed to leave a viable mother plant in its original place which should bloom the next year and give you a daughter with good roots and enough eyes to bloom in two years. She also said not to be alarmed if the mother doesn't bloom the next year. Some peonies pout when disturbed. Good luck with your heirloom.

Susie said...

I've never seen that plant before but it is lovely. A lovely story you shared too Beth. I don't have a clue how to separate it. I wonder if you could take a cutting from it, dip in rooting powder and place it in a medium?

Beth said...

Eve, Kim and Susie: Thanks for your insight into the fern peony. It looks as if we're tackling this at a perfect time of year. I will share your suggestions with Peggy as she and my brother will probably get the good fortune of division. Once it gets divided, I hope I can keep it alive for the 2-1/2 hour trip home in the car!

ChrisND said...

I hope everything turns out with your division. We have a couple such plants in the family...memories from grandparents and parents. I like the "fern" part of your plant.

TC said...

Hello Beth, I found your blog through Barbee's, read your fern peony post and was deeply moved to comment. My wife's mother also died in 1992, the year after we married. She loved to garden and her daughter, my wife, has that gene.

How precious that you have a living memory of something your mother loved. And what a gorgeous plant it is too. I think I might have to find one for my garden. Passalong plants can be very special and meaningful and it's wonderful that you have something growing in your garden that will always remind you of your mother.

Most warmly,


Beth said...

Hi TC - thanks for stopping by and for sharing the story of your mother-in-law. I am anxious to bring that plant home where I can enjoy it for hopefully, many years to come.

garden girl said...

What a poignant post Beth. How much you must miss your mother, and how wonderful it will be to have something from her garden growing and one day blooming in your own.

I'm not familiar with fern peonies, but they are lovely, and so much more precious when lovingly shared and with the fond memories they hold for your family.

Marty said...

Hi Beth, I came across your post when searching for info on fern peonies. I was moved by your story on the plant your mother handed down. I have 6 small fern peonies that a friend gave me a couple years ago(she gave me 13 very small rhizomes all didn't make it). They are getting bigger and looking beautiful this year. What moved me to reply to your post was the fact that I am doing the same for my grown children who both are recently married and both bought their first houses last year. I love to garden and learn new things each year. I split all of my hostas and bleeding heart and other perennials and got my daughter started around her first house last year. It was such a joy to help get her going on making it "Their" home. I hope within 3 or 4 years that my fern peonies will be sturdy enough to split and share with both my children so that they can have those beautiful long living plants to enjoy after I am gone. Every time I look at mine I think of the wonderful person my friend is that gave them to me and I hope that my children will think of me when they look at the growing beauties I share with them over the coming years. Best of luck with splitting your precious plant and may you enjoy beautiful memories of your mom as you watch it grow. Marty in MN

peony lady said...

Long lasting memories and Peonies. That's how I feel and obviously shared by so many about how memories of our loved ones are tied to the long lasting peonies. Thanks for the share. I love peonies!