Flower of the Month – Peonies

jbryanGrowing, Monthly FlowerLeave a Comment

Are you surprised by what we picked for this month’s flower? No? Not at all? Yeah, me neither. It wasn’t too difficult to select this month’s flower, seeing as I have so many connections to it. So let’s dive in to….Peonies!

I moved into my first “adult” home in the deep winter, when there wasn’t really anything going on in the yard of my stone townhouse in Arlington. The house was in “original condition”, and by that I mean nothing had been changed since it was first built in 1929. I started tackling the indoors and settling in, while I waited for the snow to melt so I could see what I was working with in the front and backyard.

When winter finally gave up the ghost, spring came in quietly, and I realized that the little old lady who had lived in the house before me was a bit of a gardener, and she had planted some amazing things that I had inherited. By far, my favorite were the pink peonies in the front yard.

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They were so spectacular that when it came time to make my wedding bouquet, way back in 1988, I cut them so my aunt could incorporate them.  And that’s not all…the love affair continued when Farmer B and I moved into our new home in 1989. That’s right–I dug them up and brought them with me to Falls Church!

Now, here we are, 31 years later from that first spring, and I am patiently waiting for my peonies to bloom as I have done every year. Their stems have come up, and the buds are quick appearing. They are, without a doubt, the prettiest flowers I know. So here in May, 28 years after I carried these flowers in my bouquet, it only seems fitting that they become the flower of the month.

There are two distinct types of peonies, the perennial peony, which tends to colors in the white,pink, and darker pink family, and a more shrub like tree peony that does not die back to the ground in winter.

Examples of perennial peony

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Examples of tree peony

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I’m lucky enough that my yard will let me grow both. My tree peony is a treasured gift from my Mom, and its a pale yellow. I waited 5 years for it to bloom. It was worth the wait. The number of buds each year varies, so it’s always a surprise to see how many blooms I’ll get.

My perennial peonies occupy more space in my yard, and I have been able to spread them out a bit, and added to them when friends are thinning their plots. I will never turn down a peony (hint, hint!).

Here are some lovely examples of peonies in floral arrangements, and of course in wedding bouquets. You can grow your own like I do, or at this spring and summer time of year, you can buy them as well at the flower shop, farmer’s market, or floral wholesaler.

Unique facts about peonies

  • I often get asked about ants and peonies. They have a symbiotic relationship. Peonies have a nectar coating their buds, the ants are drawn to the nectar, they remove the nectar, and the peony blooms. Its a very cool thing. So don’t worry too much about the ants, when the peonies are blooming the nectar is gone, and the ants are too.

  • Peonies have a scent, and if you are lucky, you can enjoy the honey, lemon, rose smells your flowers give off. There are some varieties that do give off an unpleasant dead fish or dead animal smell….. best to leave those in the garden to enjoy from afar.
  • Many people include peonies in their wedding bouquets because of their symbolism. They symbolize good fortune and a happy marriage. I did not know that when I chose them for mine, but am certainly glad that its all worked out. 😉

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  • Peonies live for a long time, as much as 100 years old they say! I know that mine are approaching that age, so fingers crossed they beat the odds!
  • When the explorer Marco Polo first encounter a peony he described them as “roses as big as cabbages”. He ain’t wrong. Peonies can be quite large, often as much as 10 inches across. A challenge to arrange with, but totally worth the effort.

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I prefer to work with peonies all by themselves. I like the look of a mass of them. I don’s fuss with them at all, since they really don’t need too much fussing with. Do you have a favorite way to use them?

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Quick Note

A word to my readers, for the next few weeks, I will be out of the country, on a bucket list trip with my sisters and some flower-crazy friends. We are going to the Chelsea Flower Show in London, to absorb that amazement, and then on to the English country side to soak up some of their iconic garden style. While we are away, the blog is in the capable hands of Hannah. Click to view a photo gallery of the garden show from last year.

So, look forward to some future posts sharing the beautiful things we see in England (plus a little side trip to Iceland), and know that, as they say down South, “I miss y’already!”

jbryanFlower of the Month – Peonies