A Garden of Love

While it’s always a treat to receive a bouquet of flowers for Valentine’s Day celebrations, a plant would be even better.

The longer lifespan means you won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Especially with peonies – you’ll be thought of for decades!

Here’s some ideas on what plants to bring into your or someone you love’s garden or home to send the message of love:



  • Unending love/immortality
  • Said to cure a broken heart


  • Annual or perennial depending on the variety
  • A long history of medicinal use




  • Grow it to wish for love
  • Carry it to win love
  • Love, patience, elegance, good luck and gained wisdom


  • Majority are perrenials, while some are annuals and biennials
  • They bloom from late summer to first frost so are popular in autumn and winter flower arrangements
  • Also referred to as ‘Starworts’ or ‘Michaelmas’




  • Red ones say ‘I love you’
  • Rose-coloured ones say ‘in love’


  • They are perennials but if you buy them from a nursery, treat them as annuals
  • For centuries the oil extracted from the flowers of certain species has been used in insecticides
  • The plant’s petals are actually florets with both sexual parts




  • Their fragrance is thought to inspire love
  • Apparently you can attract love into your life by growing crocus


  • An early-blooming spring bulb-like structure called a corm
  • Their leaves and petals are insulated by a waxy layer helping them weather occasional frost and even a bit of snow
  • Saffron is the product of Crocus




  • Pink carnations symbolize a mother’s love
  • Red symbolizes a deeply romantic love or pure love


  • Also known as ‘pink clover’
  • There are 3 main types of carnations: large flowered, spray, and dwarf
  • They are edible and delicious as part of a dessert or on their own




  • Love, inner strength, beauty, kindness
  • A way to say ‘I’m forever yours’


  • All dahlia are edible
  • In Mexico, Dahlia tubers are roasted and made into a drink (in place of coffee)
  • The ‘Little Dorit’ variety was named after the Charles Dickens novel


English Lavender


  • purity and devotion
  • a lavender scented note or clothes scented with lavender are thought to attract love


  • an evergreen perennial shrub
  • lavender comes in other colours other than lavender – white, yellow and pink




  • Red peonies symbolise love, romance and passion
  • Pink peonies communicate lasting love, good fortune and prosperity


  • They come in every colour except blue
  • Bees prefer the ‘single’ form
  • Their petals are on the dessert menu in China
  • They can live on for more than a century!




  • Having yarrow in your home will bring you love for 7 years!
  • They’ve been said to find your one true love


  • A hardy perennial
  • Make good companion plants
  • Birds love them - apparently used by Starlings in their nests as they stop the growth of parasites
  • Attract bees and other beneficial insects


If you already have a few of these in your garden or home then you’re well on your way to love.

Christmas – A Time to Give Back

Is it just me or is this year speeding to a halt?

Another year! Another December! And we’re all still around to enjoy it.

Now that’s something to be grateful for.

Another thing to be thankful for is our gardens. They are just the best little pieces of peace we could ever have. Sanctuaries. Places to experiment and learn more about life and ourselves.

This time of year is a good opportunity to think about how we can show our gratitude.

Here are some ideas:

Give to the Earth

One way you can do this is by thinking of ways we can look after the environment.

For instance, cutting down on unnecessary waste at this time by reusing old Christmas decorations. Or making your own out of natural/recycled materials.

Give to Your Peonies

While your peonies are not flowering they’re having a long, rejuvenating slumber underground.

So here are some ways you can show your peonies some gratitude for all the hard work they’ve done and are still doing:

Herbaceous and Itoh

  • With the stems and leaves having died back, trim the stems without cutting any exposed peony ‘eyes’
  • Make sure to clear the ground around each peony plant and dispose of the stems and leaves in the bin. It can be tempting to compost them but this may attract botrytis, especially if it is a wet winter.
  • If your peony is mature (5+years) it’s likely that the crown will push through the soil in winter and show some ‘eyes’. You won’t need to worry about protecting them as peonies love the cold of winter and will be just fine.


Tree peonies

  • While the leaves are also dead and require removing, there is no need to trim back the branches. They’ll be fine out there in the cold. If you’ve trimmed them already, that’s ok. As long as the roots are well established the branches will grow back.
  • Unlike Herbaceous peonies, Tree peonies like to be buried more deeply. So if it looks like it needs a bit of a boost, experiment with adding a few inches of soil around the base of the trunk.


Give a Peony

As mentioned, peonies aren’t flowering now. But they will be next year and the year after that and the year after that!

Peonies are the most wonderful, long lasting gift to give as they really do just keep on giving. They grow on for decades.

And although the receiver may find it a bit strange getting a pot of soil with some dormant roots in it, they will not be disappointed.

You can think of it like gifting a savings account to a relative for future gifts. Such as being able to go to university or buying a piece of property. They may not be able to enjoy it right now but when they do, it will be the best gift ever!

And that’s peonies – the best forever gift.

Peony of the Month – ‘Nymphe’

This isn’t the first time nymphs have been connected to peonies.

You may be familiar with the one Greek myth about a beautiful nymph named Paeonia that Apollo falls for. This captures Aphrodite’s attention of course and the little nymph becomes embarrassed, turning bright red. So Aphrodite decides it’s only logical to turn her into a red peony.

Because, why not?

And that is how peonies came to symbolize bashfulness.

But there’s nothing to be bashful about when it comes to this herbaceous beauty. A lovely single with its large pale pink/nude flowers and contrasting golden stamens, it is one of the prettiest mid season bloomers and recently took home an AGM which means it will do exceptionally well in your UK garden.

And it’s a winner with the bees too!

Peonies for Pollinators

Peonies such as ‘Nymphe’ that have single, open-shaped flowers are irresistible to pollinators. Pollen is prized as it’s a protein source for bees so they will work hard to get it. However, if they can conserve their energy in this process, they will. So they will usually avoid flowers with many layers of petals they have to wiggle through. That’s why the easily available, pollen-laden stamens in flowers shaped like ‘Nymphe’ are easy pickings for those busy honey bees.

Peonies are a bit like lollipops for bees as they have what is called ‘extrafloral nectaries’. This means that the nectar becomes available for harvesting at the bud stage already. So this is another reason bees really like peonies - they don’t have to wait for them to bloom to start collecting that nectar!

Clearly, patience isn’t high up on the priority list for pollinators.

Also, if you’ve ever wondered why there are so many ants on your peony buds it’s because they also like those nectary lollipops. And you won’t have to worry that they are damaging your buds. In fact, they are helpful to them as their presence wards off other insects that would prevent them from blooming. So don’t get rid of them! Ants and peonies are firm friends.

There is a popular line of thought that if you don’t have ants on your peonies they won’t open, as the ants make little incisions on the bud whilst harvesting the nectar which enables the bud to open.

This is not true. As mentioned before, it is more a case of the ants warding off other more harmful floral-feeding critters that helps the blooming to be more successful.

More reasons to love those bees and ants!

Gardening for Insects

With the growing awareness around the importance of pollinators in the garden there has been a surge of gardeners being more intentional about creating environments that are insect friendly.

And as we saw at the Chelsea Show this year, it doesn’t matter if your space is limited. You can plant things that will encourage a symbiotic eco system no matter how little space you have.

Balconies, window boxes and even one small piece of wall with containers on can become a playground for all sorts of creatures.

Humans included!


What Peonies Teach Us

With this time of constant change and having to keep re-inventing the wheel, the saying “Adapt or die” comes to mind...

But we prefer the more hopeful spin on that idea.

To rather think of what we’ve learnt during this time of uncertainty. Something along the lines of:

"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust." — Gertrude Jekyll

Yes, our precious peony plants have taught us all these things and more. We are so grateful to have had a connection to nature through all of this. It has been an anchor in many ways.

And it seems we aren’t the only ones experiencing that. Many are turning to plants to find some peace and calm in the chaos. Sales of seeds have grown exponentially as window-sill gardens and veggie patches pop up everywhere.

Some that swore they’d never have kids are now trying their hand at plant parenting.

So what are some of the things we’ve learnt from the peonies we are privileged to care for?

Flexibility and Resilience

The only guarantee in life is change so we’ve got to be flexible. Although we’ve had a topsy turvy season this year, it’s been amazing to see how our peonies learnt to adapt and still put on a good show, even if a little late.

In spite of all the unpredictability of what is happening with us humans, those plants and animals just keep doing their thing. With grace and beauty.


Peonies show us how to hurry up and wait!

For a start, when growing them from seed, peony seeds need to go through a double vernalisation. Then you need to wait another five years to see if the flower is worth anything. Then you’ve got to bulk it up, either the slow way of dividing every two years or the short cut of tissue culture. And still you’ll be lucky to get anything in your life time.

Also, with the flowering season being delayed this year and the show being relatively short anyway, we’ve really had to be present to every moment of this celebration of blooms.

Slowing down and taking all the beauty in each day has had a revitalising effect, helping us to appreciate many other fleeting, yet monumental moments in life.


As we know, peonies are not difficult to care for. In well-drained soil with enough sun and a bit of water, they’re good to go. In fact, the peony’s ability to survive for decades untended is testament to its incredible hardiness and longevity.

Now we’re not suggesting you starve and deprive yourself down to the barest necessities. But it got us thinking of the benefits of being content with a simple life and to use life’s challenges as growing opportunities.

What do you think?

What have you learnt from your peonies?

The Late Bloomers

The unexpectedly cold weather we experienced in April made our peonies afraid to put their heads out.

And understandably so. Those sub-zero temperatures were a shock to us too - we had to get all our winter woollies out of storage!

Like us, after the warm spell in March, you were probably all geared up to get to work on your garden over Easter. But with temperatures peaking in the single digits and snow in some areas during April, that just didn’t happen.

We hope those overnight frosts didn’t kill too much of your garden off.

Chief horticulturalist at the Royal Horticultural Society, Guy Barter, said: “Overnight frosts in April are dreaded by gardeners. Magnolia and camellia flowers are ruined, fruit blossom and young fruitlets including pears and apples are spoiled and the tender tips of potatoes will be burnt off if they appear above ground. Gardener’s hearts are in their mouths through April as they anxiously scan the weather forecasts for frost warnings ready to rush out and cover vulnerable plants to ward off damage.”



Understandably, flowering season has been considerably delayed and we feel your frustration.

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 this timing. However, due to the cold weather we experienced you can expect these time estimates to be delayed by approximately 3-4 weeks.


Very Early - flowering begins late April

Early - flowering begins early May

Mid - flowering begins mid-late May

Late - flowering begins early June



With all this talk about late flowering, let’s have a look at some of the late bloomers beautiful faces we should be seeing near the end of this month (pictured right):


Paeonia ‘Old Faithful’

Herbaceous perennial with finely cut dark green foliage and fully double velvety red flowers. Vigorous, must-have plant.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Couronne d’Or’

A herbaceous perennial with finely cut dark green foliage and large double flowers comprising ivory coloured outer petals and red/yellow flecked centres. Excellent cut flowers.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Nippon Beauty’

A herbaceous perennial with finely cut dark green foliage with large, fragrant, single flowers with ruby red outer petals and red feathery centres with cream coloured edging. Striking and will flower heavily.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sword Dance’ AGM

Large, deep wine-red guard petals and golden staminoids, Japanese style peony. A show-stopper!


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Bowl of Beauty’

This classic, long lived perennial has very large flowers with carmine pink outer petals and lots of tiny creamy petals in the centre.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Felix Crousse’

A herbaceous perennial with finely cut green foliage and a heavily scented stunning double magenta red flowers.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ AGM

This excellent example of the classic, long lived perennial has very large, double, fragrant rose-pink flowers. The inner petals are ruffled and have silvered margins.


Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sorbet’

Herbaceous perennial with attractive foliage and large, fragrant, double soft pink flowers with cream coloured frills.


After flowering season it is best to deadhead your peonies, cutting off the flower heads.

If you deadhead the peony stems after blooming, the energy can be used for future stem and root growth instead of making seeds.

Peony of the Month – ‘Red Charm’

What about a bit of red to spice your Spring garden up a bit?

It’s not every day you come across a red as true as the one worn by ‘Red Charm’. Like that Little Red Riding Hood in the dark forest, ‘Red Charm’ stands out in the garden and is very attractive to visitors.

Be they wolf, butterfly or human…

A cross of the well-known P. ‘Rubra Plena’ it was registered by Glasscock in 1944 and became an APS Gold Medal winner in 1956.

And 65 years later it’s still going strong... The wonder of peonies! We can’t gush enough about these plants. They really are our favourite.

‘Red Charm’ is an indulgent, herbaceous perennial that is early flowering and sturdy. It produces lots of deep, ruby red cup-shaped flowers with ruffled centres that keep expanding as the flower opens. The flowers are bomb-shaped and very large, sometimes reaching up to 20cm across. Although it opens a scarlet red colour, as the flower matures it becomes darker and darker ending up a deep plum or purple.

Once established it can reach up to 90cm in height and its bushy growth habit and fine, dark green leaves remain lovely into Autumn. This makes ‘Red Charm’ a great choice if you would like to create a small hedge or need some structure along a pathway. You could also pop it in a flower bed with a mix of other perennials for a striking display.

It’s likely that you will enjoy having this reliable and vigorous beauty in your garden so much that you will come to depend on being dazzled by its beautiful flower and foliage displays year after year.

This exquisite lady in red with its substantial, waxy-textured petals and strong stems makes an excellent, long-lasting cut flower and has a pleasing, subtle fragrance.

If you’d like to add ‘Red Charm’ to your collection, here are some guidelines for planting this herbaceous peony:

  • Plant in full sun or part shade in a sheltered position
  • Any fertile soil will do, as long as it is free draining
  • Plant with the crown (top of the root) no more than 5cm below the ground. With container grown plants, simply plant them at the same level they are in the pot they arrive in
  • Don’t bury it with mulch. Peonies like organic matter but don’t mulch over the crown as it might not flower the next Spring
  • Once you are ready to plant your peony in the garden, start by digging a hole twice as big as the root ball of the plant and put some organic matter or compost at the bottom of the hole. It is often a good idea to mix some fertiliser (such as our Professional Peony Feed) with the compost
  • Place your peony in the centre of the hole, ensuring that the crown is level with or just below the surface level, backfill with compost and soil and firm into place. Water well but don’t over-water; remember that the root will rot if it gets too wet
  • Peonies will also be happily planted in a container so you can follow the same process, just make sure you feed your container grown peonies once a year to make sure they have enough nutrients


And there you go!

In this case, red means ‘go’!

Grow peony grow!

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.


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!

Unusual, rare and highly collectable. Bartzella has large double intense sulphur yellow flower. Lightly fragrant. Bartzella has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit.

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