The (Peony) Kids Are Alright…but What’s Up With Their Big Sister?

Apologies to The Who for fudging their title, but there were some anxious days recently for the baby tree peonies. As mentioned in my previous posts, the seedlings were potted up into growbags (thanks, Cricket Hill!) and moved, along with their “big sis” Kamata-fuji who accompanied me home from my roadtrip last summer, into the garage in early November.  This would keep them dormant (a necessity) but also keep them from freezing solid (also a necessity) until spring. Watering would be just enough to keep the potting mix from becoming bone dry; not too much, not too little. All planned and executed nicely.

You do know the old saying, right?

All seemed fine at first. A careful watering just before the holidays found all peonies nicely dormant except for a seedling that is apparantly determined to cling to one still-green leaf come hell or high water. Okay, kid: be that way. It’s not like I’m going to send you to sit in the corner. Oh.. right…you’re already at the corner of that shelf. Well, carry on then.

Suddenly in mid-January it got really cold. We’re talking not-going-out-unless-it’s-an-emergency Arctic-type cold, which is not the norm for hereabouts. It warmed up just enough to dump a few loads of snow, then the thermometer took an Olympic nosedive again. Brrrrr, even the garage was bitterly cold. Hmmm…how cold is it in here? Better check the thermometer. Uh-oh. It says 19 degrees F. In the daytime. On the interior garage wall.

Of course every single peony bag was frozen solid. 😦 The soil felt like cylindrical blocks of ice. What to do? Assuming any of them were still alive, of course. I figured Big Sister might survive it, but those little seedlings are pretty fragile. Dormant is one thing; dead is another.

I decided to give them a light watering with lukewarm – not hot – water, crossed my fingers, and debated whether to make an offering to, or roundly curse, the weather gods.  (At the moment, operating a heater in the garage isn’t an option; long story perhaps someday told) I figured, “Well, they’re either already dead or they aren’t; only time will tell.”


Three Weeks Later

It was almost Valentines’ Day and had actually been above freezing outside (and, thus, in the garage too) for almost a week. As I walked through the garage toward my car in the driveway, I noticed something different about the Kamata-fuji‘s growbag. It almost looked like….


She’s obviously not dead after all. 🙂 However, she is most definitely confused. “You do realize it’s only February, right?” I inquired. “This is no time for any respectable tree peony to be flaunting anything above ground in Zone 7a.”  Now, of course, I have no idea when will be the correct time to re-introduce this plant to the great outdoors, given the precocious leafing out. (I also have no idea whether the abbreviated dormancy will prevent flowering this year.)  But wait…what about the babies??


Four of them are right next to their Big Sister, so might as well take a look…


Well, what do you know…. The kids are alright. 🙂 And yes, that lone green leaf is still hanging in there – a bit paler, to be sure, but you have to admire its tenacity!

My next challenge with this group is going to be where to put them when the Money Pit Renovation Work starts and the garage will be commandeered for Necessary Materials. Unless the work is further delayed (in which case I’ll start going off the deep end in earnest) that will probably be in just a few weeks. March is way too early to move these outdoors; but help is due to arrive in two weeks in the form of a nice new shed, so perhaps that will be their interim home. In the meantime, the kids and Big Sis seem to have come through unscathed and the tree peony adventure continues!

  3 comments for “The (Peony) Kids Are Alright…but What’s Up With Their Big Sister?

  1. February 26, 2018 at 12:15 am

    We do not grow them because it does not get cold enough! They want more chill than they get here. I know of only a few that do well in the Santa Clara Valley. Most are rather sad. I do not think of them as ever getting too chilled.

  2. February 26, 2018 at 9:05 am

    “I’m not dead yet!”–to snag another phrase, this time from Monty Python, but congrats for getting your seedlings through the winter–well done!

  3. March 2, 2018 at 11:19 am

    Yeah! I love a happy ending 🙂

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