A Half-Hearted Dabbler In Peonies

There are many people who love peonies, and I respect their point of view. I am not one of them, however. Judy is, though, and that’s why we have peonies in the garden.

Peony 'Abalone Pearl'
Peony ‘Abalone Pearl’

As it is, we have four, all from Klehm’s Song Sparrow Farm in Illinois. There are three hybrids: ‘America’, ‘Abalone Pearl’, and a third whose name I can’t remember. There is also the species Paeonia anomala.

Paeonia anomala
P. anomala

I don’t dislike peonies. I’m just not, well, all that impressed. Sure they can be beautiful for a brief period. But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?

Peony 'America'
Peony ‘America’

And don’t tell me that I can combine peonies that bloom at different times to have several weeks of color. My point is, each individual plant is earning its keep for just a few days a year, maybe less if there’s a badly timed rainstorm. Otherwise they’re lying on the couch, playing video games, and eating potato chips.

Paeonia anomala
Paeonia anomala

Peonies with single blooms are what I like best, and all of the ones I planted are singles. The doubles do not appeal to me. Too fussy.

And peony foliage can be nice for a while, sure. P. anomala in particular has interesting ferny foliage. However, for me the foliage gets a bad case of downy mildew by the middle of the summer.

Peony june 7 13
Peony ‘America’

Also, these plants offer very little of value to birds, butterflies, or other critters.

I will say that I am surprised my peonies are doing as well as they are. The spot I put them in gets only part sun. And the mildew they had last season was so bad I wondered how strong they would be this spring. Despite this, they came back this year clean and green, with more stalks and flower buds. Despite appearances, they are tough plants.

So am I crazy? Or are there other people out there who don’t swoon over peonies?

46 Comments on “A Half-Hearted Dabbler In Peonies”

  1. I adore them! I wait impatiently for them to flower every year, and swoon over their fragrance, photographing them to death! I bring them into the house to fill it with the scent of summer, and if there’s a heavy rainshower I admire the pretty petals dripping over the lawn. Sorry, but I’m smitten! πŸ˜‰

  2. You’re right on many points, they do take up more room in the garden than they offer in blooms BUT…. if I was a thimble-sized fairy there wouldn’t be any other flower I’d rather dive into, the perfume, all those fluffy layers, pure heaven!

  3. People have given me peony plants a couple of times. I came to know why they did it. In the garden here they are usually flat from rain. Really I associate peonies with bouquets in graveyards.But I kind of like the species one you show here– like an anemone.

  4. Come on, Jason. Lighten up on the peonies for the sake of your bride. I’m big into the intersectionals because they have axial buds for flower production. Try ‘Garden Treasure’ and then you’ll quit your moaning, to be sure.

  5. I’m with you Jason, I like seeing them in other peoples gardens but they don’t earn their keep, so I don’t have them. I’m lucky as if I get the urge to see peonies I have a place nearby with fields full of them, and that really is a sight. Christina

  6. Well they make for beautiful photographs. If you’re going to have peonies, you have gorgeous ones. My mother liked peonies, she used to cut them and float them in water, I guess, they “lasted” a little longer that way. But I walk by enough of them on my way to work and they’re there one day and gone the next – I’m with you on that. For sure if I had them in my yard I might miss their blooms entirely. πŸ™‚

  7. I’m another that disagrees Jason – I love peonies. Mainly because they remind me so much of my grandfather.
    That said, where would the world be if we all like the same plants. It’s nice to see that Judy gets her way πŸ˜‰
    I stake very early in spring, less work when there is little else going on.

  8. I have one peony, a very old double one and it is gorgeous, I can’t wait for it to flower every year, I don’t care much for the single ones. I have never been troubled by any disease on my peony so after flowering it is just a green bush until the frost arrive. Maybe you need to try a different variety, a more disease resistant one.

  9. I like peonies and originally planted about 12 of them in my garden when I was able to buy the bare roots dirt cheap. But I’ve pulled them all out and kept a single Sarah Bernhardt. I had all the same complaints you do: mildewy foliage, no wildlife value, and they took up too much space. It was one of my better garden design decisions. I don’t miss them and am happy with my single plant. They’re one hit wonders. I need more than that!

  10. I am crazier than you Jason, i know peonies are temperate climate plants, but i still tried to plant it here in the tropics. Do you know what happened? Of course you know what happened, as you know peonies very well, haha!

  11. What makes me swoon over peonies is their scent; I can’t see any point in planting a peony that isn’t very fragrant. When my friend Joyce offered me one from her garden, I went around sniffing them all before I made my choice! It probably helps to be growing them in a cooler climate than yours where the flowers last more than 15 minutes.

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