(Species: Paeonia spp - Family: Ranuncolaceae)
Peony and its origins
A hardy perennial, the peony is a native of Europe, Asia and North America. Once established in the garden, it requires little maintenance and can survive severe winter s, blooming each spring for many years.
In the language of flowers, Peonies say “your beauty enchants me” and are believed to have been named in honor of the Greek scholar, Paeon, who saved Zeus from the wrath of Asclepius the Greek god of medicine and healing, by turning him into a peony.
Referenced in the Iliad, the peony dates back to ancient times with many species originating in China. Some species are mentioned in the 7th century in China but have not been cultivated in Europe until more recently in the 19th Century.
Seasonality: Peony in flower
Flowering in late spring, the peony can be a single or double flower. It is bright and vibrant with colours that range from whites and yellows to vivid pinks, reds and violets. Some varieties feature a distinctive dark spot at the base of the petals.
Popular for its grand, spectacular bloom, Peonies form a large, solitary flower at the top of a stem with tightly packed petals and are often fragrant. There are two key types; Paeonia officinalis or herbaceous peony and Paeonia suffruticosa or tree peony. These types vary in height depending on the species, the herbaceous peony reaching 80cm tall, while the other resembles small trees and can be up to 10ft tall.
How to Plant: Peony
The peony should be planted in early autumn to produce spring blooms. Planting at this time of year gives the tubor time to settle in before the harsh winter weather arrives. Each tubor should be placed with a 7-8cm deep covering of soil and at least 80cm spacing.
This plant thrives in partial shade and requires a more alkaline soil. The soil should be prepared well in advance of planting, adding compost or peat moss where necessary and working it into the soil. Good drainage is also essential to guarantee an excellent peony bloom.
Considered a difficult species to grow, they require a level of expertise, as some species have very specific requirements. The peony is also slow to grow and will take a couple of years
Propagation of the Peony
Peonies can be propagated by division but do not enjoy the upheaval and should remain in the same place for at least 7-8 years to avoid sacrificing flower growth. Moving before that time can mean that the plant fails to bloom for up to 2 years. Division should take place in autumn.
Peonies can also be propagated by seed, this is a lengthy process as they may not germinate for a couple of years and then take up to five years to reach full bloom height.