We asked garden bloggers for their favorite "high-maintenance" plant—that plant they'll bend over backward to keep healthy. Here's what Barbara Pintozzi, Mr. McGregor's Daughter, had to say:
Paeonia suffruticosa 'Ofjui-nishiki'—a Rockii-type tree peony, 9-inch semi-double blooms of lavender with dark purple flares
4 feet high by 4 feet wide deciduous shrub
Burgundy fall foliage
Full sun to part shade
I discovered tree peonies 15 years ago at a presentation by Roy Klehm. Among the huge, stunning blooms was 'Kamada Nishiki.' I had to have it, but it was too expensive. Finally, I found a gallon pot at a local nursery for the right price. It was thrilling when it bloomed, even though the flower didn't look like 'Kamada Nishiki’. I determined the plant was actually 'Ofuji-nishiki’, an even more beautiful Rockii type.
A thunderstorm ended the blooming that first year. The following year, the day after the first bloom opened, a storm came through, with more rain the next day. I duct taped an umbrella to a tripod and set it up over the tree peony for two days. It looked ridiculous, but at least the blooms were saved.
After a freeze at the end of April resulted in no blooms one year, I began covering the plant whenever a late frost threatens. At first, I used the barbecue grill cover because there was precipitation with the freeze. After I broke off a branch with a bud, I switched to using bed sheets for protection. Extraordinary measures for a plant that blooms for only nine days, but worth it!