As a wee gardener, I was never interested in the short-lived plants. The I-give-up-because-it's-hard flowers. The ones that were so easy to grow that it was cheating at gardening. Petunias, pansies, marigolds, etc. The kind you could stick in the ground and forget. They're annuals and don't survive winter, though, so it's a waste of money for three or four months of flowers. Unless you have money to blow, in which case, I have a few charities for you to consider. I always wanted to go big, even as a young imp. No annuals. Only perennials (you know, the ones that come back after Winter). A plant I could grow old with. One of the first perennials I become obsessed with was the peony. All those ruffles of petals, the blossoms too large for the rain, and too heavy for the stalk. Much like myself, actually. It was love at first sight: a kindred recognition of similarity. "Oh, you're chubby and fluffy. I like you."
|The Queen of my front garden. 2014, photo taken by yours truly with a phone.|
If you live in hardiness zones 8-11, your peonies are probably starting to pop up. Mine are beginning to emerge with red foliage that makes me think of zombie fingers reaching up through the soil. And I actually go looking for them. Every year I am stricken by the possibility that I may have lost a peony, so every Spring I'm out there gently probing the soil where I last saw it in the Autumn, trying to hold hands with the zombie fingers that I discover still hiding a few millimeters below the dirt. I like to think it helps the peonies wake up. They smell fresh meat. I've even thought about putting some Lee Press-On nails on them just for the amusement of it. Maybe next Spring.
|Emerging peony "eyes" with Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'|
I'm almost positive that the queen is a conjoined twin. I purchased a 'Butter Bowl' peony several years ago, but every Spring she has two different sets of blooms. One half is the original Butter Bowl, but the other is something pink and fluffy. I suspect it's a 'Sarah Bernhardt.' Now, I know that many newer peonies are often grafted onto the roots of a more robust cultivar, so I theorize that one set of blooms is from the original root stock, and the graft is the showier and newer cultivar. This is not as uncommon as it sounds. Rose breeders use the same technique for newer cultivars that are often not as Hulked out as older and more reliable rose cultivars. Most are grafted onto the roots of a rather unimpressive rose, but you rarely see it unless the graft dies and the original takes over. It's usually long and gangly and a tad ghetto. But it can survive a Siberian winter. The blooms are small and likely red, and you begin to wonder if fairies took your lovely apricot blush rose that cost you $50, and stuck an unruly changeling in its place. I've had it happen to me twice. So, having two different peonies on one root system isn't that strange, but having both healthy and blooming is like watching a Bonnie Tyler and AC/DC duet.
|'Butter bowl' peony, 2014|
|'Sarah Bernhardt' peony, 2014|
|Tree peony 'Shimadaijin,' 2014|
Plant on, my friends.