Garden Photo of the Day

Tiny Alpines and Huge Peonies

There's something for everyone in this garden

Elle Ronis is back, sharing more of her beautiful and diverse garden. (If you missed her previous photos, click here.)

hypertufaElle grows small, alpine, and rock garden plants in this beautiful collection of troughs. Traditional troughs are carved from stone but now are more commonly made from hypertufa (a kind of faux stone made from a lightweight cement mixture). Troughs are a beautiful addition to the garden in their own right, and a great space to display tiny, precious plants that might get overlooked in the larger garden. This row of troughs is like a collection of jewel boxes that are filled with tiny treasures.

Rhododendron ‘Sappho’The intensely patterned flowers of Rhododendron ‘Sappho’ (Zones 5–8) are white with a dramatic dark blotch.

Peonia rockiiPeonia rockii (Zones 3–8) is a species tree peony, one of the parents of the many beautiful hybrid tree peonies. Just like the rhododendron before it, this flower boasts white petals dramatically marked with dark burgundy. Patterns on flower petals help to attract pollinators, sometimes by guiding visitors to the center of the flower, and sometimes serving to fool male insects into thinking the dark spot is a female insect they can visit.

hybrid tree peonyA spectacular hybrid tree peony. Peonies are one of the oldest plants cultivated for their beauty, and they have been wildly popular in China since the Tang dynasty. It is easy to see why!

tree peoniesA whole planting of tree peonies. Though called tree peonies because of their woody stems, they are more shrubs than trees. Tree peonies have large flowers and are more shade tolerant than their herbaceous counterparts, and the woody stems don’t need staking. However, the gorgeous flowers don’t last as long as those of herbaceous peonies.

early-flowering roseTree peonies blooming with an early-flowering rose.

tree peonyHere’s a tree peony trying to live up to the tree name! Peonies are a great investment in the garden, as they are very long lived and just get bigger and better with each passing year.


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View Comments


  1. nwphillygardener 10/15/2019

    What a treat to see Elle's impressive collection of tree peonies. If only their blooming season was a bit longer… but luckily our gardens often are coming into their full spring glory after the peonies fade. I'll bet those wonderful jewel box troughs are still sparkling for weeks. Thank to the GOPD Editors for that poetic description of a rather distinctive feature in this great garden.

  2. User avater
    meander_michaele 10/15/2019

    Your troughs are spectacular, Elle. Often times, a trough enthusiast goes with the "a little of this, a little of that" approach... but the uniformity of shape and height gives yours an elegance and sophistication that is very appealing. And, needless to say, your gorgeous peonies are eliciting a drool response from I better push my keyboard back a bit as I scroll back up to look at your photos a second time.

  3. moyra_b 10/15/2019

    So beautiful! What a pleasure it must be to look out your windows! I'm wondering what the blue flowers are behind the troughs?

    1. foodempress 01/06/2020

      Forgive me for taking so long but I just learned how to reply. The plant behind the troughs is Phlox divaricata blue moon

  4. btucker9675 10/15/2019

    Oh my! Your garden is heavenly and those troughs are wonderful. I'm going to try to do something similar near our pool (once it's actually finished in a couple of months!). What a gorgeous place you've made.

  5. User avater
    simplesue 10/15/2019

    Your garden and the surrounding woodland is gorgeous. In the last photo, there are three colors of tree peonies- and next to the Burgundy and red, the lower right appears to be a true purple about to open? What is it's name? and what can you personally share about your experience growing it? I would love to have a purple one but so often garden websites enhance the colors to be more than they are and you think you are buying purple but it turns out to be magenta etc. Thanks for any garden info on purple tree peonies that you can share!

    1. foodempress 01/06/2020

      Forgive me for taking so long but I just learned how to reply. The plant behind the troughs is Phlox divaricata blue moon

    2. foodempress 01/06/2020

      The plants are 15 years old. Can’t remember the name but purple plants are more available now

    3. foodempress 01/06/2020

      My secret is to plant them with azomite. I also sprinkle it on top of the soil in the spring! Good Luck

  6. carolineyoungwilliams 10/15/2019

    Elle, Peonies are one of my favorite plants and I was in a trance over yours. I don't believe I've seen any as beautiful as these. They are absolutely gorgeous. I've never purchased a Peony tree but after reading they can tolerate some got me thinking about making a purchase.Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful garden. I look forward to seeing more. Be Blessed.

  7. schatzi 10/15/2019

    Absolutely gorgeous! Love P. rockii and R. Sappho, but it's all magnificent.

  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 10/15/2019

    Adore those troughs.

  9. NewberryNikki 10/16/2019

    I love the fragrance of peonies and I bet walking down the aisle in your garden is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your beautiful garden.

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