Thursday, May 17, 2012


I have a confession... I didn't even know what a peony was until the spring of 1996.  I didn't have a peony in my garden until 2005, our first spring here at Red Gate Farm.  My white, Festiva Maxima peony was my first addition.  I'm not sure how I wasn't aware of this beautiful flower before then... like a David Austin Rose or a Ranunculus; I just love how the petals form so tightly on peonies.

With my first peony, the initial few years were pretty dismal, bloom wise.  My son had built me a peony "cage" out of copper pipe and fittings... planning it to be all pretty and verdigris over time...overflowing with my beautiful blooms... well let's just say there was no need for the cage so quickly since there were no blooms to hold up.  For a number of years the buds formed and then dried up to look like little pepper corns.  Not sure what was going on, what I was doing wrong, but no blooms.  Sigh.

Last spring this peony exploded with blooms, I even made the ultimate gardener's sacrifice and cut a couple to bring inside!  Maybe it just needed the first 6 or 7 years to get into the swing of things... because I certainly did not do anything different. Currently the buds are growing larger every day.  It amazes me how a peony bud starts so small and then overnight is seems to be the size of a ping pong ball.

My second peony acquisition, my unnamed dark-pink-almost-red peony, came from a local homeowner that sells cuttings every year.  It was a teeny tiny plant with one huge bud when I purchase it back in 2007.

Every year it grows a bit and gets more and more blooms... and yet overall  it is still a much smaller plant than the white Maxima peony... it blooms first of the two and is covered in flowers, show off!

A couple of years ago I picked up a bag of two peony "starts" from Costco.  I planted them in large plastic nursery type pots to grow them up a bit before putting them in the garden... at least that was the plan.  Both are pale pink but I only noted the name of one... Sarah Bernhardt.  I do however think I planted them too deep.  In multiple spring seasons, lots of foliage, no buds.  Peonies have "eyes" that can't be buried or they won't get blooms.  Apparently I don't know what this "eye" looks like because I must have buried it.  This year I finally planted one of them in my gardens...

Sarah is still in her pot and I plan to free her and add her to my vegetable/cutting garden soon.  When replanting I plan to try to remove some soil and expose her "eye" so she will bloom like I have done for the other unnamed pink Costco peony.  Maybe some blooms next year?

A couple of weeks ago while at my favorite local nursery I picked up a red peony... the foliage is a reddish color and the blooms are supposed to be red as well.  It has many tiny buds so hopefully that will mean lots of beautiful blooms!

Did you know that ants on your peonies is a good thing?  Well at least they don't hurt the buds... peonies secrete a sticky sugar that attracts the ants.  Did you also know that if you cut peony buds when they are big and soft as a marshmallow you can store them for several weeks in a refrigerator... pull them out and voila... peonies long after they are gone from the garden!

My dream would actually be to have my very OWN peony cutting garden, a la Martha Stewart that is.  Then I could have cut peonies for weeks on end... In my dream, my cutting garden would line my soon to be in place, fancy wire garden fence... wouldn't that be fabulous?

I could even host an annual peony party like Martha...after all, I already have a vintage metal tray with what else... peonies!

But for now I'll settle for just Sarah in the cutting garden.  If I'd like that large cut bouquet I guess I'll have to head to Pike Place Market in Seattle or perhaps I'd be lucky enough to find one locally at Trader Joe's.

So how about you... are you a peony lover?  Do you have a favorite?

Ready to enjoy another beautiful weekend in the garden, at home,

linking up to


  1. My grandmother had the most awesome peony garden that she tended to with such care every year and I learned to love their beauty. I don't have any but reading your post makes me want to get started now. Martha just put a post up this evening about the peonies, did you see it?

    Have a lovely weekend in your garden! xo

  2. My daughters just planted two peonies in out yard. No flowers yet, but soon we hope. We had peonies someone planted at our home in NY and loved their scent and pale pink blooms. Yours are so lovely. Thanks for sharing! <3

  3. Chris - these are all so beautiful! I am still waiting for mine to open up! looks like it will be within the next couple of days!!! can't wait, i appreciate the sneak peek...thank you for linking up to the garden party over here at fishtail cottage! hugs! xoox, tracie

  4. I do love Peonies and I planted some many years ago but I put them in the wrong place and after seeing their poor little leaves come up for several years they gave up. Yours are gorgeous! I might have to try again. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  5. i have 1 beautiful pink.....i love taking cuttings off all my flowers for the house but peonies only last bout 2 days for me so i stopped cutting of the yours last longer and if so any secrets?

  6. Peonies are my favorite! I've had my plants for a few years and they have yet to really bloom. Hope this is the year.

  7. I was bridesmaid a few years back and all of us including the bride carried bouquets made of peonies. They were beautiful. They really are an amazing abundant flower. Love them.

  8. Festiva Maxiva is so gorgeous. I am not in luck with my one bush. Maybe this year . . . shhhh, I have a few buds. My daughter has some lush Peonies, fusses little with them and they are glorious . . . Such a pretty flower . . .

  9. I'm most definitely a lover of peonies! I don't know much about them, but reading this post was quite helpful. We're getting ready to finally landscape around our house and peonies were one of my absolute requirements. :) Enjoyed seeing the lovely photos of your peonies!

    Have a great weekend,
    Carolina Country Living

  10. Thanks for the refrigeration tip. I do know they must be in the sun, they DO NOT like to be planted deep and they DO NOT like to be moved. My suggestion for the one in the pot, perhaps just take a few garden forks and bring the roots/ eye up to just below the soil. I have heard they won't bloom for a few years after they are moved. Key planting tips, just barely below the soil, don't move, and lots of sun. I have tons of blooms this year.! Love, love my peonies.

  11. Thanks for you comment on my blog...I too LOVE the wire washtub caddy...I was so happy to find it!
    I love peonies too....I have three in my yard. :) (I don't like the ants that seem to love them though) Lol

  12. Such a beautiful post!! Peonies are such a gorgeous flower!! Can't wait to have these beauties in my garden one day!! Have a blessed weekend! xo Heather

  13. My peonies are my Great Grandmonthers. They have survived flood and fire. I love the stories that come with these plants. The care our family has put into them is a good as the fragrances.

  14. Peonies are one of my favorite flowers too! I've only got two, one white and one pretty soft pink...I would love to add more to my other gardens.. perhaps even devote an entire area just for them!
    I say, the more peonies the better! I didn't know about cutting them while still in bud form and putting them in the frig! Great tip!

  15. Such a gorgeous series of blooms... Sorry I been so quiet these last couple weeks, I’ve been really ill (now finally diagnosed with Whooping Cough even though I was immunized) and have had another very rough week.

  16. I love the thought of peonies waiting to be brought out to open up weeks after being cut - marvelous!

  17. I do love peonies! My grandma grew some great ones, but I don't know the names. Some were bubblegum pink and I loved those. She used to put rusty nails on the ground around the stems of all her peonies. She said they grew better that way. Maybe I should try that. Mine haven't bloomed since I moved them 3 years ago! I should check the eyes, too.


Please, feel free to leave a comment... it really makes my day! Chris