Woodland Peonies, a walk on the wild side
Forty or fifty years ago, the owner of our house planted a LOT of peonies, and by the time we got the place they were huge. Also, in many cases, overtaken by shrubbery.
When we dug the shaded ones to move them we found huge giant knotted rootballs the size of refrigerators. So we divided them and had even more peonies. Three kinds of peonies: dark red, pink and white. (Read more about them – and get some growing tips here)
Theoretically you can’t have too many peonies but I’m here to tell you you can have enough – if they are all the same damn 3 colors. And having a few extra early ones that are magenta does not help, on account of their being magenta.
But we also inherited some fern leaf peonies (read about them – and the lowdown on ants – here) and the fern leafs, more properly Paeonia tenuifolia, were so beautiful and so different they opened an irresistible door.
At least that was my excuse 3 years ago, when I bought a nifty woodland peony at Trade Secrets.
Japanese Woodland Peony, P. japonica. At the time it had I think 4 leaves and zero flowers. It would be nice if this one also developed refrigerator sized roots, but it won’t. As soon as they’re bigger than produce drawers I’m going to divide them.
Lulled into hubris by this success, I thought last year I could get away with buying a moderately expensive seedling of P. mlokosewitschii, instead of a seriously expensive guaranteed division. The guarantee was that the flower would be pale yellow, a rare color in peonies.
And nonexistent in my plant. I was warned the seedling might turn out to be magenta and you can guess the rest. Bill thinks it’s beautiful. I do not. But the leaves are absolutely gorgeous and the flower is fleeting, so it’s not a total catastrophe.
Seedling of P. mlokosewitschii. The cheapskate’s reward. There is a better picture of a magenta flowered seedling – and one of the real deal – over at my almost neighbor Margaret Roach’s blog, A Way To Garden. But as you can see by comparing the pictures there is a lurking mystery; her seedling’s leaves look so different I’m not sure we have the same plant. (She got hers from Seneca Hill. I got mine from Hillside Nursery.
Next time I head for the hills I’ll pay full freight, though I may have to hock my toes to do it. There are around 2 dozen species peonies that could grow here, and more and more of them are making their way ( expensively) into commerce.