Romswood Farm is a family-run flower farm situated amongst an established garden setting within the Macedon Ranges. Romswood has been owned and operated by Bernie and Virginia McIntosh since 2013 and we delight in growing peonies.
Romswood has had a number of incarnations over the years ranging from being a dairy, a raspberry and strawberry farm, and a Limousin cattle stud before it was established as a peony farm of some renown by the White family. We are proud to continue their tradition of supplying Melbourne with some of the favourite peony blooms grown in this country.
And this year we are delighted to advise that we are expanding our operations to include a gift shop stocking beautiful things, many with a special peony reference. We are also offering bare rooted peonies to those who want to grow these beautiful blooms in their own gardens. And we are also opening the beautiful grounds of Romswood to tour groups and to the public on a special weekend in November so that you too can see the farm in bloom. It's quite a sight to behold.
We look forward to welcoming you in.
Allen Gilbert wrote a wonderful article in The Age newspaper about both the herbaceous and the tree peony, both grown at Romswood……
Whether growing in the garden or displayed in a vase, peonies are a joy to behold, writes Allen Gilbert.
There are 33 species of peony, including annuals and perennials, all deciduous, that grow wild throughout Europe and Asia. Paeonia lactiflora (the Chinese herbaceous peony) grows wild in China, Japan, Mongolia and Siberia and P. suffruticosa (the tree peony or moutan) in Bhutan, China and Tibet.
Magnificent shrubs and perennials for cool climates, they thrive in semi-shade and mountain soil rich with compost.
The flowers range from single petalled to double forms with multiple petals. Although Chinese peonies were brought to Europe in the early 1800s, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that enough species were available for hybridisation.
Many more hybrids have been developed, including some that produce huge dinner-plate sized flowers with drooping heads. These spectacular flowered forms are the ones most popular for use in gardens today.
Peonies do not just provide beautiful flowers; they are useful in many other ways. The herbaceous European species P. officinalis now used for cut-flower production was originally used for its medicinal properties. Parts of the plant were said to be used to create potions and witches' brews to protect people from evil spirits, and pieces of the root were often worn as a talisman.
Medicinally it was also used for coughs, epilepsy, insomnia, nightmares and for insanity. The gathering of peony species for medicinal purposes has all but wiped out the original peony gene pool that once existed in China.
Tree peonies are slow growing but do well rich organic soils and will grow well in Melbourne gardens, particularly in the Dandenongs. They can be grown from seed, division of sucker growth or by grafting onto herbaceous peony root stock. Herbaceous peonies, which grow from division of their swollen root system, are a little easier to grow but they also need rich soils. They can be grown in open sunlit areas, providing there is some shelter from strong winds.
Peonies need a cold winter to enable plants to initiate flowers, and are frost hardy, although late frost can damage young growth shoots. Rain during the September/October period may be detrimental to the life of tree peony flowers because the rain can damage the petals and make large flowers droop.
They respond to regular application of organic fertilisers in autumn and spring. Some gardeners use liquid organic fertiliser as supplementary food during the year.
Herbaceous peonies can be propagated by division and from seed, but seedlings may take eight to nine years or even more to flower. When dividing herbaceous plants, the sections (of tuber or root) should have three or more ?eyes? (growth points) to ensure successful replanting. The pieces should be buried with the eyes just below soil level pointing upwards. Planting the pieces too deeply will delay flowering for several years.
Seeds must be sown as soon as they are ripe and the seeds of tree peonies and herbaceous peonies should be planted into soil or soil mix containing leaf mould, sand and compost. The mix must be well-drained.
Tree peonies can be propagated from suckers and from seed but seeds may take a year or more to germinate and it may be 10 or more years until flowering stage is reached.
They can also be propagated using aerial layers of their growth shoots and by grafting onto tuberous roots of the herbaceous species or onto seedling plants during late summer.
Shoots from tip growth are taken when they are about 10cm long and a wedge is formed at the shoot base. This is inserted into the tuber pieces, tied into position and the tubers planted into soil with the graft union just above soil level.
Tree peonies will grow well in pots. Peonies in general do not like any root disturbance, so to maintain constant flower production it is best to plant peonies in a permanent spot. Herbaceous peonies only grow to about one metre or less, but the tree peony can grow up to three metres high. A large tree peony bush in full flower is one of the most magnificent sights any gardener will see.