I absolutely adore peonies and over the past year we have planted dozens of new ones - both the regular bushy peonies and the so-called 'tree' peonies.
For me, the peony is one of the first BIG flowers of the spring and summer. Most of the early flowers in the garden are little ones. You start with the timid little snow drops, follow with the rather modest and simple tulips and daffodils and then suddenly along come the show stopping frilly stars of my garden.
Peonies produce large, multi petal flowers about the size of your fist or a large potato. I have them in a wide range of pinks and in white and the blooms are gorgeous. The only issue I have is that peonies really do need to be supported with metal (or other) frames or else thy have a tendency to get absolutely flattened the first time a big rain storm comes along.
In theory they make great cut flowers. In practice I just can't bring myself to cut something so beautiful. The sad part is that the flowers only ever come the once, no matter how much I try to dead-head and then I'm left with a lot of pleasant but not particularly exciting green bushes for the rest of the season.
We've been in our house for 11 years now and the best of the peonies have probably been going for about 8 years. Undoubtedly they get better and bigger every year but in the first year or two you may find their performance a little disappointing. Peonies are best planted for the long term.
A Peony was one of the first plants I bought when I first acquired a garden. I remember choosing it because it was in flower at the time and I thought the bloom was amazing. It's very much a 'classic' flower shape, blooms the size of a large fist and an array of colours to choose from. My partner had always been a keen gardener and he tried to put me off, saying that Peonies were not easy to grow and maintain, (he had never succeeded) and the cost wasn’t cheap – I think around £15 for a small fairly young plant with a few blooms/buds on it.
However, I found that the plant must have loved the soil at my property – later discovering that contrary to my partner’s advice, they are quite hardy plants and flourish in most soils!
The time of year I purchased was summer, and it was the following year that it really came into its own. My birthday is mid-August, and the Peony was the star of my birthday celebrations. It was absolutely full of beautiful large flowers – mine were a georgeous deep dusky pink. This became a theme for the plant, every year it became bigger with more and more blooms, until by the time I was moving house, it had actually become a bit overly dominant of my relatively small garden. Fortunately I had planted it as a centre-piece in a large planting area, and I'd definitely say that is a good idea – it grew to around 70cm high and easily the same diameter in the end – which was around 8 years. It makes an excellent focal point of a flower/shrub display.
Each autumn when the blooms had finished, the plant would be quite unsightly – I guess due to the size of it, but I would cut it down to ground level in the autumn, and this, seemed to give rise to good results the following year.
One thing I would say about the Peony is that I was always surprised by how quickly it would grow tall in the spring. One day it would be starting to grow above the ground and within a week would shoot up considerably. Also, the buds are quite weighty and I did lose some when fragile stems would get damaged by sudden bad weather or something, and I invested in a support frame for it to grow through. This proved a good purchase and helped the plant to maintain its shape too.
When I moved house, my partner advised against moving the Peony, having been told that they don’t take kindly to the disruption, but based on what I’ve learned since, maybe I was too quick to take his advice! That said, my current garden is more borders than beds, so I don’t think I have the right spot for such a superstar plant.
Peonies aren't cheap, but they certainly deliver the wow factor if you have the right sunny spot.
I moved into my current home around fifteen years ago in early November. I had seen the garden in the summer and knew it was nice. However, it wasn't until late spring that the beautiful peony plant came into flower. It still flowers every year and looks even more gorgeous as it has spread, and in the last few years there are even more blooms to be seen.
I wasn't that familiar back then with the plant “Peony” but my husband and I really enjoyed seeing this flower come into bloom. We decided to look out for more plants.
I think that the plant that was already in the garden must be a Karl RosenfIeld. When it first blooms its flowers are the deepest and most glorious shade of deep pink, almost red and after it has bloomed it gradually fades to lighter pink.
We have now purchased another Karl Rosenfield and two Sarah Bernhardt. These were small plants when we bought them the summer before last and we are hoping that they will be well established next summer and will add to our other precious plants in our small but loved garden.
Peonies don’t flower for long but when they do they look beautiful with their large and colourful blooms. The dark green foliage contrasts well with the blooms. Peonies come in many colours.
This plant is easy to grow as it requires little care but growth is slow and steady. The plant will grow in height to about thirty-five inches and has a good spread.
Peonies can be grown in full sun and grows well in normal, sandy or clay soil. Our soil is clay and they grow well enough. The soil can be neutral, acid or alkaline.
My peonies are all planted in my gardens border. I look forward to seeing them bloom in the spring.
The breeders have managed to create well over six hundred varieties of peony. There are two types of peony, the first being the herbaceous or the garden peony and then there is the tree peony which grows like a standard on a tall stem.
Peonies start life as a tuber which is generally planted in the Autumn to allow the plant to become established by the Winter. They are hardy perennials, which means that they will withstand all weathers and they flower every year, but try to shelter the plant from keen wind if you can.
The Victorians loved the peony flowers, they used to cut the full heavy blooms to incorporate in their flower arrangements.
Although the peony makes the basis for a very attractive piece of floral art I have always found that the heavy flower heads seem to bow over under their own weight.
My herbaceous peony has been an attraction in my front garden for years, it started life as a small clump that was given to me by an old friend. I took one look at the sorry looking clump and decided that it didn't have long to go, I planted it and from then on it has gone from strength to strength.
What started life as a few sorry looking leaves has now grown into a peony that anyone could be proud of.
The fine specimen that sits in my front garden flowers at the end of May to the beginning of June, I am sure that there must be something in the soil that it particularly likes, because apart from pruning it yearly to keep it at bay I have done nothing else to it.
It provides a mass of large blooms, they are very like a giant rose. This particular variety is a deep blood red. Each huge bloom has a mass of large petals, towards the centre the petals almost form a bud but as the flower expands the leaves become looser. The foliage is a rich deep green, with large attractive leaves. When the peony starts to bloom it seems as though it takes over the front garden, the deep red blooms create a mass of colour and are very attractive.
I tend not to cut any of the blooms, preferring to see them flourish outdoors.
Sadly the huge blooms aren't long lasting, the large petals soon begin to fall and within a few weeks the show is all but over, peonies only flower once a year.
At the end of each season I cut the plant back hard, the plant enjoys being well cut back it likes a period of winter chilling. if I didn't it would make a takeover bid. Time and time again a clump of the peony has been taken by family or visitors who have fallen in love with my vibrant beauty and consequently it lives on in many gardens up and down the country.
For any of you who have a young peony it will pay to remember that as the plant matures you may well need to stake it when it flowers. It always seems as if the flowers all come at once, if you use four bamboo canes for support and wrap garden twine around them to form a frame at least the peony will be supported.
Although their are masses of different types of peony my first choice would be the `cabbage rose` type bloom, so many of the newer peonies have lighter blooms with far less petals.
Some varieties are fragrant but I have never really noticed any powerful perfume coming from my blooms.
Peonies are timeless plants and can be planted anywhere in the country, if the peony decides that it is happy with life then it will thrive for years.
A look on the Internet will provide you with all you need, giving pictures and detailed information about the hundreds of types of the species.
There are people who specialise in growing peonies alone and any reputable garden centre would be able to offer advice.