A Paean to Paeonia

Tree Peony with golden stamens

We came back from the first of two weekends in New York to find that the Itoh Peonies were well advanced and then by now reaching the end of their bloom.  But the herbaceous peonies are just getting started.  It made me stop and think about what a wonderfully long extended season the peonies have.  From the first glimpse of Molly the Witch in early april to the final Peony Honey Gold blooms will be over 6 weeks.  Just as with daffodils the choice of varieties lets you have flowers in bloom for a very long time.  And, like daffodils, the peonies are not troubled by deer which is a big plus in our area.  I’ve shared pictures earlier of the gorgeous big tree peonies but we also have a small tree peony which yields some of the richest yellows I’ve seen and comes 2-3 weeks after the big guys.

Very Double Yellow Tree Peony

I don’t know the name of this one, but I’m liking it more every year.  It’s about half the size of the other tree peonies, almost herbaceous in aspect, but that could be cultural — it sits under some pines that suck the moisture out of the ground.

The mid-season for us is mostly Itoh intersectional hybrids — the fortunate blend of some of the best characteristics of the tree and herbaceous types.  The famous one is Bartzella.

Itoh Peony 'Bartzella'

But I have to say I like some of the others much better.  Singing in the Rain has single petals and unique coloration that changes as the flower ages.

Itoh Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

Julia Rose is a wonderfully rose hue that blends nicely with the golden stamens.

Itoh Peony 'Julia Rose'

And Morning Lilac has much larger flowers with a prolific bloom.

Itoh Peony 'Morning Lilac'

We were originally attracted to Peonies by Festiva Maxima which we found growing abundantly at the house we once owned in Alexandria, Virginia.  It’s a classic white herbaceous with streaks of blood red in the center and scent that puts many flowers to shame. We moved it with us to Maryland and it remains one of our favorites.  It’s extremely hardy and a prolific bloomer that will flop all over with it’s many flowers — but hey, nobody’s perfect…

Peony 'Festiva Maxima'

A more modern herbaceous (in that it’s only 50 years old) is Honey Gold — big luscious white flowers with a cup of honey colored petals in the center.

Peony 'Honey Gold'

As I began to appreciate all these positive attributes of the Peony family I’ve become more interested in growing the various species from which these lovely hybrids have been developed.  Their variations in leaf and flower are interesting in and of themselves.

I’ve already mentioned Paeonia mlokosewitschii with it’s wonderful foliage.  Another that has bloomed for us this year for the first time is Paeonia Veitchii.

Paeonia veitchii

I think it makes a good argument for why the species types are worthy additions to any garden.

My wife asked how many peonies we have at this point so I just did a head count.  My tally is 33 different species and varieties and it seems like we’re just getting started.  Many of the species types have not bloomed for us yet so there is much to look forward to…


2 comments on “A Paean to Paeonia

  1. Pingback: Eye Love It! « Inspire; to breathe

  2. Les

    I like peonies, but my wife loves them. I wish I had more room to grow them, but for me they are too brief in bloom to take up so much real estate. At the next garden I will row them out like corn and harvest them to put in a vase each day they bloom, and earn serious marital brownie points.