Hot weather has put the kibosh on my peonies, which had bloomed gloriously, but are now in tatters, and there are few things more dejected looking than peonies past bloom–they actually look sad, almost suicidal. So yesterday I went out with my pruners and put things to rights. Gardeners get nervous about things like pruning and deadheading, worried that they won’t do them right, and that someone will find out. I try to be relaxed, given that plants have lived on this earth for millions of years without gardeners taking care of them, and they apparently did fine. I have come to feel that pruning and deadheading are often aesthetic choices, and you can make the choices you want–I won’t tell! At any rate, I clipped off the dead peony blossoms and the plant looked much better immediately, except you could see the clipped stem ends. Then I grasped the stem and reached into the bush and cut more of the stem off, right above a leaf cluster. When this was done, no ugly stem ends showed, and the entire plant looked bushier and happier, almost elated. Then I watered and dug in a bit of compost.
Reality check: I see peonies used as landscaping material all the time–sometimes rows of peonies line walkways and driveways, looking glorious for about a week and then trashed for weeks after. Peonies are better as specimen plants to be appreciated for their rather brief, glorious blooming, and then to retire decorously into the garden background. The patterning of their glossy foliage is quite handsome.