By OCMGA Master Gardener Steve Schultz (article originally appeared in our Fall 2015 newsletter

“The fattest and most scrumptious of all flowers, a rare fusion of fluff and majesty,” wrote garden writer Henry Mitchell. Of course, he was speaking about my obsession, the peony! I’ve lost count of the different peonies in my garden, but my guess would be that I have about 25 the last time I looked. And yes, I found a ragged Coral Charm peony at Lowe’s last week that cried for me to take it home. Now I have to find that open area to plant it. That could be a bit difficult.

As we come to the fall of the year, there are often questions about seasonal care. The care really depends on the type of peony you have.

If you have the type of peonies that your great grandmother grew, it is probably an herbaceous peony. In short, it dies completely to the ground each winter. After the first killing frost, you can clean up these peonies with your clippers. I leave about three inches showing so I know where they are in the garden. I have also left the dead foliage until spring and all seems fine. The only time you really want to get rid of the foliage is when you have any kinds of mildew during the summer. Then it’s important to dispose of the foliage to prevent the spread of the mildew. Do not compost or you will simply perpetuate the problem!


Steve’s Bartzella peony


Do you have intersectional peonies such as Bartzella? These are a cross with herbaceous and tree peonies. The care is identical to that of the herbaceous peonies. Simply remove the dead foliage and in spring you will see all new growth coming out of the ground. 

Tree peonies have an entirely different kind of care. Do not cut them to the ground in the fall! Their leaves, buds and flowers come off the woody stems. I wait until spring to remove any stems that seem dead. This will be obvious because they will have no leaves and will look dried out. I also put chicken wire frames and mulch around my tree peonies right before the first snowfall or below zero temps. I think that the rabbits would love a mid-winter snack and I’m not go- ing to oblige them!

Taking care of your peonies this fall will prepare them for a nice nap this winter so you can rejoice in their beauty this spring!

Some of Steve’s peonies

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Golden Glow


At my house, golden barberry snuggled up next to a purple barberry

It’s a look that can easily be overdone, but plants with golden foliage do make striking accents when paired with contrasts like purple smokebush, sand cherry, or the black-green needles of deeply colored evergreens. In theory, they’re also wonderful for lighting up dark corners, but in practice they usually need full sun to keep their sunny color. Planted in shade they tend to fade toward bright green.

With that caveat in mind, go forth and shop! For year-round effect, there are evergreens. From arborvitae through spruces to yews, most of them come in evergold as well. The genera Chamaecyparis and Juniperus are particularly rich in gold-foliage cultivars, with offerings from several different species and a large assortment of sizes, shapes, and degrees of hardiness.

Among deciduous shrubs, you can choose from golden alder (Alnus incana ‘Aureus’), golden elder (Sambucus canadensis ‘Aurea’), golden Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Aurea’), golden mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’), and yes, you are seeing a pattern. If it says ‘Aureus’ or ‘Aurea,’ something about that plant is going to be yellow.

There is also a golden ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Dart’s Gold’), golden privet (Ligustrum x vicaryi), several spireas including the pink-flowered ‘Gold Mound,’ and if you want to go all out, yellow-berry cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus ‘Xanthocarpum’), which has golden twigs and berries as well as golden leaves.

The Humble Potato

Today is National Potato Day!
Until the late 18th century, the French generally believed that potatoes caused leprosy. The vegetables became more popular thanks to Marie Antoinette’s habit of wearing potato blossoms in her hair.
The potato, (Solanum tuberosum), is an annual plant in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), grown for its starchy edible tubers. The potato is native to the Peruvian-Bolivian Andes and is one of the world’s main food crops.
All potato types are high in carbohydrates and contain a moderate amount of calories as well as healthy amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals. The kind of potatoes that may be the healthiest are those with darker-colored flesh, such as the Purple Viking,Yukon Gold and Ruby Crescent.
In October, 1995, the potato became the first vegetable to be grown in space. This was part of a NASA and University of Wisconsin project to find ways to feed astronauts or space colonies. [Note: if you’ve not read ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir, or watched the movie made from the book, you should.]
Around the world, 727,000 tons of potatoes are harvested every day.
According to an old folk remedy, carrying potatoes in your pocket can cure or prevent rheumatism. It can also cure problems for film directors: in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, dried potato flakes were used to look like snowflakes.
Montana State University has compiled a list of Fun Facts about Potatoes:

Rock that Garden

forest-rock-garden-imagesWhen walking through professional designed botanical gardens, you almost always see at least one and sometimes multiple rock gardens. They’re so beautiful and you might want to incorporate one of your own. “First, you should be aware that rock garden plants demand perfect drainage,” says Lawrence B. Thomas, of the North American Rock Garden Society. (His own rock garden is on an eleventh-floor terrace.) “To achieve good drainage, you should incorporate copious amounts of chicken grit or perlite into your soil.”

Once the soil is ready, and assuming you have good sun, some easily grown species suggested by Mr. Thomas are Androsace sarmentosa, which has clusters of pink spring flowers on short stems; American bluets, also called Quaker ladies (Houstonia caerulea), which sow their own graceful pale blue-flowered progeny in unexpected places; Draba rigida, a mustard family member that forms tight mats and bears brilliant yellow flowers in early spring; and Saxifraga cotyledon, which forms tight mats of small silver-edged leaves.

Other compact, easily grown favorites include creeping baby’s breath (Gypsophila

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Beautiful little bellflowers

repens), whose multitudes of dainty pink flowers last for many weeks through late spring; candytuft (Iberis sempervirens), which has mounds of white spring flowers; the Carpathian bellflower (Campanula carpatica), whose violet-blue blooms last through much of the summer; and the yellow flax (Linum capitatum), which freely bears its bright sunny flowers in late spring.

A Shovel by Any Other Name…

18l8wp6zl0z9cjpgGo into your local home improvement or hardware store and ask for a shovel. Warning: you’d better know the task that you intend to tackle before the clerk can help you pick the appropriate tool. As gardeners, it’s important to take really good care of your equipment, but it’s equally important to pick the right equipment to begin with.

Thank you to OCMGA volunteer Kim Lesperance for forwarding the following information that she discovered while doing some important research for her own project.


I absolutely love peanut butter. Did you ever play that game where you were stranded on an island and could only have one thing to eat? It would be peanut butter for me. I was on a diet recently and, to lost weight, I had to give up my beloved peanut butter for 4 months (actually I cheated a couple of times). At one point, I mentioned that George Washington Carver should be canonized for inventing this wonderful food. Upon doing some research, though, I found that Carver was not the inventor after all.

dd79402e574cd109Peanut butter actually dates back to Aztec times. But many people have been credited with the title of peanut-butter-inventor, among them George WashingtonCarver. However, he did not invent peanut butter; instead he promoted more than 300 uses for peanuts, among other crops such as soy beans and sweet potatoes.

In 1895, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the creator of Kellogg’s cereal) patented a process for creating peanut butter from raw peanuts. He marketed it as a nutritious protein substitute for people who could hardly chew on solid food. In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis, Missouri, patented a peanut-butter-making machine.

The peanut (also known as groundnut, earthnut, goober, goober pea, pinda, pinder, Manila nut, or monkey nut) is the edible seed of the plant Arachis hypogaea. It is a member of the pea family and the fruit is not a nut, but a legume or pod. In 1981,  a fossilized peanut more than 100,000 years old was found in China. What happened to peanuts over the next 98,000 years is unknown, but it is known that they arrived in Europe from South America, where they have been cultivated for over 2000 years.

Peanuts are the official state crop of Georgia where, in Turner County, you can see the world’s largest peanut. It is a 20 ft-tall monument erected in honor of the importance of the peanut.

It takes about 550 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of creamy peanut butter. The fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth if called arachibutyrophobia. The high protein content of peanut butter draws moisture from your mouth — that’s why it sticks.

The average American eats 7 pounds of peanuts and peanut butter a year. [I may exceed that average a bit.]



Though “clinging” and “vine” seem like a wedded concept, only a few vines really do hold on that way, using aerial rootlets that act as suction cups to attach themselves to their support. These rootlets are very strong and enable even very heavy vines to rise high on flat walls. Examples include climbing hydrangea, Boston ivy, and English ivy.

More commonly, vines are inclined to twine, wrapping their main stems around the nearest available support and circling it as they grow. Examples include beans, morning glories, bougainvillea, hops, hoya, and wisteria.

The other large group are tendril-climbers, which send out specialized, leafless stems


My clematis in glorious bloom last summer

that wrap tightly around any adjacent object that’s thin enough to get a grip on. Examples include peas, cup-and-saucer vine, grapes, passionflower, and porcelain vine. The specialized stems that do the holding on can also have leaves, in which case they’re called petioles. Clematis are the best known petiole users, but Climbing Snapdragons (asarinas) also climb this way, and so do those rare nasturtiums that genuinely climb.


My trumpet vine last fall climbing over the arbor. It pretty much goes where it wants to and requires a firm hand.

But not all vines do genuinely climb. Some just head for something supportive and grow on, around, over, or through it, sending out a tendril or two, applying a rootlet, or twining a bit without behaving in and recognizably organized way. Expect to receive some guidance if you plant these and have a particular direction of growth in mind. Examples include trumpet vine, silver-lace vine, and some of the jasmines.