Peony Season: Part II

I know, I know... I say it every year: what a strange season it's been for peonies. This week's been like a Florida in late spring - low 80s and humid with a chance of severe storms daily. I've been spending 3-4 hours each morning weeding, clipping, planting, digging, and sweating before going in for a much-needed shower. When I get back out in the garden after dinner, there are peonies that weren't open at 2 o'clock!

As of today, especially with the mostly grey skies, one of my favorites for color is 'Joker', a hybrid by with some serious shade-shifting abilities. This hybrid starts out a vibrant, deep coral-pink from bud to the time it first opens. It remains in this stage for longer than you'd expect, but  ... Wait for it, because this flower commands attention as soon as it fluffs itself up and into a bloom. From there it gradually (and that term is relative with 'Joker') shifts to a color that looks like each petal edge is made of blotter paper and absorbs the saturation of the original color.

Peony 'Joker' in the fluffing-up stage.
I'll hopefully have photos of 'Joker' in this stage, but you'll have to wait. The original showbiz pro, 'Joker' apparently was taught from birth that it's best to "always leave 'em wanting more."

Peony 'Judith Eileen'
Another cultivar by Don Hollingsworth that is at its spectacular best is 'Judith Eileen', a pink double with a hint of purple and a light scent. This is its third year in the ground, and it was well worth the wait!

Peony 'White Cap'
Still in first position as the peony with the best fragrance (among the 3 dozen in my garden) is 'White Cap', a lactiflora that looks as good as it smells and vice versa. Who could resist a name like "Spiffy," especially if you were born before 1960? I'm still a fan of a Japanese lactiflora called 'Spiffy', hybridized by William Krekler and Roy G. Klehm. It has a fragrance, albeit light.

Peony 'Spiffy'

And, just like 'Joker' -- the doyen of showbiz -- the element of staging, surprise, and the ultimate in flabbergastery, all peonies have the stage presence to pull off 

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