Peonies vs. sumac, round 2
April 28, 2008 12:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me rescue my long-abandoned peonies!

A couple of years ago I bought a house that was once owned by a peony fanatic -- I have hundreds of them around the property. Last spring, I found the mother lode poking their heads up in a still-winter-dormant patch of staghorn sumac. (I completely missed them the first year since the sumacs leafed out and hid them before I noticed them.) Apparently, this was once a major bed that had been abandoned years ago, allowing the sumac to take over.

All last spring and summer, I battled to keep the sumac at bay, but that stuff is aggressive as hell; it spreads through its network of roots, so killing it is like playing whack-a-mole. I planned to transplant the peonies out of there last fall but never found time (it would take days) and besides, peonies don't like being moved. So my new plan is to try and take out the sumac after all. Has anybody managed to beat that stuff back? I've read strategies on gardening forums, like cutting it in July and August, painting the stumps with Roundup, both of which I tried last year to little effect.

My peonies and I thank you! Stop by in a few weeks for some cut flowers if you live in Western MA.
posted by Camofrog to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
Here's my two cents' worth:

Roundup isn't enough. Paint the stumps with Stump Killer. It's stronger.

Also, there's one safe way to move peonies -- move them in the fall, after they're done flowering and photosynthesizing. Cut back the stems (but leave enough that you know where the peonies ARE), then dig them up. Splitting them at about this time is also a good idea, because when peonies get too big, they can sprawl and sometimes even get weak in the middle of the clump.
posted by lleachie at 12:46 PM on April 28, 2008

I'm not a poison person or sure what Sumac is... there seems to be a few types? But I know some general plant stuff. If they're ever done photosynthesizing it's 'cause they're dead :)
I like to garden like a warlord... know your enemy.

All vegetation lives to fruit/flower they put EVERYTHING into it. (Why basil tastes shit when it's flowering. Why things drop leaves and run on the bare minimum at this time).

If your Sumac has fruits/flowers put plastic bags over them and bind them shut nice and snugly. (As opposed to removing them. Plants are very aware of themselves and it will just make more if they're gone but won't twig (ha-ha) that something is up right away).

I assume peonies can handle shade? Throw something over the Sumac to cut down its sunlight. (Maybe a blanket/fabric rather than plastic). This will slow it down.

Think of leaves as solar panels. Keep with this idea and all plants also have certain battery capabilities. So that if all the 'solar panels' are taken out they have energy stored to at least get one back out there and then so on.

(-Everything green(?) is a drain on this energy. If you like a plant and see leaves in the process of dropping, snip them off and push them into the earth below.
Saves on power.
Also all nutrients found in the leaves were drawn from the soil. Insert animated diagram of arrows going around in a circle.)

Now I heard this the other day, and haven't tried it BUT apparently copper kills trees ect. Copper nails were the easiest way to do this. Just hammer them in and wait. It takes a little while but from roots to leaves the whole thing is toast. Similar to using hot dirty engine oil except it doesn't salt the earth.

(Sorry if you didn't need the Ag-Science lesson. I just find plants really cool and interesting...)

In summary-

-stop it spreading *seeds? runners?

-keep it occupied *what is it currently trying to acheive...?

--chop it and it will just grow *think 'hydra'

-slow it down *restrict sun and water ect.

-go in for the kill ]B-D

--don't wipe out neighbors

--don't salt the earth. *(all these rules!!)

Show that garden who's boss.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 10:19 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Holy shit muhaha, you are a sick, sick person, and just the attitude I need. I agree — it's a matter of starving the bastards of light, eventually their batteries run out. No leaves=no photosynth=no food=dead, eventually, after the root stores run out.
posted by Camofrog at 10:57 PM on April 28, 2008

RoundUp on the stump won't work. RoundUp works by overloading the chlorophyll in the leaf, so you'd need to wait until the plant has a fair number of leaves before applying RoundUp.
posted by jrishel at 4:13 AM on April 29, 2008

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