Gardening: Peonies are the blousiest blooms

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PEONIES are the blousiest blooms on the block, producing huge pom-pom flowers which are hard to beat, even though their flowers tend to be short-lived.

And while many peonies flower in May, some bloom later in June and make great cut flowers – if you can bear to snip them off.

A stunning variety, P. lactiflora Sarah Bernhardt, is now in full bloom, its huge pink flowers providing a stunning focal point in the border.

Herbaceous peonies are best grown in borders among other perennials. Many grow to around 1m (3ft), their weighty flowers appearing over the deep green leaves.

Good companions include bearded irises, and they can be given a stunning backdrop of clematis growing up a trellis fence.

Tree peonies, which are deciduous but keep their woody stems throughout winter, flower later than the herbaceous varieties and their flowers tend to be larger.

Newly-planted peonies may not flower the first year as they hate being moved. But give them a chance and it will be worth it. They should be planted in a sunny spot in rich, fertile, well-drained soil. If you need to move one that’s already in your garden, do it in October when the plant has lost its leaves.

Away from the flower beds there’s plenty to be done around the garden. Dead-head plants in baskets, containers and borders every few days to keep them productive. Don’t let them set seed. Take soft and semi-ripe cuttings using non-flowering shoots of shrubs including cotinus, hydrangea, spiraea, weigela, honeysuckle, pyracantha and philadelphus, as well as hedging plants.

Sow courgettes, marrows, pumpkins and squashes directly into their growing position.

Water early potatoes thoroughly once a week to ensure good yields. Sow cyclamen persicum for flowering in 15-18 months.

Now is also the time to move houseplants outdoors so they can enjoy the best of the summer weather.