Paradise Garden

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Paeonia mlokosewitschii

by Mark Rowland

Introduction

Affectionately known as 'Mollie-the-witch', Paeonia mlokosewitschii makes up for its somewhat awkward name by being one of the loveliest and best tempered of herbaceous perennials in the garden. Slow growing to begin with, once established it will reward the patient gardener with a magnificent display of clear yellow goblets each year.

paeonia mlokosewitschii

Propagation

Paeonia mlokosewitschii grows readily from fresh seed, but the viability of the seed is soon lost in storage. Only blue seeds have the capacity to germinate - red ones are hollow and worthless. Early sowing is essential for quick germination. Sown in September, a good proportion of the seed should germinate in March, with the remainder emerging a year later. Seed not sown until November, however, is likely to take about 16 months. During this period the compost should neither be waterlogged nor totally dried out. The young seedlings should be grown on for two years before planting in their final position.

Availability

Freshly harvested seed is now available from Owl's Acre. To ensure optimum results, seed is only available from August to October.

Situation

Not only is Paeonia mlokosewitschii beautiful in flower, but the foliage and seed pods are both strikingly handsome. It makes sense, therefore, to plant your young peony in a prime location. Avoid sites which are waterlogged, too arid or too shady. A shady site will result in lush foliage but few flowers, while an arid site will cause scorched leaves. Good drainage is beneficial but although an ideal situation will produce the finest plant, in reality Mollie the witch will tolerate most normal garden conditions quite happily.

paeonia mlokosewitschii

Companion Planting

Since Paeonia mlokosewitschii occupies its space with distinction for most of the year, there is little need for anything grand to augment it. Perhaps the most effective is a robust snowdrop, such as Galanthus plicatus, which flowers in February when the fat red growth buds of the peony are already becoming prominent.

paeonia mlokosewitschii

The Seasons

Even in winter the glowing red buds add a slash of welcome colour, but it is when the leaves open that Paeonia mlokosewitschii really makes its mark. The soft green of the young leaves is tinged with a subtle coppery shade which is quite irresistible. In May the clear yellow goblets open and the high point of the annual cycle is reached. When the flowers have shed their petals the attractive foliage remains and the plant has another spell of glory in the autumn when the seed capsules burst to reveal a mix of pink and shiny blue seeds. It is impossible to resist collecting a few of the viable blue seeds to repeat the whole process or to pass on to eager friends.

paeonia mlokosewitschii seed

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© 2010 Mark Rowland