Peonies And Fringe Trees

So I’ve got good Peony news and bad Peony news. I only got Peonies to begin with because Judy wanted some. But now I do like to having a few Peonies around.

Peony ‘Snow Swan’

Anyway, here’s the good news. A couple of years ago I planted some ‘Snow Swan’ Peonies in the back garden. The spot was too shady, and they languished.

The larger of the two ‘Snow Swan’ Peonies.

Seeing that they were languishing, I decided to move them to the much sunnier Parkway Bed. Good idea. Problem was that the idea struck me during a hot, dry stretch of August, and I wanted to take action right away. This was a bad idea. Did I mention I tend to be a little impatient?


The three transplanted Peonies immediately shriveled up and fainted dead away. But the good news is that 2 of the 3 Peonies have come back this year and are looking pretty healthy. The larger has 9 flower buds, the smaller has 4. I look forward to both of them bulking up.

Peony ‘America’

The bad news is that only 1 of the 4 Peonies in the Back Garden is still looking good. All these Peonies are growing in a spot that probably doesn’t get enough sun. Peony ‘America’ doesn’t seem to mind – it keeps coming back with a decent number of flowers.


But the others are not doing well. Peony ‘Abalone Pearl’ has only a single flower this year. And Paeonia anomala, a species Peony, has disappeared completely. I should probably try to save ‘Abalone Pearl’ by moving it out front. But not until the weather cools in the fall.

Fringe Tree

On a totally different front, my two Fringe Trees (Chionanthus virginicus) are blooming more profusely than ever before. The flowers come in clusters with petals that look like, well, fringes. This tree is not native to Illinois, but it is native to nearby Ohio, Missouri, and points south. It likes part sun and moist, fertile soil.

Fringe Tree flowers

I planted these Fringe Trees five years ago as small, bareroot plants. They’ve been growing rather slowly. They’re not large trees, though, growing only 12-20 feet tall. Fringe Trees bear small fruits that are popular with birds. However, to get the fruit you need a male and a female tree. I don’t yet know if I have a male and a female. We’ve had no fruits so far, but maybe this year we’ll see some.

Even without the fruit, it’s an attractive and unusual tree. It should really be more popular in American gardens.

64 Comments on “Peonies And Fringe Trees”

  1. I saw my first fringe tree at the Botanic Gardens and they’re really beautiful. I’d love to have a few myself when we get a yard that can handle it. It stinks that the peonies aren’t doing so well. I hope they get better with the transplant this fall!

  2. We moved some grasses a few weeks ago when it was too hot and now they’re sulking and looking awful! Like you, lesson learned. It’s great that two of your peonies came back and are doing well. The fringe tree is lovely.

  3. I don’t have any peonies. I would like some. I like the ones you have that aren’t so ruffly. My neighbor has passed away. There are peonies in the field. I have been contemplating helping myself to a rhizome or two. I am sure no one would notice since whom ever is taking care of the estate has only had the lawn mowed one time this summer. Makes me sad seeing the place neglected since it used to be meticulously taken care of. Does this make me a thief or a rescuer? I haven’t quite decided. Seeing your post is making me lean toward the latter.

  4. I love peonies and, fortunately, we have plenty of sun for them. I planted a bare root fringe tree last year and, of all the trees and shrubs I planted, it was the only one that didn’t survive. In fact, I suspect it was pretty much gone when I planted it, because it never did a darn thing. Perhaps it died of loneliness–I think I’ll plant two this year, just in case.

  5. Jason,I just tried to post a comment to your latest post about Chionanthus, and I’m not sure it worked. FYI a couple of years ago Chicago Botanic Garden confirmed that Chionanthus was a new host of Emerald Ash Borer. I haven’t heard any updates, and quick Google search only brought up posts from 2015 & 2016 – but it would be well worth some research before planting. It is a lovely tree..Jackie

  6. I’m so glad you’re a plug for the Fringe Tree! It’s gorgeous and worthy of far more use. Why do Redbuds get so much love and not the Fringe Tree?

    Your peony transplant story reminds me of a peony rescue I did a number of years ago. I got a call from a woman who was selling a property that had two threadleaf (Paeonia tenuifolia)peonies. They were nearly 100 years old and had belonged to her grandmother. She wanted to donate them to the university garden where I worked at the time.Of course it was summer and absolutely the worst time for transplanting them.

    Still. They would be lost forever if they weren’t moved; there was demolition planned. The woman felt the job was too much for her. It was also a species we did not have in the gardens. We had herbaceous and Tree Peonies but no threadleaf Peonies.

    So we (a second horticurist from another garden on campus) gathered up our supplies and drove an hour and a half to rescue the plants. It was a hot day. After we brought the plants back we settled them into their chosen beds and immediately began intensive care. We rigged up cheesecloth tents to shield them from the sun while they established new root systems and kept a very sharp eye on watering.

    To our delight and astonishment, both plants lived! That was at least 10 years ago so grandmother’s peonies lived on.

    (Fall transplanting is far preferable!)

    • That’s a good question about Redbud v. Fringe Tree. I suppose the beauty of Fringe Tree is more subtle? Interesting story about your Peonies. I just transplanted some Borage seedlings and found to my surprise that they are very sensitive to direct sun when transplanted. I have to cover them with paper towels for several days during the afternoon.

  7. Fringe trees are reportedly unfortunately susceptible to the emerald ash borer that has devastated ash trees. Most ashes in my area have succumbed, but fringe trees are still seen. They’re ideal for small gardens, and gorgeous when in bloom.

  8. I had a choice a few years ago between a Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus) and a fringe tree, and I chose the snowbell. It’s flowering profusely right now too, and it requires almost no care. But a friend has a fringe tree, and it’s gorgeous and the flowers are so different. It seems to be the nature of people — well me anyway — to want the one you didn’t choose. Your peonies will love when they get more sun, but you’re right that the time to move them is either just before they go dormant, or just before they sprout in spring.

  9. I’d never seen (or heard of) fringe tree, and I’d agree with you –it’s lovely. I transplanted a peony summer before last. Last summer it had one blossom, this year it has three! Progress 🙂

  10. The Fringe Trees are awesome! My understanding is that Peonies don’t like to be moved at all, but especially when it’s hot. So you’re lucky some of them came back! Mine have too much shade, but they’d have too much shade in just about any area of the garden. Some years, the blooms are better than others. I need to remember to remove the mulch earlier in the season to get them warmed up and emerging earlier in the season before the trees leaf out (making a mental note). Yay for Peonies!

  11. Your transplanting in the middle of summer made me laugh as I often do the same thing. You know, when an idea pops into one’s head, it should be acted upon before it flies back out. Your peonies look grand despite the summer move.

  12. I love peonies, but I’ve made plenty of mistakes with them too. The first one I ever planted I planted way too deep and of course it never came up. I planted my Sarah Barnhardt peony under a tree in early spring, before the leaves came out. Bad idea! So I had to move it. It took a few years but it did recover and bloom profusely every year.

  13. I’m a big fan of peonies, even though I only have a couple in my garden. One of them is in the shade of an amur maple tree – it’s still trudging along, but I’ll probably end up moving it at some point. Not in August, though 🙂

  14. I got rid of my peonies several years ago, but they were the kind that have large blooms that immediately fall over when it rains. I like your daintier ones. Since I am thinking about getting rid of my mini-orchard, I am also thinking of what I could plant there. Fringe trees are now on the list.

  15. What concerns your peonies: In my garden peonies grow good in sun as well as half-shade. But you do need patient when they freshly planted. They need several years to become nice bushes. A good idea would be to cut away their blossoms immediately in the first maybe 2 to 3 years or at least don’t let them bloom very long. It would be also normal when a peony sometimes doesn’t bloom. This happened to my Bartzella. Last year no blossoms at all. This year about 20.
    Just give them more time!

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