Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day Peonies

I'm sure that just about everyone is familiar with Peonies ... those rather short blooming, nearly immortal perennials that have been fragrant, colourful favorites of gardeners for untold generations. Early in my childhood, I quickly came to love peonies and have wanted them in my garden ever since. So when I was offered some roots from a work friend back about eight years ago, there was no hesitation as what to answer to that question!

Though there are a multitude of varieties of peonies --and about as many colour variations-- they derive from the single genus of Paeonia, and all appear to share that one common thread linking them all: their necessary symbiotic relationship with ants. That was the first thing I learned about them as a child, when discovering that every spring they would be just covered in ants, busily working away at the waxy outer layers protecting the flowers, only to help them burst forth right about Memorial Day each May. I learned a very valuable lesson in respect for our insect friends at that early age, and it's one that I continue in my adulthood. Insects can be friends or enemies of your garden ... you just need to learn about who your friends are and make whatever allowances are necessary to let them peform their instinctive duties so certain plants can complete their cycles. And anyone who knows us is well aware, we hold bees (especially our colony of bumblebees) in the highest regard in our garden and everyone lives in peaceful harmony amongst the flowers.

I've always loved this late spring time profusion of peonies, with their heady fragrance that bears no resemblance to other flowers I know. And since they so often end up falling down (due to heavy flowers succumbing to their own weight during spring rains this time of year), there should really be no guilt in taking advantage of cutting them for inside display and luscious enjoyment. And since we had some pretty steady rains on Saturday, that's just what we did yesterday ... and now the entire downstairs of the house is heavily perfumed with their delectable scent. It's a special time of the year that doesn't last long, so it's worth pausing to really take in their beauty, both visual and olfactory, if only to remind oneself how fleeting they truly are, and how the wait for them is oh so worth it!

As I alluded in my previous post a week ago, they're as close to an immortal plant as the herbaceous ones come, and they have an extremely long history of cultivation, thanks to the Chinese and Japanese, who have come up with some amazing cultivars over the centuries. One we hope to add to the garden in the coming years is the Japanese Tree Peony, which is a true tree form which generally grows to about five or six feet tall when mature and blooms in an astounding arrary of colours, yet still assuming the familiar peony form, just on a sturdier basis.

I'm no expert on them, that's for sure, but we do seem to have made them feel welcome in the garden and they reward us commensurately each year. I think lots of gardeners remember exactly where theirs first came from ... usually a fellow gardener, friend or family member who has decided to divide theirs and share the roots with others, who can then establish them to continue the cycle at some future point. Ours have been here since about 1999 and are progressing nicely into mature bushes at this point in time. Though we have no plans in the near future to divide them, we hope to have to do that sometime ... and given that peonies aren't the cheapest of perennials to plant, those who come from other gardeners are most welcome gifts for those who appreciate them! And they are truly a gift that keeps giving, often well beyond the lifetime of those who have grown them ....

I don't know anyone who truly dislikes peonies, though the more allergy prone may have a certain aversion to them (which would be a crying shame!) and if I were to encounter that rare peony hater, I would immediately be wary of that person ... because anyone who could disdain these magnificent once yearly blooms must (by my thinking, at least) have something wrong with them!

These photos were taken on May 25 and 26, 2007. And there are more opening daily, their bloom period is never going to be long enough to satisfy us ... so we're savoring them as long as they last for us!

1 comment:

olivia said...

MMMM .... peonies are so lovely. Fluffy, softly scented pillows of petals. :~) Ours are at the bud and ant stage right now. Never thought about cutting them, but you're right about them getting damaged w/ rain and winds. That's a good idea. I'm going to do it this year too. How long do they last once you bring them inside?