Floral Frontiers

Peonies : Eye Candy

14/06/2018 By Adrienne

Purple Peony macro shot

Peony season is in full swing now which means that our worlds are full of these gorgeous, sumptuous blooms. We adore them and encourage our clients to grow them. Cultivating them for cut flowers is exceptionally rewarding. From the day you bring them indoors they fill a room with a delicious scent and they can last up to 10 days. To us, no flower better celebrates the last days of Spring and heralds in the start of British Summertime than a big blousy Peony.

Right now there is a lovely crossover with Hidcote Lavender, and for a brief period heritage Sweet peas. The colours, textures, structures and scent of them all make divine partnerships.

Peony perennial roots

Peonies date back to 1000BC present in the gardens of China. There are approximately 40 species originating from Asia, Europe and North America. The first tree Peony was introduced to Europe in 1789. In medieval times between the 5th and 15th centuries painters often depicted the ripe seed pods of Peonies but not the petals, because the seeds were so medically significant they overshadowed their floral beauty. Peonies contain numerous useful compounds. The Japanese originally used the root of the Peony /Botan / 牡丹 to treat convulsions and epilepsy. In time the flowers started to be portrayed in scrolls and kimonos and they grew to signify beauty and nobility in Japanese culture.   Universally they seem to symbolize wealth, good fortune and prosperity and they are strong symbols of the transitory nature of our existence.

Today Peonies are one of the most popular wedding flowers.

Perennially Peonies can last up to 100 years. They are self pollinating and come in all colours except blue. If you are growing your own patience is key. They take 3 years to fully establish in a garden or plot, but once they do the rewards are abundant and relatively easy to maintain. Initially plant them shallowly or they won’t flower.

Peonies are fairly low maintenance. They are not particularly prone to pests and diseases. Ants do like the buds but this is beneficial as they feed on the sugary substance the buds exude and then they disperse as it opens. Cut Peonies don’t bloom if there is too much of this sugary sap on buds so although unsightly the ants are helping out. If thrips appear these are easily hosed off of buds.

Rabbits and deer detest the taste of Peonies because of their bitter tasting phenol compounds so no issues there.

Colour me Peony

Traditionally we have designed with classic Peonies such as Sarah Bernhardt, Shirley Temple and Duchess de Nemours but for the last few years we have started to get more adventurous. After trialing some key varieties we have introduced them in to some of our client’s projects.

The coral varieties of Peonies somehow managed to completely charm us. What began as a curiosity has become a full blown infatuation. The coral varieties have such a range and depth of colour with each bloom unfurling like a sea urchin.

In our coral reef collection we companion planted Papaver orientale King Kong with Peony Coral Sunset, Peony Pink Hawaiian Coral and Peony Solange in a cut flower garden.

The Peonies we favour are the ones that elevate beauty to a whole new level. We have no favourites now, but the qualities that make some shine the brightest are structure, texture and colour.

The ice-cream Peonies

Festiva Maxima, Lady Alexandra Duff, Hermione and Top brass are our favourites for this effect. Delicious!

Shades of vanilla

Duchess de Nemours deceives by starting out as a spoonful of sorbet then turns into a giant scoop of frothy ice cream.

I am not a Peony

To lead in to Peony season we often use varieties of Tulips that are Peony-esque,

and crossover with frothy Poppies from the Paeoniiflorum group.

This year we have been testing out Narcissi with Peony-esque properties and have had some exciting results. We look forward to introducing them in to designs for 2019.

Peony fleur couture collection

In the round up of our celebratory Peony post we wanted to share three stand outs for us, introduced en masse (in combination with other varieties and perennials) to the long borders at our HWH project. No descriptions needed, these beauties speak for themselves.

Peony Felix Crousse

Peony Vogue

Peony Bowl of beauty

all ingredients by us ©HC Gardens 2018