This year I have felt a little like an unfaithful lover with my peonies. Like many people, I absolutely adore peonies and they are a highlight in the seasonal cutting garden calendar. It is their subtle rose like fragrance, their delicate petals with a shredded paper like quality and the full blousy blooms that you could get lost in as you take time to stop and stare into their centre. I always long for their arrival. But this year I have grown so many double peony-flowered tulips I thought I might have spoilt the lovely anticipation waiting for my first peony to flower. But no, I am pleased to say this was not the case, as gorgeous as the peony-flowered tulips are, there is no substitute for a true peony!
The true peonies are open now and they are as exquisite as ever. At the moment there are so many beautiful flowers flourishing in the walled garden, but the peonies are the first flower I walk to each morning when I get to the garden! Cupping my hands around the bloom and getting a full noseful! Solange and Sarah Bernhardt, are my favourites for their exquisite fragrance and complexity of colours, white, pale pink and apricot tones all in one flower. They are both out at the moment soon to be followed by Gardenia.
When trying to gauge the stage of their readiness to open, you can give the buds a gentle squeeze to see how tight or loose they are, avoiding the ants if possible. Ants are a normal sight on peony buds as they love the nectar they exude but they cause no damage. Squeezing the buds reminds me of chefs who squeeze a steak as they cook it to judge if it is rare, medium or well done!
Here are a few shots from the garden this week showing off the bountiful beauty of the fully opened Solange with all its gorgeous tones. Take time to look into the depth of its heavy, rippling layers to appreciate the exquisite pale colours and tones, every blossom is quite unique. So just let yourself fall in there!
From the side they are equally beautiful like the shape of a water lily.
Ah, those shreds, stunning detail in a flower.
The delicate petals are also edible so can be scattered on a salad or dessert and their vase performance is perfect in every way - Dynamic, they continue to open more fully when placed in water and they gently fade from pink and apricot to a white. Good longevity, the ones pictured below were picked 4 days ago while fully open. Fragrant, they will fill a large room with perfume, so much better than a 'plug-in'!