Peony Season Part IV: In the Pink

The most common color for peonies is pink. But it's not the pink of baby gift wrap or that well-known cause ribbon symbol. The pink that saturates peony petals in varying degrees is the pink that follows sensual modifiers: pearl, abalone, satin, raspberry, soft, whisper, blush, hot, ...

Lighter than the rich raspberry of 'White Cap', but with something else entirely going on at its center, 'Pink Derby' reminds me once again of the humongous array of looks within the world of herbaceous peonies.

'Pink Derby' in the stage that reminds me of a bowl of ice cream.
Picture a deep pink bowl of the finest translucent china. Add a scoop of soft, vanilla ice cream, and add a thick dollop of strawberry cream. Stir gently, and you have 'Pink Derby'. And did I mention it's fragrant, compact and apparently somewhat hard to locate? I bought it in 2009 from Swenson Gardens, and this is just the second year it's bloomed. Swenson Gardens sends healthy and large peony roots, so the reason it hasn't burst out of the ground in two years or even three is that it is one variety that takes awhile to establish.

A fully-opened 'Pink Derby' is a breathtaking sight.
As color mixes go, one of the more unusual is 'The Fawn', named for its fanciful resemblance to a newborn deer's subtle spots. Although it has no fragrance, it has a long season of interest, with buds that offer an exciting glimpse of its speckled demeanor.

'The Fawn'
Not a trick of the light, but 'The Fawn's' subtle pattern of pink spatters on a paler pink background.

'Chestine Gowdy'
She's an old-fashioned girl, named after a teacher in a one-room school house. 'Chestine Gowdy' was hybridized by Oliver Brand of Faribault, Minnesota and introduced in 1913. Opening late in the season on very tall stems, the double flowers are pink in bud and open nearly white with a pearly pink undertone at the base of the petals.
'Chestine Gowdy' shows off pale pink petals that gradually fade to white.

The term, "medium pink" doesn't do 'Belleville' justice. Which is probably why it was described upon introduction to the American Peony Society in 1998 as "cyclamen purple." In peonies, this is about as purple as it gets. There are also varieties described as orange, but they are more of a coral. Whatever it's called, 'Belleville' is a strong grower with a very respectable number of side buds. 
'Belleville' shows off the undersides (or outsides) of its petals as they unfurl.
Unlike some peonies with side buds, 'Belleville's' open nearly at once, allowing for a bouquet on a stem.


  1. Wow, they are simply magnificent, Jean. Peonies are not something that can grow here, but I've certainly enjoyed scrolling up and down your photos and relishing their beauty.

  2. Peonies grow from Alaska to North Carolina, but are impossible in the tropics. Thanks for visiting, Bernie. They are certainly divas of the garden.