This is the fourth spring since I planted peonies in our garden. I didn’t really want to plant peonies, they didn’t fit in with my native/wildlife-friendly gardening ethos. Plus, let’s face it, they are the ultimate horticultural flash in the pan: blooming one day, gone the next.
But Judy yearned for peonies, and I gave in. The four I planted were an early red single Paeonia anomala (can’t remember the variety name), the early pink ‘Abalone Pearl’, the late red single ‘America’, and a late pink peony whose name has been lost in the mists of time. All were from Klehm’s, right here in the great state of Illinois.
I put them in the back, where the high dappled shade falls short of the full sun that is ideal. The soil was hard and full of roots, but I’ve been laying on plenty of compost.
And over time, the peonies have been growing on me. In fact, I have gotten into the habit of counting the number of flowers they produce each season, sort of like baseball fans tracking the number of home runs hit by their favorite sluggers.
By and large, my peonies are slowly getting bushier and more floriferous, though I suspect they would be much more so if they were in a more favorable location. For example, last year ‘America’ had five flowers, this year it was seven. During this same time P. anomala went from five to eight, and ‘Abalone Pearl’ went from four to six. The unknown late pink peony is the stingiest with the flowers: last year it had just one , this year three – though the foliage certainly looks robust.
This year I remembered to cut off the flower heads after the petals had dropped – I’m hoping this will help the peonies bulk up. I was also very proud of myself for heading off any flopping. I did have two of those grid-style peony hoops, but for the other two I just used four short stakes and twine. It was easy to place the stakes in the foliage so that they did not show. I ran the twine around the perimeter of the stakes, but then also tied it so as to make an X inside the perimeter. This prevented all the peony stems from leaning in one direction, like a cluster of drunks holding themselves up against the same fence.
Today I was at the Chicago Botanical Garden for a tree identification walk. (And for the record, once Magnolias have bloomed there is no reasonable way to tell the different varieties apart. Don’t try to be helpful, OK, there just isn’t.) What I wanted to mention, though, is that at one point we came across a part of the garden where tall purple alliums were combined with single white peonies, both blooming at the same time, in a way that was just magical. Very sad that I didn’t have any kind of camera with me.
You may remember that I need to divide my Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ bulbs and interplant them with companions that can assert themselves amongst all that oniony foliage. So I said to Judy that maybe we should get some single white peonies to plant with ‘Purple Sensation’.
(Though I would want some other plants as well – I’m thinking great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphylitica) and some gray’s sedge (Carex grayi). If it’s just alliums and peonies, it’s going to be a spring-only show.)
So I mentioned this idea to Judy, thinking she would be pleased, and you know what she said? She shrugged and said, “OK, if that’s what you want.”
Anyhow, any thoughts on how I can help my peonies along, and whether the peony/’Purple Sensation’ combo is a good idea?