Peony Season Lasts Longer than a Month

Peony 'Rose Gnome'
In my garden, peony bloom time lasts for about a month, give or take a few days, depending on the year's weather.

This year it began on May 13 with 'Rose Gnome'. This diminutive hybrid was joined by my earliest tree peony, 'Princess Chiffon', 'Roselette' and 'Red Charm'.
'Paladin' is a hybrid with a great color.
After a cool and wet mid-May, the next round of peonies began to open on May 27, starting with 'Paladin', which bloomed before 'Coral Sunset'.
'Coral Sunset' is the first of the corals to bloom in my garden.
My garden June 1.

Peony 'Pink Derby', pictured here on
June 10, is a fragrant pink bomb.
If you were to walk into my garden on June 1, you would have seen the majority of my peonies in full bloom. 
But then the rain came. It came with a vengeance, leaving the heaviest face down in the dirt. Peonies still in bud were saved from the worst of it, and that included a variety called 'Pink Derby'.

Two of the most spectacular plants in bloom--'Martha' and 'Judith Eileen'--were officially finished for the season save for a few salvageable side buds.
Peony 'Al's Choice' looks just as pretty before it opens as it does after.
My first intersectional, 'Al's Choice', was saved from the force of the rain in part because each flower has just a few petals. It's considered a single, and therefore a survivor of summer storms.

'Elsa Sass' is the final peony to bloom in my garden, pictured here today, June 17.
A few of the aforementioned side buds are still chugging along, and the last plant to flower, 'Elsa Sass', is one I'm enjoying for its pristine color and light scent. There are some peonies that didn't take good photos this year, and others that, for one reason or another, didn't bloom at all. I'll be digging up at least three varieties to be named later. Although I don't plant peonies in the spots vacated by peonies, there will be enough room for shifting to make room for the two new varieties I purchased at auction at the American Peony Society's annual convention.

Coffee for Roses: Really?

Myths might be fun in a garden, but they have no place in the practice of gardening. Although the modern gardener might not be of the belief that mandrake root must be harvested under the cloak of darkness, there are plenty of misleading tidbits that have taken hold in today’s world. Author C.L. Fornari dispatches 71 of them in her book, Coffee for Roses. 

Whether you are new at gardening or have been dabbling for decades, you’ll find plenty of seemingly sensible suggestions explained and then ejected from your growing lexicon. You’re bound to recognize a few. 

There is one myth in particular I recognized from my grandma’s garage. Grandma Martha grew everything and grew it well, so there was no reason to doubt her in all matters related to gardening. “Are those geraniums,” I asked her when I saw them hanging in the dark near the garage door she didn’t use. 

A proud little smile played around her lips when she answered, “Yes. I’m saving them for next year. Do you want some?” 

I remember wondering why she felt it necessary to hang them like that, but didn’t want her to think me totally ignorant, so I never learned her reasoning. 

Fornari labels it number 12, explaining that experts who wrote in the early 1900s recommended shaking soil from the roots of geraniums and hanging the plants “upside down in a cool, dark, damp basement or cave.” My grandma learned to garden during that era and had a root cellar in her old house that we grandchildren were afraid to enter, which explains why I never saw them until she moved to the suburbs. 
Coffee for Roses is the type of book to leave out for when you have a minute or a few. Curious gardeners or students of life will find it a fun but valuable aid in their quest for the truth and the reason for the fabrications that have sometimes been cause for dispute. (Don’t get me started on ants on peonies!) 

A couple of closely-held fables debunked in Coffee for Roses involve ragweed vs goldenrod, the big burlap conundrum, and how woodchucks feel about chewing gum. You’ll have to read the book for the answers.

Plethora of Peonies: Part Two

'Chestine Gowdy' is an old-fashioned fragrant double.
This post will be more photos than text, for which I'm sure most will be grateful. It will show what's been going on since the last post, Plethora of Peonies Part One.

This bright cutie is called 'Spiffy'
This Japanese type is called 'Ursa Major'.
This old-fashioned French variety from 1861 is called 'Philomele'
A yellow intersectional called 'Yellow Doodle Dandy'
French again: 'Duchesse de Nemours'
This fairly new hybrid is called 'Lorelei'.
'Rare Flower of Frosty Dew' is one of two Chinese lactifloras in my garden.
'Judith Eileen' is a new and fragrant lactiflora cultivar.
This tree peony called 'Ariadne' is one hybridized by Nassos Daphnis.

Plan Peony Plantings to Put Off Disappointment

Peony 'Pink Parasol Surprise'
It was only a matter of time. For years, I'd been delicately perched on the upside of odds that called for a downpour when the majority of my peonies were fully opened. This year it was payback.
I'd started out this morning with my new camera strapped to its tripod, ready to snap portraits of the lovelies I live for. It was cloudy -- the perfect condition to capture my peonies' elusive voluptuousness -- especially of the full doubles.

It turned into a wet, dramatic one-person triage. I pulled stakes from the less needy to prop up the heaviest flowers -- 'Chestine Gowdy' had just begun its amazing journey into the essence of peony-dom, a factor that will hopefully work in her favor. When tightly furled, peonies can't take on as much water as those whose petals have let their guard down in a tragedy of bad timing.

I snapped photos of the aftermath, taken several hours after the worst of the moisture-fueled carnage. Even 'Tom Cat', a Japanese form peony in the sunniest spot in the garden, succumbed to the overload.

Bent but not Broken

I'll have to wait til morning to see if its stems recover. It's possible.


Not faring as well were the old-fashioned blooms of 'Duchess de Nemours', a classic beauty with a purity only a white double could possess. Although the stems did not snap, they folded - a condition that  turns them irrevocably into cut flowers.

'Duchesse de Nemours', the epitome of white.

Not that there is anything wrong with cut flowers. A neighbor received a vase with several stems of the Duchess lording (or ladying) over other stems so shamed by the rain.

Luckily, I have others that have just begun to open that will recover and reward me with their beauty. If all goes well.

The lesson learned if there is one (and there always is), is that a peony-lover must plant a range of peonies that represent early, mid- and late-season varieties so there is always an up-and-comer tightly-furled to withstand a deluge not uncommon to a day in June. (Not that it makes it any less painful to experience peonies bent into submission.)

Sounding a positive note in this cautionary tale is keeping up the anticipation level by planning for the next bloom on the horizon. The best cure for a bad case of peony droop is more blooms. I've got lots to look forward to. As could anyone who plans for the next phase of garden excitement.

Keep all the balls in the air by checking out the latest blogs at You Can Grow That! It's a site full of positives, encouragement and virtual woogie-woogies (pronounced woo' jee woo' jee) for the misfortunes that can accompany any endeavor worth a shot.

Plethora of Peonies Part One

'Coral Sunset' is one of the most vigorous peonies in my garden. This year, fully open by May 31.
For the moment you've all been waiting for. Or at least some of you have. Well, I have certainly looked forward since the last bloom faded to this peony season. Each year is different and my neighbor tells me I'm just impatient whenever I say something like, "I think they're late this year." Actually, I think I say that every year - except in 2012 when everything was extremely early.

Peony 'Roselette' bloomed on May 19
Tree peony 'Princess Chiffon' May 19
They started popping open suddenly with a bit of warmth and sunshine, so by May 23, the peonies were ready to color my world.
'Roselette's Child' May 23
'Red Charm' May 23

Tree peony 'Calypso' May 23
'Coral Sunset' began to open May 27
'Abalone Pearl' on May 28
'Joker' is one of my favorites and is shown on May 31.

Did I already name a favorite? 'Martha' is just starting her spectacular bloom on May 31.

'Pink Hawaiian Coral' looks pretty on May 28 even before opening.
I've got lots more to come so I'll do this in three parts. I'll post in a couple of days when I get caught up. Meanwhile, what peonies do you have? Which are your favorites?