Garden dectective: Heavy-headed peonies

Published: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6CALIFORNIA LIFE

My peonies always droop. Once they start to bloom, the weight makes them fall to the ground and they never really get to bloom out. What would be a good fix to help them hold their heads up high?

– Bonnie Wilson, Penryn

Get a plant support, say the UC master gardeners.

Many nurseries – both local and mail order – sell plant supports that consist of a ring of wire with three or four wires – each 12 to 24 inches long – attached to it. Those longer wires are pushed into the soil to the position the ring at the desired height.

The ring is put in place before the peony blooms, so the flower buds can grow up through the support.

It's also possible to buy small pieces of "tot lot" wire, which is usually covered with green plastic. This can be formed into a cylinder and positioned around the plant.

Small pieces of sturdy, uncoated fencing, available at hardware and feed stores, can make good support cylinders. Spray-paint them green so they blend with the peony foliage.

Don't use poultry netting or chicken wire; it's not sturdy enough to both stand upright and support the peony stems.

A neighbor put some kind of weed deterrent on her back lawn and it killed her grass. It also killed my lawn and I can't seem to grow grass anymore.

I can grow flowers, but that's all. I'm afraid to try and grow vegetables or fruit because of the weed deterrent. What can I do to have a lush green lawn again?

– Vera Farris, Citrus Heights

Did you ask your neighbor the name of the herbicide? It's important to find out what was used and why your lawn was affected, says UC Master Gardener Liz Haines. That way, your neighbor can keep it from happening in the future.

You indicate that you can grow flowers but did not indicate if the flowers originated from seed. To determine seed viability in the area of the dead grass, plant a packet of radish seeds. They sprout quickly and are quite distinctive (see the back of the seed packet for a small drawing of a radish sprout).

Break the soil surface with a rake and scatter seed over the entire area. Rake again to lightly cover the seed with soil. Keep the soil moist and check daily for germination.

A large number of radish sprouts indicates that the soil condition is suitable for planting seeds of any kind. If the radishes sprout, then you should be able to reseed your lawn and be on your way to a lush green lawn again.

Also verify that the dead lawn is not the result of malfunctioning sprinkler heads. Too little or too much water can kill a lawn.


Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.

Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h& Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact your UC Extension directly, call:

• Sacramento: (916) 875-6913; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. weekdays

• Amador: (209) 223-6838; 10 a.m.-noon Monday through Thursday; email

• Butte: (530) 538-7201; 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. weekdays

• El Dorado: (530) 621-5512; 9 a.m.-noon weekdays

• Placer: (530) 889-7388; 9 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays or leave a message and calls will be returned

• Nevada: (530) 273-0919; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesdays through Thursday or leave a message

• Shasta, Tehama, Trinity: (530) 225-4605

• Solano: (707) 784-1322; leave a message and calls will be returned

• Sutter, Yuba: (530) 822-7515; 9 a.m.-noon Mondays and Tuesdays and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays

• Yolo: (530) 666-8737; 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, or leave a message and calls will be returned

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