Peony Frustration

Until I got home on Monday, peonies had been growing on me. Not literally, but over the last couple of years my enthusiasm for peonies had been slowly increasing. ,

Peony 'America' performed very well in our garden this year.
Peony ‘America’ performed very well in our garden this year.

Initially, that level of enthusiasm was quite low. In fact, it was only the steady barrage of wistful sighs from Judy that persuaded me to plant any peonies at all. My reluctance came from the fact that individual peony blooms are so short lived and vulnerable to rain, wind, and people walking by without first removing their shoes.

Another view of Peony 'America'.
Another view of Peony ‘America’. I guess you could say this one is my favorite.

Also, peonies have limited value to wildlife, so their place in a habitat garden is open to question. Although ants do like to eat the nectar that can be found on Peony buds and actually help the Peony flower to open.

Peony 'America' with Wild Currant and Cranberrybush Viburnum in the background.
Peony ‘America’ with Wild Currant and Cranberrybush Viburnum in the background.

Even so, four years ago I planted four peonies, all singles: ‘America’, P. anomala, ‘Abalone Pearl’, and another one whose name I’ve lost. These plants charmed me as they expanded and bloomed each season. The opening of each luxurious flower became a much anticipated event.

Peony 'Abalone Pearl'
Peony ‘Abalone Pearl’

I was also inspired by the interplanting of Peonies and Alliums at the Chicago Botanic Garden, to the point where last year I ordered three ‘Snow Swan’ Peonies to plant among my own ‘Purple Sensation’ Alliums.

Canadian Peonies, which have clearly been enhanced through the use of the dark arts.
Canadian Peonies, which have clearly been enhanced through the use of the dark arts, seen during the Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto.

And at the recently concluded Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto it was impossible not to stare goggle-eyed at all the gigantic and glorious Peonies. Surely those Canadians are engaging in some kind of Satanic magic in order to grow all those impossibly beautiful specimens.

Paeonia anomala
Paeonia anomala

Anyhow, imagine my dismay when I returned home from Toronto on Monday only to find that the flowers on both ‘Snow Swan’ and the nameless Peony had come and gone during the five days trip. This was probably the result of a major thunderstorm on Monday, which provides absolutely no comfort at all.

Only the ants got to enjoy Peony 'Wh
Only the ants got to enjoy Peony ‘Snow Swan’.

It must be admitted that Peony ‘America’ did very well this year. It had more large, single red blooms than ever before. What’s more, it has a second round of buds that should be opening in a week or so. And all this despite that fact that it gets more shade and root competition than is ideal.

So I won’t be digging up the Peonies I already have, but I won’t be planting any more for the foreseeable future.

How did the Peonies in your garden do this year?

52 Comments on “Peony Frustration”

  1. This is exactly what I’m afraid of. Not for the Peonies, as they were done weeks ago, but all the other things I’ve been watching and waiting for in my own garden. With 90 degree + temperatures who knows what sort of disasters I’m going to be coming home to.

    My one inherited Peony always blooms when a rain is predicted. I really don’t mind because it’s a great excuse to cut the flowers and bring them indoors.

  2. This year mine started blooming beautifully, and the early ones lasted very well, but just a couple of days after the last one started to open we had two days of torrential rain, hail, and wind! đŸ˜¦ I rescued dozens of them and brought them indoors…. I have to say I still love them though! The only answer is to cut them in bud to enjoy their fleeting beauty and scent indoors. My peony season can last for over six weeks, but this year it was slightly shorter.

  3. My peonies were also over by the time I came home. We finally had a big storm and all petals were dispersed. I believe peonies do help wildlife, especially with giving out the sweet nectar. I have a post coming talking about that subject. Wasps especially are are great visitor, and in the post – “peonies’ nectar attracts the beneficial wasps which eat the larvae of the Japanese Beetles, and we all know what they do come summer.” Also, I think it is a myth that ants help peonies to open. Possibly the reason ants may help, “possibly to have ants dine on insects detrimental to the peony. There must be a logical function to the luring in of the insects.” I did enjoy the peonies at the Fling. At least we both saw them before the huge storms came. Did you not like the bride factory at the Fling? Now that is an example we saw of the peonies attracting wildlife!

  4. In my new garden I only grow a tree peony not any herbaceous ones. Love your single flowered ones though. Although they do not contibute much to wildlife, they’re tough and easy plants that need no attention and deserve a place in our gardens. By the way, I think they look good out of season too.

  5. The few peonies I grow were spectacular this year, prompting me to flip through catalogs to place my fall order for ‘America’, one I have also admired. I had rescued a husky ‘Krinkled White’ from destruction perhaps 5 years planting it in a rather challenging site producing only one or two weak flowers. This year — drop dead gorgeous! The only exception is a Tree Peony I have grown out here for about 15 years. I occasionally experience some die-back on that one but this year I only had 3 blooms low to the ground due to winter damage.

    I know just how you feel — they contribute little to nothing to the environment, look terrible after wind and rain, but when they bloom in a good year — oh my!

  6. Well, the satanic magic is a little slower for me, as I live four hours north of Toronto (snort!), so mine aren’t actually open yet. As for the short lifespans of the flowers, they definitely do that here as well. I prefer to think of peonies (all perennials, but especially peonies) and good friends who come for a short visit every year.

    Have you ever tried drying them? They look like carnations because they shrink, but at least you can enjoy them all year. The double ones, anyway.

  7. What a shame to miss your peony season. ‘Abalone Pearl’ is a lovely one. A couple of years ago the peonies were ruined by rain–depressing. But this year the weather was very nice for them and they bloomed well. I cut 6 or 7 buds and stored them in the refrigerator (need to check on them come to think of it).

  8. Your peonies are lovely – I haven’t grown any for years, but there was a special on the herbaceous variety, so I ordered a few to trial in an area dominated by spring bulbs – the hope is that the peony foliage will cover the dying leaves of the bulbs. I’m not expecting flowers for a few years anyway!

  9. I must say I do love peonies, all these are heavenly, especially Peony ‘Abalone Pearl’! I find them to be exceptionally slow-growing, I have had one for years, each year it had one bloom, this year it has three and I knocked one off, cursing I was! Mine do last weeks though and close in the

  10. As someone who grew up with peonies in Indiana, and absolutely loves the big fluffiness of them, and their divine scent, I believe you should enjoy anything you can get. In the desert, it’s a life with no peonies. Sometimes I see them in Santa Fe, and I run straight toward them, nose out. I don’t care if they’re a pain or they’re brief – oh, that wonderful smell!

    That said, I’m sure you have tons of well-performing plants that bloom longer and smell just as wonderful. Peonies just happen to be my fav. You should plant whatever you dang want!!!!

      • True! Except what’s invasive in one part of the country isn’t necessarily in another. I think people should be well informed before they plant anything.

        Yes, I was a Hoosier! And lots of my relatives are in Chicago and Milwaukee…I think that’s why I enjoy your blog so much. It’s like a piece of home. Please keep up the good work!

  11. I’m also experiencing peony frustration this year. As the buds on others’ peonies are getting fat and beginning to open, I have nary a flower bud on mine. Over the years, as I’ve added compost to the top of my sandy soil, the peonies have gotten buried further and further. I meant to lift them last fall to position the eyes near the surface, but I forgot. This bloomless year will should provide sufficient motivation for me to remember next fall!

  12. Hello Jason, I probably have the world’s smallest peony. I got it as a bare root from the supermarket and each year, it grows to the exact same size of 10 cm high, three leaves and that’s it. It’s done this for the last three or four years. If it does it again, it’ll probably be the last time it does it!

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