Herbaceous peonies flower in late spring and early summer. They produce large flowers with a sweet fragrance. Though thought of as delicate, the peony is much hardier than it’s reputation and beauty might suggest. It prefers full sun (though can handle partial shade), good drainage but isn’t to fussed about soil otherwise. This post by The English Garden breaks down overall care of peonies to three simple steps and also has some broad detail on care of these flowers.
I can’t overstate how charming these flowers are. The flower itself takes the form of a dress billowing in the wind, like a scene from a 70s, epic love film. The white petals have a dash of deep pink on the edge of a few of them but not all and not to any obvious order. The fragrance is like the sweetest perfume. The cut flowers provide a stunning visual display but when you’re sat in a room with them, you get seduced by a waft of fragrance every so often. You’re never prepared for it and there’s seemingly nothing that triggers it, it is simply when the peonies want to remind you that they are there and they want you to give them your attention. They want to be adored and you would be at fault if you didn’t.
I bought the flowers above in a moment of spontaneity (I had had a few glasses of wine, after an industry event) on the way home. It was the florist outside of Angel tube station. Initially I asked for a mix of hydrangea and peonies but then made a call to go for a simple but impactful display of one flower variety. The bouquet is made up mainly of the white flowers (this might be Paeonia lactiflora ‘Duchesse de Nemours’) but I asked the florist to throw in a few of the blush pink flowers (I’m guessing these are (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Catharina Fontijn’) too.
I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if my drunken short-sightedness had resulted in me be handed a duff bunch. Some of the flowers appeared a bit worse for wear. In fairness, the florist said at the time that he had given me a mix of older and younger flowers. He also advised that I would need to cut the stems to ensure that the young flowers that had yet to open would continue to develop. As I slowly descended on the escalator, heading onto the Northern line, I did look, perhaps over-critically at some bruising and what looked like burn marks on some of the flowers.
I also developed a weird sense of being overly conspicuous, holding a bunch of flowers in public. It makes little sense, but there’s something about a guy holding a bunch of flowers that becomes a huge display of romance and affection to a partner that may not even be present. It then feels like the other blokes around are giving you the evil eye for making them look bad by comparison and women either look longingly or smile approvingly at you. I’m not one to be the centre of attention in any situation, so I was keen to get home as soon as possible and kept my head bent down at my phone screen until I arrived back at the flat.
Once through my front door, I thrusted the bunch of peonies toward my beloved but insisted she give me some sugar before she carried off her gift. Needless to say (but I will say), she was very happy and is now working on a painting of the bouquet.
I’m keen to get peonies into the garden but as it is late June, it seems I have missed that boat. Planting time for these is best in late autumn or early spring, we’re now slap bang in the middle of that period and so outside of what is ideal. I suppose that’s why I’ve not seen any while making the now regular trip at the weekend to a garden centre. But as beautiful, fragrant and hardy as the peony is, I will have it our garden in the future.