The Art of Gardening
In my humble opinion, the peony is the ruling "queen of cut flowers". A generous bouquet of these large, lush — and usually fragrant — blooms will "reign supreme" in your home. Perhaps the most well-known species of peony — and a perfect specimen for cut flowers — is Paeonia lactiflora, the so-called "common garden peony". Believe me, its blooms are anything but common! We carry a great selection of this particular species; they are all gorgeous, and many are highly fragrant.
Bowl of Beauty
The bloom time for garden peonies varies per variety, ranging from mid spring to early summer. So, with a little planning, you can have peonies in bloom for at least a few months in your yard. Also, peony blossoms come in singles, semi-doubles and doubles. 'Bowl of Beauty' is a single-bloomer, and an old favorite. It has bright rose-pink flowers with creamy-yellow centers. Another single is 'Dancing Butterflies'. Its lipstick-pink blossoms surround yellow centers. Semi-double varieties include 'Gay Paree' — its dazzling raspberry-pink blooms have fluffy white centers — and 'Peche' , whose flowers are pale pink and creamy white with just a touch of red.
We offer a wonderful array of double-blooming peonies. The list includes 'Avalanche', which has blush-white flowers with hints of cream and threads of pink. Another white variety is 'Duchesse de Nemours' — it is pure bright-white with light-yellow inner petals. 'Felix Crousse' is reputed to be one of the "best reds"; also red is 'Kansas', an award-winning variety with deep-carmine flowers. 'Shirley Temple' is a popular selection whose very large blossoms can range in color from bright white to very light pink, often with hints of red.
Peonies should be planted in full to part sun, in fertile, moist but well-draining soil. They're fairly heavy feeders, so a yearly amendment of compost or well-aged manure is beneficial. It's crucial to plant your peonies at the appropriate level — neither too deep nor too high: the eyes should be just barely below the soil's surface. (Your peonies could be flowerless if planted too deep or too shallow — and that would be tragic!) Once the flower "show" is over, you may cut the stalks back to the base of the plant. However, you'll need to allow the foliage to die back—which you'd likely want to do anyway, because the remaining leaves are very attractive, lasting well into fall.
Once you've selected your peonies, choose your planting site carefully — because once your peonies are planted, they hate to be moved. Fortunately, peonies rarely need to be divided (but if it does become necessary, fall is the best time). They'll just continue to slowly expand at the base, and produce more and more lovely blooms — and arm loads of beautiful bouquets — with each new season.
By Judy Boersema
Skylights Spring 2010, Vol 25, No. 2
articles on the art of gardening
articles on perennials