Staking Peonies In The Perennial Garden: Fast Easy, Effective and Free

This little tip for staking peonies is almost so easy to do, I’m embarrassed to tell you about it.

This is no fancy technique, it’s simply a good way to stop flopping flowers and I’ve been using it for years now.

This 42-second video will show you how quickly and easily you can deal with flopping flowers and plants whacked down by rain storms

For Those Who Hate Video

  • Take an old metal coat hanger.
  • Straighten it out using a pair of pliers. Tougher to do with hands alone but it can be done.
  • Put a hook in each end by bending the metal about six inches from the end.
  • Wrap the coat hanger around the peony about 1/3 of the way down the plant – this is a rough rule of thumb, you may find it better to do it higher or slightly lower.
  • Hook the two ends together.


Your peony will now not flop around. The flowers may bend over in heavy rains but will straighten up (most of the time) after they dry.
Note: you can adjust the length by making one hook bigger for smaller, younger plants and indeed can use two coat hangers hooked together for larger, older plants. Generally though, I’ve found one coat hanger works fine for all sizes of peonies

Advantages and Disadvantages

The best advantage is that it’s fast and easy. No fuss or muss.

The wire disappears so there’s no wire showing, no ugly string or stakes sticking up would be a close second.

The disadvantage is you have to remember you did it and remove it in the fall. Otherwise, it will wind up in the compost pile and you’ll dig it up a year later (ah, no, I never did this – not me – nope) πŸ™‚

The Hardest Thing

The hardest part now is finding the used metal hangers – try junk shops and garage sales.

Pay somebody fifty cents for a handful and you’ll have a lifetime supply.
This kind of staking (plus old Christmas tree branches) can be used on many different perennial flowers

Multiple Sources of Peonies

Both plants and seeds of peonies can be found here but do not buy seeds unless you’re a germination expert – they are tricky to start. For 99% of gardeners, it would be a waste of money.


9 Principles of Cottage Garden Design

Cottage garden design is one of those interesting discussions in the world of garden design.

If you think about it for a minute – and ask yourself just “exactly what was a cottage garden?” you’ll be a long way towards creating and designing this kind of garden.

Who had cottage gardens?

A cottage garden was typically made by and maintained by someone who didn’t have a lot of money. They lived in a small house (cottage) in the U.K. The garden was typically taken care of by the housewife.

New plants were obtained from friends – from cuttings, divisions or seed. These weren’t the latest and greatest of plants, they were familiar older ones or those given to a loyal gardener from the estate and passed along from there.

They were as much about feeding the family as they were about creating some beauty. This means that fruit and vegetables were as important as the flowers

There was no extra space given to bare ground because every square inch of ground was precious. The resident didn’t usually own the cottage/house, they were provided it as part of their employment or rented it and a small bit of land around it (usually quite small).

So – when it comes to cottage garden design we have some garden principles to work from.

Cottage Garden Design Principles

Once you understand the nature of those who lived in and gardened in a cottage garden, then you’re able to duplicate that look.

Combine everything in the garden.

Small fruit trees to provide shade and fruit. Leafy vegetables to provide color as well as ornamentation. Flowers for the soul.

Use as many self-sowing annuals or perennials as possible because otherwise you have to propagate new plants from cuttings every year.

A cottage garden isn’t about going to the garden center and picking up a flat of petunias. It *is* about creating something on a limited budget.

Go up.

Use the fences to support vines (edible or ornamental). Grow roses upwards on trellis or fences so you’ll have both flowers and the useful hips (for vitamin C and tea making).

Important: Fill Every Inch!

This would be one of the cardinal rules that you can’t ignore.

Do not leave a single square inch of ground unplanted or bare for very long if you harvest something from this space. Yes, it is a jumble of plants and plant combinations but therein lies the charm of the cottage garden.


Do not overly worry about design – or about color combinations.

Those are the worry of “designers” not cottage folk. A true cottage garden design is about serendipity. About the magic of plant combinations changing from year to year as plants mature and new seedlings appear.

Have as many plants of one kind as you like.

Or one of everything. It really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they’re all grown together in one delightful jumbled garden.


Use containers for your plants that come from cuttings. Put some of the cuttings into the garden and some into pots. Enjoy both.

Save the pots for next year’s garden supply.

Do not use the latest fanciest designer pot. Use clay or something that matches the dΓ©cor of your garden.

Do not use plastic; it doesn’t belong but if you do use plastic – use it without remorse (this is your cottage garden after all).

Save and Share

Save seed. Save cuttings. Dig extra perennials. Share with your friends and neighbors who are also starting a perennial garden.

Important Questions about Cottage Garden Design Questions

So. Is there a “design” for a cottage garden? Well, you can probably find some garden designers fancy one somewhere. But you don’t need it if you understand and follow the principles above.

But what if mine doesn’t look like I want it to? So OK, add some more plants in the color you do like.

I’ve never designed anything before. Yeah, neither had those who lived and garden in cottage gardens. Funny how a little bit of garden love will go a long way.

So all I have to do is start planting and crowd everything either up or in? You got it!

How can something so gorgeous be so simple to do? That is the beauty of cottage garden design. It is simple – it is gorgeous – and we can all do it to our own tastes.

If you want your perennial garden to be in bloom all summer, here’s what to do.

Did I Mention?

To have fun. To enjoy and don’t compare your efforts to magazines. To mix and match to your heart’s content.

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Why Perennials May Not Grow Quickly When You First Plant Them

Ever wonder why you buy perennials in the spring and they just sit there for a month or two before they start growing? Most of the time, we blame it on “culture shock” or “transplanting” or any number of other cultural things.

Plant Growth Regulators

Many nurseries use a plant growth regulators (PGR) to slow growth down so the plants don’t leap out of the pots.

And trust me, this was a problem in our nursery as the plants would leap out and start growing at the hint of spring. We had all kinds of spacing activities to keep them all growing, yet bushy and looking good for retail sales. (We didn’t use PGR’s)

But the kicker in this is most common growth regulators last 8-12 weeks and in the spring, instead of growing like crazy, the plant grows bushy and shorter. Again, it makes a better selling plant.

But that chemical still persists and is acting when you take the plant home. It stays short and bushy and really doesn’t get growing “normally”. Or as normally as it would if you did it at home.

Have you seen my perennial ebooks?

You get a bushier plant. But one that’s slower to begin growing strongly.
That’s one effect of a Plant Growth Hormone Regulator (PGR)
And now you know why some of your new plants might not jump right into growing when you first plant them.

p.s. the effects of PGR typically disappear at 8-12 weeks so after that, growth should be normal. So figure 4-6 weeks in the nursery and 4-6 weeks at your garden. If it isn’t growing after 4-6 weeks in your garden, then you may have other issues.

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What Kind Of Plants Come Back Every Year?

Annuals are killed off by frost

Biennials grow leaves in year one, flower in year two and die after that.

Perennial flowers come back every year. Until they die – which could be anywhere from 3 to 50 years. So just because a plant is labelled “perennial” doesn’t mean it will live forever.

And that my friends is the quick answer to what kinds of plants come back every year.

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Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit Plant Review

Echinacea or coneflower is one of the most beloved of garden perennials in the early parts of our century and breeders around the world have been working their magic with this plant.

Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is a seed-generated plant that homeowners can start themselves to achieve this kind of flower show

Plant Details

  • Height: 24 – 36 inches.
  • Sun: Full hot sun
  • Plant apart: 24-inches is recommended
  • Hardiness: USDA 4
  • Flowering: First year from seed if sown in early January. Second year if sown later. From mid-summer onwards when it does flower

How To Germinate This Echinacea Seed

  • Sow seed on top of damp soilless mix. You can either leave them exposed to light or “very” lightly cover them. They do not require dark conditions to germinate.
  • They do want a 65-70F soil temperature for good germination so this means they’ll start better if you use a seedling heat mat.
  • They should germinate in 10-15 days at these soil temperatures. Transplanting to a larger pot for growing-on is 20-28 days after germination if you’re growing them properly in a 68F room.
  • Plant outdoors after all danger of frost.

My Notes and Review of Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

Seed sown April 4 – too late for flowering in 2013 so will treat for blooms in 2014 by not allowing them to set buds.
November 13. re note above. Yeah right! They bloomed. πŸ™‚ Heavily. Amazingly well. I love this plant – it was the standout performer in our full sun garden. Visitors asked about it, took pictures. Lusted after our collection.
I shared a few seedlings with neighbors – they liked theirs but wanted all the colors in mine (I only gave everybody one seedling) πŸ™‚
Grow it. πŸ™‚


  • Spring 2015: About 20% of the plants survived the first winter. I suspect we’ll have to follow typical Echinacea blooming rules (not allow them to bloom in year one) to increase hardiness
  • Sept 2015: A half-dozen plants germinated from seed left in the garden over the winter. All were a red shade. Whether the others didn’t germinate, or ? is unknown.
  • For now, I’m considering it a half-hardy perennial if you decide to allow it to bloom in year one.

How to Keep Spiderwort or Tradescantia Blooming All Summer

Spiderwort or Tradescantia is a particularly gratifying perennial because this plant is one of the longest bloomers in the garden – carrying flowers from early June right through until fall if treated properly.

It is a North American native plant named for John Tradescant senior (he died in 1638) a famous English gardener who received the species from Virginia sometime before 1629.
There is also the possibility that it was named after his son, John Tradescant junior, who was himself a notable gardener and who visited Virginia in the 1650’s.
Both men were head gardeners to King Charles I of England and both were very serious plant collectors, traveling around the world in search of new plants for the King’s garden.

Tradescantia ‘Charlotte’s Web’ from Proven Winners.

Spiderwort – The Name

The common name Spiderwort (some folks like to use a space spider wort) is presumed to come from the way the flowers hang like spiders from a web off the main stem and “wort” is the Saxon name for ‘plant’

I like this plant because while it blooms almost all summer, (with heavy flushes in the early summer and again in the fall) spiderwort requires next to no special care in the garden. I prune it to the ground in the fall and the rest of the time, we co-exist and enjoy each other’s company.

For Heavy Blooms

There are two conditions however spiderwort must have if it is to bloom heavily.

  • The first is full sunshine. The more shade you present spider wort with, the fewer blooms it will produce. A light dusting of shade in the early morning or late afternoon is acceptable but you do want this plant to get as much sunlight as possible.
  • The second and equally important variable is soil moisture. Spiderwort demands constantly damp soil if it is to bloom continually. You can not put this plant in the full sun and allow the surrounding soil to dry out. It will quickly stop blooming if you do.

I plant my spiderwort around the pond where they are available for regular waterings as I top up the water level. I also mulch them heavily so the soil moisture stays constant and even below the mulch.

If It Dries Out

Here’s a tip. If you mistreat spider wort by allowing it to dry out and it stops producing flowers, simply cut it back by half and start a weekly watering program. It will respond with new growth and flower production in the fall.
A lack of water will also produce brown tips on the leaves rather quickly

If grown in a moist and fertile soil, not a boggy poorly-drained soil, spiderwort will grow to 24 inches tall and spread the same amount.
You’ll find spider wort in most garden centres and the better ones will have the newer varieties.


  • ‘Charlotte’ is a clear pink flower and a delightful grower.
  • ‘Concord Grape’ is one of the better dark flowering varieties with a deep purple flower. It also features frosted blue-green foliage that makes it stand out in the garden.
  • ‘Hawaiian Punch’ is another good rebloomer and it has ‘magenta-pink’ flowers.
  • ‘Isis’ has white flowers although there is a flush of violet-blue in the centre of the flower. Many of the lighter varieties have this blue flush to the bloom; the breeders haven’t bred out the native blue flower genes yet.
  • ‘Little Doll’ is a compact variety for those of you with smaller gardens and the blooms on this plant are a delightful light blue colour.
  • ‘Purple Dome’ has been around for many years now and it features a very dark purple flower. You should be easily find this variety; it is still a good one.
  • ‘Zwanenburg Blue’ is another older and easily found variety that still graces my garden with its clear blue flowers.
  • Rubra’ is a one of the newer red flowering introductions and I confess I don’t like it as much as I like the purples and blues. The β€œred” in the bloom has too much blue in it for my tastes.
  • Two brand new varieties you’ll want in your garden are ‘Bilberry Ice’ and ‘Blue and Gold’.
  • ‘Bilberry Ice’ is a light violet flower with darker centres on the three-petalled flower. An attractive plant, it has just entered my gardening world.
  • The star attraction and one of the newest spiderworts to hit the garden is ‘Blue and Gold’ or ‘Kates Gold’ (same plant – different name). The foliage on this plant is golden green (chartreuse) and the flowers are a dark violet blue. The foliage holds its colour best when the temperatures are cooler so a touch of shade (rather than hot noonday sun areas) will help keep its yellow tones. The contrast between the leaves and flower is delightful and this will be a hit in your garden. This is the plant that started blooming for me this morning and I confess I put it right on the top of my favourite plant list.

Resources to Find Material Mentioned on This Page

Spiderwort plants – start with plants not seed.


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