Peonies are just popping out of the ground in my garden, showing their reddish new foliage, and it got me all excited about the show to come later in the season. Peonies are such a delightfully over-the-top sort of flower. They are absurdly huge, often fragrant, richly colored, and typically packed with hundreds of petals. In the garden or in the vase, they make a statement like no other plant. But unlike some other over-the-top beautiful flowers (I don’t want to name names, but … roses), peonies are also delightfully tough, carefree, deer resistant and astonishingly long-lived. This is a plant you can put in the ground now and have your great-grandchildren still be enjoying them long after you are gone. All they really ask is that you stake them so those huge flowers don’t tumble in the mud. And did I mention they’re beautiful? To get you all as excited about this plant as I am, I dug up some images from one of the great peony collections out there: the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, Mich. Founded in 1922, this garden is a spectacular collection. It now boasts over 500 varieties, some of which are still thriving exactly where they were planted nearly 100 years ago. Every year in late May and early June, the garden is awash with color and fragrance.
‘Silvia Saunders’ may be my favorite of them all. This variety was bred by the influential peony breeder A.P. Saunders. And of the literally hundreds of varieties he produced, he chose to name this special one after his daughter. I love the semi-double form that shows beautiful yellow stamens inside the layers of pale pink and white petals.
‘Buckeye Belle.’ Can anything beat that color? While peonies certainly tend to the pinks, this is the deepest, richest red set off beautifully by the flash of yellow stamens peaking out.
‘Do Tell’ is what is called an anemone or Japanese form peony—broad petals on the outside and a mass of small “petaloids” in the center.
I didn’t catch the name on this one, but what a beauty! It captures what peonies do best—huge, lush, full, over-the-top.
Another Japanese flower form, this one has pink petals surrounding a lush center of almost white petals. This variety appears similar to the popular cultivar ‘Bowl of Beauty’ but with a softer coloring.
For even more about planting and caring for peonies, check out these articles:
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