The Ant & The Peony, a garden haiku, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2009, all photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
growing in gardens worldwide
do ants open buds?
When the peonies on the side of our house start to bud in June, lines of ants quickly follow. Until a moment ago, I believed that ants licked the sugar off the peonies, helping their transition from bud to bloom. Turns out that’s a myth. According to Robert F. Gabella at GardenOpus, the ants’ annual ritual of ”tickling of the buds” occurs because they are attracted to the sweet resin on the peonies; the buds would open regardless of the ants.
Of course, it’s more fun to bury my head in the compost and keep believing that the ant has a reciprocal and benevolent relationship to the peony, much like the mythology surrounding the ant and the grasshopper — (for more detail, see ybonesy’s post The Ant & The Grasshopper – Ann Patchett & Lucy Grealy). For me, the myth is more delicious than the truth; perhaps the ant wants to keep its little secret.
A few other Fun Facts about peonies:
- they may not flower until after the first season
- established peonies can be heavy feeders
- peonies are especially needy of potassium (essential for stem strength and disease resistance)
- herbaceous peonies are known to remain in the same position, undisturbed, for over a century
- after cutting, you can remove ants from peonies by using a mild soap spray or dish detergent (from The Old Farmer’s Almanac)
- ants do provide protection–they attack other bud-eating pests by stinging, biting, or spraying them with acid and tossing them off the plant (also from The Old Farmer’s Almanac)
If you are like me, you spend a lot of time digging in the dirt and constantly have questions about plants and gardening solutions. Do you know the names of your flowers? Maybe you have trouble with groundhogs or slugs, or need advice about seed starting, passion flowers, or orchids. You can read more tips from award-winning horticulturist, hybridist, photographer and author Robert F. Gabella at GardenOpus (also found on Twitter!)
-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, June 18th, 2009