Text by Cindy Cooper
A good friend can have quite an influence on us, and when Betty Joslyn was overcome with the urge to start a peony farm on her property, she looked to a mentor-friend for guidance. After an experiment eight years ago in planting 600 plants, she was amazed at her success and found herself hooked. “I do love it, but sometimes I ask myself, ‘What was I thinking?’” Betty says.
The farm is a commercial peony farm, and weddings are sometimes held while the flowers are budding or in full bloom. Guidance is given to potential couples on best dates for celebrations to be held. Though she now does everything from giving farm tours to hosting visiting farmers who like to converse about soil quality and compare notes, Betty says she never believed she could become a flower farmer.
Professionally, participating in the Certified American Grown program has influenced Betty to become part of an expanding group of people who want to promote American-grown flowers. At a recent Field to Vase event held at her farm, several floral designers from across the country gathered for a dinner in the fields, with more than 2,000 peonies arranged on the tables. Guests were able to create corsages or small hand bouquets as keepsakes.
Special varieties of peony should generally be planted in autumn when the weather is mild and the soil is still moderately warm. According to Betty, “They should be planted fairly shallow in areas that receive plenty of sun, in nonacidic soil, and [they need] water about once a week.” She also suggests you make sure to pinch off heads for at least the first 3 years to allow for strong root development. Until your plants are larger, you might need to place markers during winter so they remain safe underfoot. Most local plant shops carry peony plants that bloom much more quickly than starting a garden with seeds, which can take a few years to mature.
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