On my last visit to Mount Congreve in Waterford I noticed a pair of long borders edged with nepeta and packed with healthy red-tinged peony shoots. I vowed to try to return in order to see these and I am glad to say that I remembered yesterday when planning how to make good use of the sunshine and I headed south to see what this amazing garden could surprise me with in late June.
This is predominantly a spring garden and I was not expecting too much on this trip but I was, once again, pleasantly surprised with the number of interesting plants in flower. I will post about more of these later in the week but first, the peony beds.
As it turned out, I was a week late. I seem to have trouble getting the timing right for peonies, having been too early for the peonies at Glasnevin last year. But there were a few blooms left and, together with the nepeta, backing of delphiniums and swags of rambler roses it was still quite a spectacle.
Although I was here at the tail end of the season it is clear that not all the peony buds opened and I could see that quite a few were affected by peony blight. I see that the Royal Horticultural Society call this peony wilt but it is the same thing – Botrytis paeoniae. This fungal disease is closely related to common grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) and, like that disease, there is no effective chemical control. The most common symptom is for the buds to wither and turn brown or black when pea-sized but shoots can also wither and collapse at a young stage before the leaves have unfurled and there may also be red and brown patches on the leaves.
The best way to control the disease is with good hygeine, picking off and cutting off affected parts as soon as they are seen so spores cannot be spread and mulching the soil in winter, after cutting back the foliage, so that spores on the soil cannot splash onto new growth. Do not buy potted plants that show signs of the disease because, although the spores can be spread by wind there is mo point giving the disease a head start.