Thanks for your post. I should have mentioned that a second cold period is required for the appearance of peony shoots after the germination period .
This is what I have done for Peony germination (so far - it has worked for both P.lactiflora hybrid, and P. suffruticosa hybrid seeds). All I do is bundle the seeds in between damp paper towel. The moist packet of seeds then goes into a sealed zip lock freezer bag, and is placed on a shelf at room temperature- ideally somewhere that it won't be forgotten. Within about two to three months, the seeds send out a root radicle. That is when the sprouted seeds are potted up, and sent to the unheated greenhouse over winter, where they experience plenty of cold. Shoot growth is quite rapid in early spring.
Southwest Nova Scotia, zone 6b or thereabouts
During the second winter, are you keeping them moist? dry? I've had some germinate but then go to mush the second winter and I would like to prevent that.
I would keep them barely moist through the second winter.
Our greenhouse isn't heated, and relies on a pump for water from a pond. After losing a few pumps to freezing, we disconnect the pump after giving the plants one last watering in December or January (if the cold arrives late). I put pots on the dirt floor of the greenhouse, so they can get a bit of moisture wicking up from the ground. If things get really dry, I sometimes will top the pots with a bit of snow to give a little extra moisture.
The following species that were received from NARGS and SRGC seed exchanges early in 2014 have now germinated below ground: Paeonia emodi, Paeonia mloksewitshii, Paeonia obovata alba, Paeonia suffruticosa alba. Above ground growth should appear in Spring 2015.
For germination I soak the seeds for a couple of days and then place then in baggies. since the seeds are large, I use Promix (peat soiless mix), or paper towel. They are kept moist. I might give them a cold treatment, but I don't think it is required. I leave them sitting on my desk. A radicle appears in 3-15 months. When it does, and it is more than 2 cm long (length does matter according to some recent studies), they go into a fridge at about 7 C. While in the cold the radicle will develop side roots and root hairs. In theory they can be left in this state for quite awhile so you can time the next growth phase, however I have had then leaf out in the fridge. Once the root has grown to a good size (not that critical) I move the baggies to normal room temps, at which point the first leave emerges. I try to time things so this happens in spring. They are potted up, and go outside for the summer.
The pictures show some bags of seeds sitting on my desk right now. They have not yet gotten a cold treatment so the radicle is just one long piece with no side branches. They are more than ready for the fridge--I am just waiting a few more weeks to time for them spring potting.
Ontario, Canada, zone 5
Author of GardenMyths.com
Thank you both for your input.
I've just begun experimenting with baggies. You save on space and materials, you get a visual without pawing in the soil, it's an altogether easier way to do things. I appreciate your discussion on timing the move to cold so subsequent potting up comes in spring.