Caring for your Tree Peony

Tree peonies.

The loveliness that’s inspired many beautiful art pieces through the ages.

And you can have one of these charming muses living in your very own garden.

They are sure to make a real statement in a sunny garden border, growing up to 2-3 metres, although they respond very well to pruning and can be kept at a more manageable 1-1.5m.

Tree peonies are long-lived, deciduous shrubs with large, sometimes dinner plate size, flamboyant, often fragrant flowers in a variety of colours. They range from white through pink to dark red and purple; yellows are also available, along with the more unusual apricot shades.

They are happiest in a sunny or lightly shaded, location sheltered from strong wind to prevent foliage and flower damage and although they can take up to four years to get settled and start flowering the rewards outweigh the wait!

You can plant containerised tree peonies at any time in the year - just remember to water it well when you plant it.

Planting Pointers

Some planting tips:

  • Tree peonies are often grafted onto herbaceous peony rootstock so the graft union will need to be planted about 15cm below soil level. This encourages it to form its own roots
  • Once in, water generously to settle the soil

 

TLC for the Tree

Technically, tree peonies aren’t trees but rather sub-shrubs so they need much the same care as herbaceous varieties.

This is how you can help your tree peony stand the test of time:

  • It is best to water regularly during the first summer especially during dry spells
  • Mulching well in late Autumn to late winter with organic matter helps keep moisture in but leave a dish around the base of the plant which is clear of any mulch as that can lead to root rot
  • Prune in the Autumn and either take back the top growth by about 1/3 in stages or, if you have a multi-stemmed tree peony, cut back every 3rd stem to about 2cm, removing the oldest stems first
  • After hibernating happily through the winter chill you’ll want to give it a little boost with a feed come Spring time

 

Want one?

So! If you are thinking about adopting a tree peony into your peony family have a look at these lovelies (pictured right):

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kokuryu Nishiki’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Japanese tree peony with large semi-double incredible dark burgundy/purple flowers with white veins/flashes on the outer petals

Paeonia ‘High Noon’ AGM (Japanese Tree Peony) Fragrant (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Stunning semi-double to double, large yellow lemon scented flowers with a red basal flare. Will often flower again in the autumn. Awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit so it is a very reliable tree peony

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Shichi Fukujin’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Japanese tree peony with large papery thin striking double pink flowers with a raspberry basal flare. Often with a crinkled edge

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kuro-Ageha’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid Season Flowering)

A romantically deep red bloom with large golden stamens in the centre of this semi-double peony

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Fuso-no-tsukasa’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid-Late Season Flowering)

An absolutely stunning, elegant Japanese tree peony with large, pure white double flowers

Peony of the Month – Morning Lilac

Does your garden need some purple in its life?

Do you want to add an intersectional and/or a midseason bloomer to your peony collection to compliment your early and late flowering varieties?

Well, this unusual and rare purple princess– Paeonia ‘Morning Lilac’ – may just be the perfect addition.

With its huge, semi-double, strong purple flowers with a darker purple edging it’s no wonder it nabbed that RHS Award of Garden Merit. And that finely cut divided green foliage provides excellent Autumn colour and interest, turning a beautiful red in both Spring and Autumn.

‘Morning Lilac’ was created by crossing extremely rare Lactiflora ‘Martha Washington’ and Lutea Hybrid ‘Golden Era’ in 1990 by Anderson and registered in 1999. It is a fragrant and floriferous variety that produces myriads of large blooms – up to 15cm across - all over its top and sides.

Sound like a welcome guest? We thought so too.

Intersectionals really are the best of both worlds with their massive flowerheads, richly coloured foliage and compact growth habit. They can grow up to 90cm tall and are tough – more tolerant of cold weather than tree peonies and also not bothered by the heat. On mature plants you can expect to see between 40 and 50 flowers over flowering season. And the flowers last twice as long as other peonies – going on for four to five weeks with lots of small side buds.

So if you’re set on adding some of this purple peony love to your garden to perhaps compliment your ‘Coral Charm’ and lovely yellow ‘Bartzella’, this one would fit in rather nicely.

Nothing like a pop of purple to jazz things up a bit!

Just make sure to implement these top tips for growing your intersectional successfully:

  • Buy a well-established, mature peony plant
  • Plant in a sunny or part-shaded sheltered position in any free-draining soil
  • Don’t plant your intersectional peony too deep – ensure the crown is no more than 25mm below the surface
  • Feed your peony once a year in the Spring, Summer or Autumn
  • Cut back intersectional peonies in the Autumn
  • Water your peony consistently while buds are forming in the Spring but take care not to over water as peonies don’t like having wet ‘feet’ or roots

With this little bit of care you can expect to enjoy gazing at these beauties in your garden for many years to come.

And that’s what we love about peonies – they just keep giving back so much more than we put in.

Enjoy your gardening and let us know how it goes!

Peonies for Containers

During these interesting times many of us might be feeling like potted plants, waiting for the day we can stretch out our roots again.

Although we may think our peonies feel the same in pots – container-bound and cramped - peonies actually quite like being in a small environment as long as they are taken good care of.

Container growing is a great way to enjoy the beauty of a garden in a small space.

So what does the ideal potted environment look like for peonies and which ones are best for containers?

Here are a few tips for getting the best out of your potted peonies.

Pot size

Firstly, you’ll want to bear in mind how big your peony will get.

You can do this by checking the height and spread of your chosen variety to make sure there will be space for your peony to spread out in its pot and have enough room to grow on your balcony or patio.

The ideal pot size to start off with is 30-50cm.

As your peony grows you can transfer it to a bigger container which will likely be every 3 to 4 years. If you already have a potted peony that’s outgrowing its pot it will be best to wait until October to transplant it to a bigger one.

Variety

Patio and Intersectional varieties make great container plants. Ones such as Paeonia ‘Oslo’ and ‘Singing in the Rain’ are great.

Here are some more suggestions for peonies perfect for pots (pictured right):

Paeonia ‘Dublin’ (Patio Peony ‘Dublin’)

Single white flowers with a golden centre

H: 50cm S: 30cm

Paeonia ‘Moscow’ (Patio Peony ‘Moscow’)

Sumptuous bright red semi-double flowers with yellow centres

H: 60cm S: 40cm

Paeonia ‘Border Charm’ (Intersectional ‘Itoh’ Peony) (Mid Season Flowering)

Large, lightly scented, pale yellow, semi-double flowers with red centre flares

H: 75cm S: 50cm

Paeonia ‘Bartzella’ AGM (Intersectional ‘Itoh’ Peony) (Fragrant) (Mid Season Flowering)

H: 75cm S: 50cm

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Gay Paree’ AGM (Peony ‘Gay Paree’) (Fragrant) (Mid Season Flowering)

Fabulous single flowers with cerise outer petals. In the centre of these flowers are light pink petaloids with cream edges. A slightly shorter variety

H: 75cm S: 50cm

Paeonia ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ (Intersectional ‘Itoh’ Peony) (Fragrant) (Mid Season Flowering)

Beautiful, semi-double scented pale pink flowers edged in cerise/lilac

H: 75cm S: 50cm

How to pot

  • Make sure the soil and container allows for free draining as peonies don’t like having wet feet
  • Plant the crown no more than 2.5-5cm below the soil
  • Fill with peat-free compost and slow release fertiliser
  • Leave a 2.5cm space from the top/rim of pot to allow space for water
  • Give it a good drink
  • Position in a full sun or part shade location that is sheltered from strong wind

Pointers for Pots

  • Although peonies are tolerant of dry periods, the soil in pots tends to dry out quicker than in the ground, so make sure to water regularly
  • Peonies in pots will need to be fed once a year with a fertiliser such as our Professional Fertiliser
  • Tuber plants like peonies that are grown in containers can be more sensitive to freezing than when they are in the ground so it may be best to bring them indoors for winter, positioning them in a cool area

 

But you won’t have to worry about that last point now with Spring upon us.

Enjoy your potted peonies and let us know how yours do!

Growth Cycle of the Peony

Excited to introduce a peony to your garden this year for the first time or perhaps adding another one to your growing collection?

What can you expect when you order a peony from us?

All of our peonies are nurtured until they are at least 5 years old. This means they are well established Paeonia plants at flowering maturity when they go to their new homes. This ensures that your Primrose Hall Peony should flower from its very first season in your garden.

We grow all our peony plants in 100% peat free compost which is what your potted peonies will be in when they rock up at your door.

EARLY SEASON GROWTH

If you have already ordered a peony from us or are thinking about ordering one, the images to the right is what you can expect it to look like now in its early season growth, according to the 3 main types.

You can spot the early foliage easily with its bright reddish colour and this will change to green as it develops into leaves.

PLANTING

When planting your peonies out into your garden, the depth of planting is very important. If they are planted too deeply the roots will grow and produce foliage but flower production won't be as prolific or at all.

Ideally, for intersectional peonies, the buds, or growing points, should be 2-5cm below soil level – for tree or woody peonies, these should be plant about with the graft union about 15cm below the surface. Space them 60-90cm apart so they have room to spread out as they mature.

Make sure the soil is well-drained and has plenty of organic matter.

Water immediately after planting, being quite generous with the water to help settle the roots in.

WHEN WILL I SEE FLOWERS?

Typically, tree peonies are the first to bloom followed by herbaceous and intersectional. Intersectional or Itoh peonies often flower twice as long as tree peonies.

The following is a general guideline of the flowering season for peonies in the UK.

Weather conditions and your specific location will affect the timing - cooler areas will be a week or 2 later and warmer areas a week or 2 earlier. The length of time the flowers are produced is dependent on the variety chosen.

Very Early - flowering begins late April

Early - flowering begins early May

Mid - flowering begins mid-late May

Late - flowering begins early June

You can expect your Primrose Hall Peony to last for decades in the garden, producing more and more blooms each year. Primrose Hall Peonies can flower from April until July so make sure to look at the flowering times of each variety to ensure you have a continuous flower in the garden!

BUT WHICH ONE TO PICK?

Here are some examples of varieties to pick to enjoy flowers throughout the season:

Tree

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Hana-kisoi’ (Floral Rivalry) (Japanese Tree Peony) (Early-Mid Season Flowering)

Unusual, rare and highly collectable; tree peonies are highly prized. Hana-kisoi (Floral Rivalry) has stunningly large single flowers that are a silky pink with a raspberry basal flare.

 

 

 

 

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Okan’ (Japanese Tree Peony) (Mid-Late Season Flowering)

Unusual, rare and highly collectable; tree peonies are highly prized. Okan has large, soft yellow semi-double flowers with sturdy, stiff erect stems.

 

 

 

 

Herbaceous

Paeonia peregrina ‘Fire King’ (Peony ‘Fire King’) (Early Season Flowering)

Herbaceous perennial with glossy green divided leaves and single bright red flowers with striking yellow stamens. Relatively compact.

 

 

 

 

Paeonia 'Miss Mary' (Mid Season Flowering)

Sumptuous deep, rich red single flowers with golden stamens on floriferous herbaceous peony.

 

 

 

 

 

Or for the patio:

Paeonia ‘London’ (Patio Peony ‘London’)

Compact and free-flowering herbaceous perennial. Double deep pink flowers.

 

 

 

 

Intersectional

Paeonia ‘Pastel Splendor’ (Intersectional ‘Itoh’ Peony) (Mid Season Flowering)

Unusual and rare peony. Finely cut green foliage on sturdy framework and single to semi-double flowers that are shades of lilac, pink, cream with a deep red/purple flare at the base. The seed head is amazing for late season interest.

 

 

 

 

 

Paeonia ‘Sonoma Apricot’ (Intersectional ‘Itoh’ Peony) (Mid Season Flowering)

Unusual and rare. Finely cut green foliage on sturdy framework with large, smooth apricot fading to lemon flowers.

 

Hopefully this clears up a few of the magical mysteries of peony planting.

Please let us know if you have any questions!

 

Peony of the Month – ‘Mother’s Choice’

In the spirit of Mother’s Day this month we have a perfectly named peony we want to tell you all about – ‘Mother’s Choice’.

Paeonia Lactiflora ‘Mother’s Choice’ is a wonderfully large, creamy white, herbaceous peony. A favourite cut flower choice, these peony flowers sit atop long strong, stems with glossy dark green leaves. A late midseason bloomer, they flower heavily from late spring to early summer for about 7-10 days and grow best in places where there’s an abundance of sunlight.

Reaching a height of approximately 90cm and spreading out to around 50cm these fully double rose-shaped blooms that can get up to 20cm across have a faint blush and sometimes exhibit dark pink streaks on the edges of their petals. Due to the large bloom size it is likely they will need staking. So get your plant supports ready just in case!

‘Mother’s Choice’ is delightfully fragrant so you can plant it close to entrances and on pathways to enjoy the lovely scent as you pass by. Forget roses! Stop and smell the poenies when life starts getting a bit much!

Registered in 1950 by the American breeder Glasscock, ‘Mother’s Choice’ is a result of cross breeding P. Lactiflora ‘Polar Star’ and became an American Peony Society Gold medallist in 1993.

With their roots in China, P. Lactiflora cultivars are also spoken about as the Chinese Peony and are the most familiar herbaceous peonies we see in our modern day gardens.

Delving briefly into a little bit of their back story, P. Lactiflora were originally used medicinally in China and by the seventh century they became popular as an ornamental plant and were placed under imperial protection. The emperor’s gardeners began creating more showy flowers, inspiring the emperor’s artists to capture them on screen paintings, tapestries, silk and porcelain.

By the eighth century, peonies found their way to Japan as the Chinese traded their very valuable roots for goods and in the early 1800’s P. Lactiflora was brought to France from China and introduced into European gardens.

By the second half of the 1800’s a lot of new hybrids were being developed by breeders such as Calot, Lemoine, Crousse and Dessert, many of which we still see today.

Peonies go back a long way and it’s easy to see why they were so prized - their luxurious beauty is unmatched.

If you don’t already have this lovely variety in your collection and would like to add it or are thinking of gifting one they will be ready for release in Spring. So if you head on over to our shop you can place your order now and it will be sent to your door as soon as Spring has sprung!

And while you’re there, check out the rest of the goodies to see if there’s any other pretty things you might fancy.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch! We love hearing from our customers and knowing how their peony experience is going.

Peony of the Month – ‘Love Affair’

‘Love Affair’.

What a grand bloom.

Its name takes me back to the time when I first fell bud over stem in love with peonies.

I remember the moment this love affair began quite vividly.

My grandfather taught me a lot about horticulture and gardening, showing me how to sow seeds, grow vegetables and, with chrysanthemums, how to pinch them out and curl the petals to get the perfect bloom. Today I use what I learnt from him with my peonies.

Of course, the biggest thing he left me with is his love and passion for gardening.

My after-school job was watering the hanging baskets at the local garden centre and I absolutely loved it. I got to spend time in the nursery with the plants and with people who loved plants.

So when it came to choosing A-levels, I really wanted to study horticulture and botany but my career advisers and teachers said I needed to do something a bit more "sensible" in terms of any future career so I ended up studying law.

But fundamentally it wasn't what I wanted to do. I was always looking for ways to grow plants and be outside.

After switching careers, buying this nursery and starting to experiment with growing various perennials, I recall one day spotting peonies from afar and thinking “What is that flower?!”

It ruled the nursery, towering above everything else.

It’s a love affair that has not faded and I suspect it never will.

‘Love Affair’ is a sumptuous, fragrant, semi-double Itoh Hybrid. When mature the flowers may become nearly double. This variety is particularly sought-after as there aren’t many whites among Intersectionals, making it very unusual and rare. Its snow white petals can, at times, have a hint of pale pink of the carpels in the centre, highlighted by golden stamens.

You’ll see blooms on this vigorously growing beauty mid-season to late mid-season and can enjoy the dark green foliage on its compact, medium bush (about 70cm) throughout the growing season.

Developed and registered by Hollingsworth in 2005 (parentage Lactiflora ‘Gertrude Allen’ x Lutea Hybrid ‘Alice Harding’) this Intersectional Hybrid appeared around 1990 as a branch sport of the American Peony Societies yellow flowered ‘Prairie Sunshine’. ‘Love Affair’ and ‘Prairie Sunshine’ seem just about identical in all respects apart from the petal colour, however the symmetry of ‘Love Affair’ with its wonderfully broad, rounded guard petals and copious rows of inner petals makes it a superior Intersectional Hybrid.

Intersectional Hybrids are also known as Itoh peonies as they were named after a Japanese breeder, Mr Toichi Itoh, who created the first hybrid in the 1940’s, crossing Paeonia x lemoinei (a hybrid tree) with Paeonia lactiflora Kakoden (a white flowered herbaceous).

There were many others involved along the way in making this “impossible dream” of creating the perfect flower come true, but we’ll talk about this more in a future post.

So what have we learnt?

Well, if lawyers can become horticulturists and impossible flowers can come about, any dream will do and can come true!

Wouldn’t you agree?

Peonies that Symbolise Love

With Valentine’s Day coming up are you wondering what peonies to send to a loved one? Which peonies symbolise love?

Peonies symbolise many different things, depending on the colour. In China, red is a symbol of royalty. Only emperors and their families used it, so red peonies came to embody wealth, prosperity, honour and respect. Peony is a traditional flower symbol in China and is called 牡丹 (mǔdān) which means “the most beautiful”.

In Western culture red flowers are generally associated with love and red peonies have come to symbolise love, romance and passion.

Pink peonies are commonly used in wedding bouquets as they symbolise lasting love, good fortune and prosperity. They can also depict love at first sight.

FLOWERS SPEAK A THOUSAND WORDS

These days most of us don’t think very deeply about the specific meaning of flowers when deciding what flower to pick. We usually just go with a colour or form we like, don’t we?

But there was a time when flowers spoke volumes.

Communicating with flowers dates back to the 1700s in Turkey but the Victorian era was a time when this form of communication really took off. This happened after Lady Mary Wortley Montagu visited Turkey and discovered the way harem girls communicated with each other – sending coded messages via flowers.

She wrote:

“There is no colour, no flower, no weed, no fruit, herb, pebble, or feather, that has not a verse belonging to it; and you may quarrel, reproach, or send letters of passion, friendship, or civility, or even of news, without ever inking your fingers.”

 

It was the ideal vehicle for expressing thoughts and feelings that were considered taboo at the time. And in the Victorian age full of rules and restrictions, that was just about anything to do with expressing emotions.

Assigning meaning to specific flower types to communicate feelings or desires is known as floriography and it became not only a craze but one of the main ways anyone was able to get their untoward thoughts across without uttering or writing a single word.

So if you received a bunch of flowers like this:

White Peonies (bashfulness) + Red Peonies (true love) + Magenta Ranunculus (dazzled by your charm)  + Pale pink Sweet Peas (meet me)

You can be sure potential love is on the horizon!

GIVE THE GIFT OF A PEONY

So why not send a peony? You never know what could happen…

Some options of appropriately named and coloured peonies you could go for are:

'Love Affair'

Unusual, rare and highly sought after. A mid season flowering 'Itoh' semi-double, white, bowl-shaped bloom with a beautiful fragrance

'My Love'

Herbaceous perennial with striking double blooms in blush with small red flares fading to white

'Bowl of Love'

A short version of 'Bowl of Beauty' with carmine pink outer petals and pale cream petaloids. An exquisite fragrant, mid season bloomer

'Pillow Talk'

A gorgeous, sweetly scented, large double peony with soft, creamy cameo pink rose-type flowers. Makes an excellent cut flower.

'Berry Berry Fine'

Unusual and highly collectable, mid season ‘Itoh’ with finely cut foliage on sturdy framework and incredible fragrant, single to semi-double, deep lavender pink flowers highlighted with darker pink streaks and plum basal flares

'Pink Parfait'

A late flowering, herbaceous perennial with double, deep pink highly fragrant blooms that make excellent cut flowers

'Red Charm'

An indulgent, sturdy, early flowering, herbaceous perennial with large, fragrant, deep ruby red cup-shaped flowers with ruffled centres

'Blaze'

An early-mid season, strong and reliable herbaceous variety that’s a floriferous grower. It has beautiful fragrant, semi-double bright red flowers with golden centres

'Peter Brand'

A heavily scented herbaceous perennial with divided foliage, erect stems bearing deep pink-red double flowers, with ruffled inner petals

Which peonies would you choose?

Click on a pic to take your pick!

Peonies named after Great Ladies

How would you feel having a plant named after you?

Like many breeders and adventurers that have had their creations and discoveries named after them, it must be quite an experience to have something out there with your name on it.

Unlike human generations that can die off after a century or less, plants carry on for hundreds of years.

And there, a piece of you lives on. Forever memorialised in that name.

Sarah Bernhardt is one Great Lady that has such a privilege.

But who was she and what was she famous for?

Sarah Bernhardt became famous during an idyllic period of time in France before WW1 called the Belle Epoque. During the 19th century, France became more cosmopolitan due to the border collapsing between social groups and gender. It was an era all about freedom and Sarah personified this time of liberation, paving the way for actresses to come.

She was a woman on a liberation mission with a daring preference for male roles and was not intimidated by men. When Oscar Wilde asked her if ‘she would mind his smoking’, she answered: “I don’t care if you burn”.

As a model, writer, mother, businesswoman, mistress, international idol she formed her own travel company and travelled extensively. All quite revolutionary at the time for a woman.

Known as “Divine Sarah” she starred in some of the earliest films produced, introducing the world to the splendour of theatre. She not only made art, she was art. If you've ever had an overly dramatic emotional outburst in your life (no judgement) you may have been accused of "doing a Sarah Bernhardt". This stands as a tribute to Sarah's remarkable talent for tragic drama on and off stage.

The French breeder Monsieur Lemoine named his peony after Sarah Bernhardt in 1906 and it became the most well-known peony in the world because of Sarah’s dramatic persona – she had been known to, at times, sleep in a coffin as she felt it helped her have more understanding in the tragic roles she played.

I wonder what Sarah thought about having her name on these beauties.

Perhaps her jumping off a parapet while performing in La Toscana and injuring her knee was what moved Lemoine to name the peony after her.

Who knows?

Such beauty. Such tragedy.

One thing we know for sure is that, just like the icon herself, this outstanding peony is one of the most popular blooms around with its sweetly scented, sugar pink, fully double blooms and striking raspberry flashes on the guard petals and makes a great cut flower. A mid-late season bloomer (late May/June in the UK) it holds the RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit). A star in the garden when it comes to reliability.

And if you don't like pink you could go for the Red Sarah Bernhardt - a mid-season bloomer with lightly fragrant, large, double, cerise-red blooms.

Also a winner!

Another peony named after a great lady is Alice Harding. There is a tree peony and a herbaceous peony with her name on them. The tree type sports huge, fragrant, semi-double lemon yellow blooms with tightly packed petals while the herbaceous type has luscious double blooms with white/pale pink flowers and pink tinged guard petals.

Alice Harding was a gardener and writer of the early 20th century that lived on Burnley Farm in Plainfield, New Jersey where she collected, tested, and evaluated the finest new peony varieties. While in France in 1922, she offered a prize to the Société Nationale d'Horticulture de France for the best new French seedling. Emile Lemoine won and named his seedling in Mrs. Harding's honour.

And peonies weren't the only flowers that were named after her. There is also a rose, an iris and two French hybrid lilacs out there bearing her name.

A Great Lady indeed.

Do you have either of these lovelies in your garden right now?

Let us know!

 

Sarah

Plant of the Month – Early Windflower

Early Windflower. Doesn’t that name conjure up a lovely woodlands landscape with little storybook characters pottering around in the brush? I can just see this bloom there waving gracefully in the breeze.

We’ve chosen this whimsically named rare herbaceous perennial as our January Plant of the Month.

One of the first flowers to come out of A.P. Saunders’ breeding program, coming about in 1939, he continues the magic, describing it this way:

"The white flowers, like autumn anemones, nod gracefully above the fern-like foliage. We cannot recommend too highly these lovely garden plants. Vigorous growers, these alas set no seed."

Autumn anemones, nodding gracefully.

More beautiful word pictures.

The Early Windflower definitely has a delicate Japanese anemone appearance. A hybrid between P. veitchii and the Himalayan Peony, P. emodi, this parentage contributes to its wild look.

As you can tell by the name this one is an early bloomer. So early, that even before the woodland peonies have woken up it will be the first type of peony to start flowering in your garden.

You’ll see these single, white, side-facing flowers, complimented by their finely cut pale green leaves, at the first hint of spring and have been know to produce up to 6 or 7 flowers on each stem. Their foliage also makes a very pleasing background for other flowers you may have, so even before it starts flowering it's doing a wonderful job looking great in your garden. Tolerating partial shade, they are happy in any sheltered position in fertile, moist, well-drained soil. They really are not fussy at all.

Vigorous and fast growing into a large clump with many stems and flowers, we highly recommend them for any gardener, old or new, as they have so many good characteristics - easy to grow, robust, unusual and lovely to look at.

You could add this one to your collection along with another that blooms a week later  - the “Late Windflower “. Sharing P.emodi parentage, there is very little difference between them besides the timing of their flowers. So they’d be a good pair to have in your garden to bring some continuity to your display.

Saunders continued the magical theme there is even one called “Sparkling Windflower”.

So now that you’ve gotten to know about our January plant of the month, you may want to make sure your peonies are hibernating happily in the winter season.

If you forgot to trim the stems back in Autumn, you can still do that now and as we learnt in our Autumn post, peonies aren't afraid of the cold so as long as you made sure to plant your peony in a well-drained container or area in the garden and are keeping it moist when it isn't damp enough, your peony is slumbering with a great big contented smile on its face.

At times in winter you may see the crown making its way through the soil and showing you some "eyes". Rest assured it's not giving you the stink eye. This is perfectly natural for a mature peony and you don’t need to do anything about it!

If you have a tree peony, you don't need to trim the branches in Autumn. You can leave them to stand bare-branched for the winter. However, if you did happen to have cut it down to the ground it's likely that if the roots are established enough it will be able to produce new branches when spring rolls around, but you will have to wait and see.

Have any questions about Windflowers or caring for your peony during the winter season?

Let us know!

Peonies in Europe – A Brief History

Found yourself pondering over how the beloved peony found its way over to our neck of the woods? This is a subject I find endlessly fascinating. So much so, that in my efforts to condense things down into a brief history of peonies in Europe it all became more of a not-so-brief history of nearly everything (to semi-quote Bill Bryson). It became increasingly challenging to whittle it all down to what could be considered the most “important” bits, but here we are. My hope is that you will find some slightly lesser known facts to enrich your view of this historically diverse plant.

There are nearly 40 types of peonies that occur naturally in Central and Southern Europe, Caucasia, Asia and North America. The fragrant Chinese common peony (P.lactiflora) is a herbaceous perrenial originally used medicinally in China but by the seventh century they became popular as an ornamental plant and were placed under imperial protection. The emperor’s gardeners began creating more showy flowers which inspired his artists to capture them on screen paintings, tapestries, silk and porcelain.

By the eighth century peonies found their way to Japan as the Chinese traded the very valuable roots of these plants for goods.  It is distinguished from the common peony (P. officinalis) by its leaves, which have finely jagged edges, and its fruits (follicles), which are smooth.

Several varieties of the European common peony (P.officinalis) can be found occurring naturally in Europe and were mostly used medicinally in the 1400s. Introduced to Britain before 1548, this herbaceous double crimson peony became possibly the best known common peony in gardens, often found surviving on their own on old/abandoned estates.

In 1789 the botanist Sir Joseph Banks had a tree peony (P.suffruticosa) brought to England by the British East India Company which was planted in Kew Gardens.  European varieties known before the year 1800 come from P.officinalis and many of these came from France. Cultivation of herbaceous and tree peonies from the Far East began during the 1800s after discoveries were made by explorers.

In the early 1800s P.lactiflora was brought to France from China and introduced into European gardens.  By the second half of the 1800s new hybrids were being developed by breeders such as Calot, Lemoine, Crousse and Dessert, many of which are still seen today. During this time peonies captured the imagination of many European Impressionists such as Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Delacroix, Renoir, Whistler and Fantin-Latour who included peonies in their paintings. Peonies also featured in Art Nouveau posters such as ones by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

By the early 1900s different species were cross-fertilized bringing about the first herbaceous and tree hybrids. The first large double yellow tree peonies were created in France by Louis Henry, Maxim Cornù and Lemoine. These were hybrids of P. suffruticosa (cultivated for centuries in China and Japan) and P.lutea (a yellow-flower species brought to Europe from China by Abbé Delavay in the late 1800s) and had to be supported due to the weak stem and large flower combination.

However, in the 1950’s an American breeder of herbaceous peonies, Professor Saunders, rectified this by cross-fertilizing to increase the strength of the stem and creating a simpler flower - semi-double and double. Following on from Saunder’s work, William Gratwick and Nassos Daphnis made notable progress resulting in some of the most remarkable Lutea hybrids available. It was then in 1948 that Dr. Toichi Itoh from Japan cross-bred the herbaceous species (P.lactiflora) with the tree species (P.lutea), producing the “Intersectional”/”Itoh” hybrid we see today.

Found in so many different regions around the world, it's no surprise then that peonies suit so many different types of gardens. This gives us helpful insight as to where the best places are to plant peonies in your garden. We will be discussing that in a future post but, for now, this is it!