Their season is so brief. My paeonias now carry clusters of plump seedpods – which I belatedly remove. After the flowers they leave elegant, quite large, clumps of shiny, dark green divided foliage that are a lush foil for other plants. I have had my original three paeonias for twenty years or so. They were a present from an aunt, chosen from Kelway’s catalogue. Last year these were supplemented by a fourth, ‘Kansas’, that was discovered languishing and desiccated on the 50% off the end-of-season plant sale stall. She was given a position in some shade and this year she has developed into a somewhat leggy lady and delivered several double red flowers.
Although their season is so short, they are some of the most cherished plants in the garden. The ladies of the garden, one visits to pay one’s respects and stand in awe of their splendid and extravagant flowers. Of my original three, ‘White Wings’ is the most spectacular and produces large flowers of quite exceptional beauty. This would be one of my eight ‘desert island’ plants, even though she only has flowers for a fortnight. Paeonias are investments that will last for many years but they do take space and their position is best planned for. It is said that paeonias hate disturbance and, once established, cannot be moved. However…
Last year I moved a fern that was growing in the vicinity of one of my original paeonias. This spring, when removing the fern’s old foliage I discovered a couple of young paeonia leaves poking out from its base. I prepared a planting position, digging in composted manure, filling the hole with water and allowing this to drain before extracting the tuberous root of the paeonia from the fern’s roots. The tuber lay in my hand like a plump brown mouse. There was a distinct sense of it’s being a living, almost breathing creature. This was quickly installed in its new home. It is rather a dry position and it hasn’t made much growth, but looks happy and self composed. Flowers are hoped for in a year or two.
Susan A. Tindall