A true classic, and an amazing spectacle. It brings to mind enormous flowers, a sweet scent, and gorgeous colours. It’s high time the peony was put in the spotlight.
The flowers close at night or when it’s very cloudy.
Confucius (551-479 BC) loved the peony. As a seasoning!
“I eat nothing without its sauce. I enjoy it very much, because of its flavour.”
Where does the name Paeonia come from?
Paeon was a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. According to Greek mythology, Asclepius became jealous of his pupil and wanted to kill him. Zeus saved Paeon by turning him into a peony.
The first Chinese peony introduced to England in the mid-18th century had bright white flowers. Lactiflora literally means “milky-white flowers”.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of cultivars in all kinds of colours; from pure white through pink to almost red.
The prettiest cut flowers
The peony is a popular cut flower, perhaps the prettiest of all cut flowers. The Netherlands supplies around 50 million stems per year, making it the largest supplier of peony cut flowers.
Many gardeners with peonies in their gardens regularly cut a number of stems to enjoy them in a vase indoors.
Marco Polo described the flowers of the peony as “roses the size of cabbages”
Difference between the Chinese peony and the tree peony
Chinese peonies (P. lactiflora) are herbaceous perennials, whereas tree peonies (P. suffruticosa) are deciduous shrubs. While tree peonies form woody stems and only lose their leaves in winter, Chinese peonies die back completely in winter before emerging from the soil again the following spring.
More about the flower
The large flower buds appear in late spring. They open into bowl-shaped flowers with a a diameter of between 8 cm and an amazing 16 cm. The flowers may be anything from single to full double.
Don’t be surprised if you see ants walking over the plant, as they love the nectar in the droplets on the outside of the flower buds. In exchange for this delicacy, they protect the plant against other bugs that are harmful to it.
The Chinese peony in the garden
Choose a nice spot carefully, because you can enjoy a peony for 30 years and they don’t like to be moved.
Most varieties flower in May/June. Even after flowering, the plant is a visual delight thanks to its strong leaves.
Choose a good place where you want them to be able to grow undisturbed, because transplanting is not recommended. They need at least 6 hours of uninterrupted bright daylight to flower properly.
They grow best in moist but well-drained soil.
The best policy is to leave the plants to their own devices, it’s that easy. A peony flowers more richly year on year. If you notice any drainage problems, you’ll have to intervene.
Published on: 1 April 2023