Peony Impact

Looking through the arbor, you can see the bright pink of 'Karl Rosenfield' peonies.

Never underestimate the power of the well placed peony.

P. lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' in the center next to the blue iris. 'Cl. Old Blush is at left along with R. 'Carefree Beauty'. R. Blush Knockout is at right.

Paeonia is from the god Paeon, the student of Asclepius, Greek god of medicine and healing.  I find them to be visually healing, don’t you?

Although this was supposed to be 'Sarah Bernhardt', a pink peony, I like this just as well. Probably P. 'Festiva Maxima'.

I often wonder why these beautiful plants fell out of favor.

P. 'Karl Rosenfield'
Peony 'Karl Rosenfield'

Was it because they only bloom once a year?

You can now get Itoh (intersectional) peonies which bloom later in the summer giving you a more staggered bloom time.  I’m thinking about adding one to my collection, but they are still very pricey.

One of my pricier peonies. I couldn't find the tag this morning. It came from Song Sparrow Nursery and isn't fully open or double.

From Harvey Buchite for the American Peony Society, who explains them better than I:

“Intersectional peonies are derived by crossing peonies from one section of the genus Paeonia with those from another. There are three sections in the genus Paeonia, and within at least the Section Paeon, a great diversity in species. It is not very likely that all intersectional peonies will look similar to each other as different species are successfully used in this type of cross. By far the greatest number of Intersectional peonies result from Lactiflora Group pod parents pollinated with Lutea Hybrid Group woody peonies. These are properly termed Itoh Group peonies in recognition of Toichi Itoh of Japan who was the first person to have success with this cross. His hybrids became available to commerce in limited numbers in 1969 through the efforts of Louis Smirnow.”

Another expensive unknown at this time. The tag is down there somewhere, and I've written the info down in my journal. Also from Song Sparrow.

I would love later bloom, but frankly, who cares when they look like this?  I think of them like the once-blooming roses I have, they usually give me a month of true bloom.  Some reblooming roses only bloom a bit monthly, and then not through the heat of summer.  Therefore, once blooming plants often outdo the rebloomers.  During the summer, I’ve learned to rely on other perennials, annuals and tropicals for flowers then.

'Brocaded Gown' tree peony in the rain.

I have one tree peony, and it bloomed very early.  It was beautiful, and I may plant another someday.

Peonies were once the national flower of China and are still much beloved by the people.  They are also an essential element of their artwork, both drawn and painted stylistically and realistically.  If you look for them, you’ll find them, sometimes featured, but often in the background.  The plum blossom (inferior in my opinion) is now the national flower.

P. 'Sarah Bernhardt'

The herbaceous peonies (most often found in stores) are extremely easy to grow.  Their only problem in my garden is leaf disease.  According to the peony authorities, some of these diseases are fatal, but the ones on my peonies never have been.  I used to spray them, but saw it didn’t have much effect.  Now, I just keep the areas around them clean and occasionally spray with compost tea.  It seems to help them ward it off.  Also, when the leaves are killed by frost in fall, I go ahead and remove them cleaning up any debris.  I also remove any spent blossoms promptly to prevent disease.  Any diseases they’ve had over the years didn’t stop them from blooming well, although late freezes sometimes kill the blossoms before they open.  Not so this year.

With no late freeze, my peonies look their very best.  To keep the blooms upright, I use simple green cages or hoops to hold the stems.  Most of the above peonies weren’t expensive.  I rescued many of them from the box stores over the years when they didn’t sell.  It takes about three years for peonies to reach their full potential.

They are among my favorite flowers.  Long lived and easy to grow, peonies can live to be 100 years old or more.


  1. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Oh, how beautiful they are! Peonies were my late friend Mary Beth’s favorite flower and I wish I could grow them in her memory. That’s an impossible dream down here in south central Texas, though.
    .-= Cindy, MCOK´s last blog ..Confusion Reigns … =-.

    Hi Cindy, I love my peonies, and I’m sad you can’t grow them in Texas. If they come back into style in a big way, some smart hybridizer will come up with a drought and heat tolerant peony.~~Dee

  2. commonweeder says:

    How beautiful everything is. And a wonderful collection of peonies. I love peonies and have a collection mostly pink and white, but Kansas, a deep red, is always a knockout. I have to get more colors. I love the way you have them throughout the garden. Mine are all in a sort of peony hedge. Maybe I’ll put any additions in the Lawn Beds. I have three and a half tree peonies. Two pinks, one white, and a red that has nearly been killed every winter, but comes back, although not to bloom. The plum blossom is clearly inferior to a peony blossom, but the Chinese approach their flowers metaphorically. The plum is one of the “Three Friends of Winter” which include the pine and bamboo. I suspect there is something special about the plum’s attributes that reflects an ideal of the Chinese people.
    .-= commonweeder´s last blog ..Surprises! =-.

    I would love to see ‘Kansas’. I was just thinking I might have room for another peony. 😉 Yes, you’re right about the Three Friends of Winter. I’d forgotten. Perhaps that’s why. I know during the Chinese Revolution, the government felt the peony was too closely aligned to royalty and rich families.~~Dee

  3. Rosa says:

    Peonies are truly the heavenly beauty…even i am desperately waiting to have a glimpse of about to born peony in my garden… this increases the actual beauty of your garden

  4. Jami says:

    Oh, I love peonies…here I’m watching the buds and waiting for them to bloom. Your garden and pictures are so lovely, would you be interested in sharing them over at a carnival I’m hosting called Tuesday Garden Party? We all love the opportunity to “peek” into other’s gardens! The Tuesday Garden Party starts every Tuesday at 6:30am (PST) at and runs through Thursday. I hope you’ll stop by and share!

  5. Meredith says:

    Your garden must be a delight right now, Dee! I love peonies, and since my husband gets a bit wistful about them (they’re widely grown in his home country), we’ve decided that whenever we have a permanent address, we’re growing some. I too cannot understand why they fell out of favor. It’s weird.

    We saw a lovely peony last summer outside a local diner, blooming its heart out in August, which surprised me. But now you have explained the mystery. Thanks for the information. 🙂
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..a hint of joys to come =-.

  6. It was not very wise of me to click on your post, Dee – your peonies are lovely and you’ve placed them perfectly in your lovely garden. They were one of my favorite flowers, too – and I never imagined a life without peonies!

    Seems to me that some nursery should send you an intersectional peony so you can give it a real test in Oklahoma!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    PS Just saw your tweets about the tornadoes – hope not too much damage has resulted
    .-= Annie in Austin´s last blog ..Garden Blogger’s Muse Day for May 2010 =-.

  7. CurtissAnn says:

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful photos of your garden, and your knowledge! When my cousin visited recently, she inspired me to think of peonies. No more this year, maybe…:) But planning for next year.
    .-= CurtissAnn´s last blog ..USA Today Special Insert on Celiac Disease =-.

  8. Your arbor looks wonderful, and your peonies are stunning! I love them for their perfume.
    .-= Pam’s English Garden´s last blog ..Do As I Say, Not As I Do =-.

  9. Kelly Bundy says:

    Your peonies are so beautiful! I got my first peony bloom this year. It was leaning way down because of the rain so I decided to cut it and bring it in the house where I could enjoy it more.
    As always, thanks for sharing!
    .-= Kelly Bundy´s last blog ..Happy Mother’s Day, Mama =-.

  10. Hooray for peonies! I like them out of bloom too, with their rounded shapes as backbones of a border. Interesting to read about the intersectionals too. Thanks Dee!
    .-= Daffodil Planter´s last blog ..Episode 2: Love blooms in Asheville, North Carolina =-.

  11. Everyone should have at least ‘Festiva Maxima’ – not expensive if you can find a garden friend to trade with who will dig up a small division for you come fall.
    .-= Kathy J, Washington Gardener Mag´s last blog ..National Public Gardens Day is May 7 =-.

  12. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    If I had more sun I would plant more peonies. I think they are marvelous. I have a tree peony but it has been a disappointment becasue it looses its petals every year at peak bloom time due to rain it seems. I just can’t seem to get enough of it.

    I was surprised to see you as regional editor in the Birds and Blooms issue this month. I might haven known you did this but forgot. Fun to see you in print.

    Happy Mother’s Day.

  13. Les says:

    To say that the Itoh peonies are pricey is still an understatement. We got in half a dozen from Monrovia this spring at work in a 5 gal pot. They were under-priced at $80. I told the perennial manager that was still too high and they wouldn’t sell. I had to eat my words, they did not last a week.

    BTW, I love that picture of ‘Backdraft’ Iris.

  14. Peonies are much beloved where I live, since Van Wert was once the “Peony Capitol of the World.” Breeders lived here and there were huge farms of them. Very few yards older than 30 years old or so are without at least one peony and most have many.

    There was a peony cultivar that was bred here that experienced some success, but fell out of favor due to week stems that couldn’t support the blooms very well. There are still a few ‘Jubilee’ peonies in existence and I wish I had one. There are always plant supports!

    The Peony Festival is celebrated each year on the first weekend in June. This year, the peonies may very well be all done blooming by then!
    .-= Kylee from Our Little Acre´s last blog ..Monarch! =-.

  15. Sweet Bay says:

    Your garden is looking gorgeous. I love your roses and peonies both. I just have ‘Festiva Maxima’ but love it. What keeps me from getting more is the price; I’m a cheapskate and don’t like to spend more than $15 for a plant unless it’s a prize shrub. Peonies are worth the money though. They live forever and are such a showstopper in bloom.
    .-= Sweet Bay´s last blog ..Flaunt Your Flowers =-.

  16. tina says:

    My favorite flower too! I didn’t know they fell out of favor. I have about 30 going here at Tiger Gardens including two tree peonies. I can’t get enough of smelling them and I think the white ones look like big fluffy cupcakes for some crazy reason. I think yours look great with the irses and roses!
    .-= tina´s last blog ..Wine Bottle Edged Greenhouse & More =-.

  17. Jo says:

    I love Peonies, I just wish they weren’t so expensive here! I don’t have any, yet. Gorgeous, stunning, beautiful all came to mind as I looked at each photo!
    .-= Jo´s last blog ..In Loving Memory… =-.

  18. I love peonies, too.
    .-= Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening´s last blog ..Hitch Lyman’s Garden Open to the Public This Saturday =-.

  19. I think the older Peonies may have falled out of favor because they were weak-stemmed, floppy things. The newer hybrids are bred for strong stems. I like Peonies for their foliage as well as the flowers, as the foliages turns such a great color in fall. My Tree Peony is ready to burst into bloom, and the ants are already crawling on the buds of the herbaceous Peonies. Someday, I will have an Intersectional. Someday.
    .-= Mr. McGregor’s Daughter´s last blog ..The Real Reason I Didn’t Go To Malvern* =-.

  20. Melanie says:

    Mine are just starting to bloom too. They smell heavenly, and are beautiful in the vase!! This is the first year I have ever gotten flowers–and this is their second season in the ground. However, I transplanted some from my mom, and they have been in the ground for 5 years and never bloomed. .until this year.

  21. They are such beauties! Such a staple of old fashioned gardens. I never see a peony that I don’t think of my aunt Peggy, who had sensational ones.
    .-= Nola at Alamo North´s last blog ..Good Grief =-.

  22. Robin says:

    I can’t imagine having that many peonies in bloom at once! I’m sure it is absolutely gorgeous in person!
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..The Painted Ladder =-.

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