Walter Reeves: Reasons old peonies fail to flower

Peonies flower with little maintenance for several years, but in clay soil, the roots can get crowded, resulting in fewer blooms.
(Courtesy of Cathy Godwin)

Credit: Cathy Godwin

Credit: Cathy Godwin

Peonies flower with little maintenance for several years, but in clay soil, the roots can get crowded, resulting in fewer blooms. (Courtesy of Cathy Godwin)

Q: Why would my peonies not have buds after 20-plus years? Marsha S. Riley, email

A: One reason could be that your plant has crowded roots from being in the same spot for two decades. The solution is to carefully dig up the clump in September and divide it. It was mighty cold around Christmas last year and we did have one late frost, so the cold temperatures might have damaged the flower buds. Check to make sure water has not begun pooling around the plant when it rains. Too much or too little moisture can cause buds to drop. Fertilize your plant once this spring with Holly-Tone and be sure to water in summer.

Q: We are having a hard time with our fescue lawn. We use 12-4-8 fertilizer four times a year; no preemergent or postemergent weed control. We aim for 1 inch of water per week, watering for about one hour daily. It is all green and lush but there are occasional spots where the grass turns brown and then expands into a perfect circle. Sometimes green grass grows in the center of the circle. We don’t want to lose this beautiful fescue! Jennifer Sifuentes, email

A: Sounds like you’ve mostly done a good job with your lawn. I think the problem lies with your watering. It’s good to aim for 1 inch of water per week, but it should be applied all at once if possible, allowing the soil to dry between waterings. The circular spots are probably caused by brown patch disease, which I often see in lush lawns like yours. Proper watering helps fight disease by keeping plant leaves dry as much as possible. Fixing your watering may be all that’s needed to cure the disease, but applying a lawn fungicide will help.

Q: I’m trying to figure out if popcorn viburnum is the same as a snowball viburnum. My research is coming up nowhere. I’ve found that it is called both things, like ‘popcorn snowball viburnum.’ Susan Wesley, email

A: Before I answer, I have to dedicate this Q&A to Mrs. Inez Hames, who taught me high school Latin. She would be proud to know that I am keeping this “dead” language alive. ‘Popcorn’ viburnum is a named variety of Viburnum plicatum f. plicatum. The common name of this shrub is doublefile viburnum. The blooms are produced on alternate sides of each limb. There are two flower forms: plicatum (ball flowers) and tomentosum (lace cap flowers). On the other hand, Snowball viburnum is Viburnum macrocephalum. It has large ball-shaped flowers that cover the shrub in no particular order, unlike the doublefile viburnum.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for his latest tips.