Garden Photo of the Day

Peony Anticipation

Looking forward to some of the most beautiful flowers of the gardening year

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:

Don’t Judge Peonies on Looks Alone

Peonies That Stand Up and Out


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  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 04/06/2018

    I love peonies though it is way to hot where I live to grow them. Beautiful collection.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 04/06/2018

    I certainly agree that 'Silvia Saunders' is a beauty and its delicate color is quite dreamy.
    I actually have a tree peony in bloom right now and it catches me by surprise each year how early it starts opening its huge buds. It's name is unknown to me but that doesn't make it any less appreciated.
    My earliest bloomer among the herbaceous types is called 'Paula Faye' and it's on the verge of showing off its flowers. A few other points in 'Paula Faye's' favor...the stems are incredibly strong, the foliage stays fresh and attractive looking all through the summer (never prone to mildew or discoloration),and it multiples quite quickly.

    1. garden1953 04/06/2018

      Lucky you that you have peony blooms now. I won't have any until the first or second week of June and I can hardly wait. Definitely a top favorite flower.

  3. wittyone 04/06/2018

    What perfect timing. I just got notification that my peony collection has been shipped. Now if I could just get a few warm, dry days to dig the holes I'd be all set to get them planted once they arrive.

    These pictures are just beautiful and add to the anticipation of this long awaited and messy spring They are such wonderful plants: gorgeous, fragrant, long-lived and easy to take care of. What's not to like?

  4. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 04/06/2018

    I love peonies, and Silvia Saunders just stole my heart. The early peonies and the species have such great foliage when it emerges. Beth Chatto calls them rosy snouts, which is so apt.

  5. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 04/06/2018

    Peonies have gone from “grannie’s flowers” to prized possessions in my garden, maybe because I’m now a grannie or just that there are so many great varieties that we can easily grow here in the PNW. One of my favorites is ‘Festiva Maxima’ for it’s striking flowers, extra long bloom time and pleasing scent.

  6. sheila_schultz 04/06/2018

    When I saw the 'unnamed' deep pink peony it reminded me of the two I planted in my brand new Denver gardens years ago. They were fragrant, gorgeous and 6' from a young Austrian pine. By the time we moved they were hidden and shaded by the pine and a few dogwoods, but still going strong and blooming with abandon every spring. They were the easiest and showiest plants I've ever dug in the earth!

  7. ClareRocky 04/06/2018

    Aren't peonies fabulous? That first picture of the Silvia Saunders -- wow!

    I think the unnamed deep pink peony might be 'Kansas'. . I have these in my garden and they really are showy and beautiful.

    These pictures were such a welcome sight since we are having an unusually long, cold and snowy/wet spring here in northern New Jersey. I can't wait to see some green outside -- and see the peonies in my garden in bloom.

    Great post!

  8. cheryl_c 04/06/2018

    I hadn't become a peony fan until I discovered Itoh peonies -whose stems are sturdy enough they don't need staking to keep them from flopping. The varieties above, however, especially Buckeye Bell and Do Tell are definitely ones to make me rethink this. Thanks so much for sharing such beautiful pictures - I believe my computer monitor is even releasing the sweet fragrance!

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