The peonies would have bloomed by now, the buds have been ready to burst for more than a week, but it is so unseasonably cold, weird May weather! Temperatures in the fifties, I almost have to question the wisdom of moving the basil outside, it looks miserable.
Peonies are the object lesson for why gardeners benefit from being patient. You don’t get this cascade of blooms from a plant that doesn’t ask anything of you until you put a few years into it. Three, to be specific.
There is an old saying about peonies: “First year sleep, second year creep, third year leap,” and it sure is true, and not only for these flowers, but for many other cottage garden favorites. No self respecting perennial will bloom the first year, it is just not done. Many of them won’t even bother to come out of the ground before their second year, and if you don’t have the patience to wait until then, well, your loss.
The three year rule applies to dividing peonies too, once you dig them up – three years to bloom, a wonderful incentive not to disturb their roots. I’ve been thinking about moving a delightful Raspberry Sorbet that was overtaken by the shrub roses for three years now, which makes the point that if I moved it, it would be thriving and in bloom somewhere else already. Not to confuse procrastination with patience.
The buds in the picture belong to Sarah Bernhardt, whose giant, fragrant, almost white blossoms are second only to Festiva Maxima. At least I think it’s Sarah Bernhardt, the label said Sarah Bernhardt, so what if it’s not pink? At all.
Peonies are lovely, fragrant and long lasting cut flowers, there is only one problem, ants love them. If you .want to bring some of their blooms indoors, cut them before they open and wash the buds thoroughly before you set them in a vase.
Peony foliage is susceptible to powdery mildew, a problem that makes itself manifest at the end of August and can make the plants’ otherwise attractive clumps look rather dire. The good news is that during their flush of bloom they will look splendid and perfect in every way, the bad news is that powdery mildew is a stubborn and miserable pest that overwinters in the ground from one year to the next and is not easy to get rid of.