What’s growing in May & June: Peonies!

Really, it’s a little late in the month to be talking about peonies. But Sarah brought me a big bunch from her country place, which is a week or so behind the city. And so, of course, I thought: Peonies!!

I’m talking herbaceous peonies here, not the glorious tree peonies that are becoming more readily available now. The two in the picture are the varieties Paeonia ‘Kansas’ (deep pink) and P. ‘Festiva Maxima’ (white), both fragrant as all get-out.

‘Festiva Maxima’ is an old variety, dating from the 1850s. If you have an older white peony, with pink flecks, and if it’s fragrant, this is likely the one you own. Sarah’s particular plant was rescued from an abandoned farmhouse in her country neighbourhood.

I’m not as familiar with ‘Kansas’, but a quick search online tells me that it’s noted for not fading in flower. Sarah also has a later blooming light pink ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, and at the Loblaw’s Garden Centre a couple of weeks ago, she found ‘Edulis Superba’ to add to her fragrant family.

My success with peonies has been nill. The reason is that I try to cram too much plant material into a small space, limiting air circulation – so have problems with botrytis, a fungus that causes the buds to wither before maturing.

If you’re interested in peonies, the Canadian Peony Society website is a good source of info. I particularly point out the link to the Peony Bloom Time Project which gives you names of varieties for seven weeks of bloom! Imagine having enough space for so many peonies. Sigh.

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