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!

Meet “Etched Salmon” Peony – Plant of the Month

So we picked “Etched Salmon” as our Plant of the Month. Isn't she lovely?

You'd be forgiven for mistaking these blooms for the underside of a ballerina's tutu. When spring rolls around, you’ll have these Swan-Lake-ruffled-feathery-fluffs in pink, gently prancing around upside down in your garden.

Sound blooming marvelous? Well, we think so too!

“Etched Salmon” is a rare herbaceous double hybrid variety first coming into being in 1968 and registered in 1981 by Cousins and Klehm, being awarded Gold Medal as "Peony of the Year" by the American Peony Society in 2002.

Interestingly, this variety was the only one to last all six days in the heat on our stand at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2019. Now that’s a tough cookie!

So let’s get the specs from toe to top on what this beauty’s all about:

Roots Fibrous, located close to the surface of the soil.

Stems Strong, each ending with a bud

Leaves Large, petiolate, medium green in a compact bush up to 80 cm high with divided foliage. Stays full until either the first frost or autumn. Resistant to wind and rain.

Buds You’ll see buds in the second year after planting and in the third and fourth year it’ll be blooming like a bomb

Blooms Silvery coral pink with a golden border around the edges. Resembles a rose in its rounded shape created by large outer guard petals protecting a bounty of smaller more delicate ones getting darker to the centre. Changes colour several times during flowering but won’t fade in the sun. Can be 16-17cm in diameter.

Aroma Delicate lemony aroma. (When will we have a scratch and sniff function on screens?)

If you’ve fallen in love and want to welcome this darling into your garden family click on the pic on the right! Autumn is the perfect time to start with one. As long as your soil is full of goodness and well drained (especially in winter) your peonies will be that gift that just keeps on giving with minimal maintenance. If you already have peonies and they didn't flower, Alec sheds some light on that here.

Although herbaceous peony stems die back in autumn and winter, don't worry that the cold has killed it off. Peonies need the cooler weather to work hard on developing flower buds to delight you with in spring.

We love seeing this change as autumn ushers in those crisp, cool mornings preparing us for the regeneration work of winter. A wide range of autumn colours can be found on herbaceous peonies. After they have changed colour, the next stage can look a bit dull as the foliage turns brown and curls up. However, this is good news for friendly insects such as ladybirds as they use the leaves to hibernate in. So leave those leaves alone for as long as possible, for ladybird’s sake.

We find it endlessly rewarding seeing the many faces of these plants as they live their lives alongside ours. And that's why we LOVE PEONIES! Because they last forever (60-100+ years) and they just keep getting better and more forgiving and giving with time!

If you'd like to get more into the nitty gritty of planting peonies in autumn we will be talking more about that later this month.

So pop back in to pick up some handy tips and ask us any questions you have!