I Have Peonies!
I have long wanted to grow peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) in my garden, but two things kept me from doing so. First, I knew that the long-lived peonies should be sited carefully in a location where they could continue to grow for decades, and I simply didn’t have a suitable place to put them. Second, I was intimidated by peonies; there seemed to be so many warnings about the dangers of planting them at the wrong depth, of not fertilizing them enough, of susceptibility to disease, etc.
I solved the first problem by designing a new flower bed for the back garden, the fence border, with peonies in mind. Then I dealt with the second issue, the intimidation factor, by getting a master-gardener friend who has a wonderful collection of peonies in her garden, to give me a lesson in dividing, planting and growing peonies (see Peony Lesson). Along with the lesson, my friend gave me a division of my favorite peony from her garden, the beautiful and wonderfully fragrant ‘Monsieur Jules Elie.’ Last fall, I planted ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’ in my new flower bed along with divisions of two unidentified peonies from my mother’s garden.
I had read that peonies often took a few years to get established and that I shouldn’t expect blooms in the first year. So I was more than satisfied when spring came and all three plants put up healthy new growth. I was thrilled when I realized that all three plants also had flower buds on them. A little over a week ago, the first peony – a deep pink, almost scarlet, flower from my mother’s garden – opened three blooms. This was followed within a day or two by two flowers on a white peony from my mother’s garden. Finally, a few days ago, M. Jules Elie opened his one gorgeous bloom.
Today, all three peonies are blooming simultaneously in my garden (although the deep pink blossoms are well past their prime). In addition, a vase with two peony flowers holds pride of place in my living room, providing pleasures of both sight and scent. Although the peony plants are not yet large enough to be a major presence in the garden, that solitary bloom of ‘Monsieur Jules Elie’ provides a beautiful focal point in my view of the fence border from my favorite perch on the deck. Imagine what this view will be like in a couple of years when M. Elie is better established and full of flowers!