peonies (Paeonia) are with roses and orchids the favorite flowers of the French, and one of the gifts among the most offered on Mother’s Day which will be celebrated this year on May 29.
In the gardens, we always look forward to the blossoming of these chubby, generous, white, yellow, pink, salmon, red flowers.
Peonies form a very large plant genus, much more complex than one might think. The best known, and probably the most planted, are herbaceous peonies, confirms Thierry Lesaffre, from Jardins du Joncquoy. This nurseryman is a mad lover of the peonies he grows in Aubers, in the North.
“These are the fragrant peonies from our grandmothers’ gardens. They are perennials from the stump. Vegetation starts in February-March. They bloom in May, some varieties can last until June. In autumn, the foliage turns brown. Cut it down and throw it in the compost.”
“These peonies are the ones you can find in bouquets at florists.”Thierry Lesaffre
This is a second type of peony. They tolerate partial shade as well as the sun, make wood and measure on average 1.5 m after about ten years.
In this category there are rockii peonies (Paeonia rockii). They bear the name of Joseph Rock, an Austro-American botanist and explorer who discovered this genus during an expedition to China.
“These peonies usually begin to bloom towards the end of April. Their particularity? They are adorned with a macula (the bottom of the petal is colored). 95% of the rockii are white with a black or very dark fuchsia macula. The macule can also be more or less red. They are most often single-flowered peonies, but there are also very double forms. They are very growing (some can reach 1.8 m).
“These are very fragrant flowers that give off scents of lily of the valley, lilac or rose…”Thierry Lesaffre
Peony varieties are very, very numerous. They are in bloom at the moment, and you can choose the kind, the color that makes you want.
I admit a big weakness for Itoh peonies (Paeonia x itoh). These plants come from a cross between two species.
“The mother is a herbaceous peony like that of our grandmothers. The father is a tree peony. The baby is a… UFO. These Itoh peonies are perennials of the stump like the herbaceous ones, they will not exceed 1 meter in height. On the other hand, like their father, they make wood, have good resistance to wind and rain. And, last asset, they keep their foliage until November-December.”
If you plant them well, if you take care of them, peonies are truly indestructible plants. They can live for over 100 years!