June 19, 2012

Peonies: The Grandes Dames of the Garden

According to Wikipedia, the definition of a grande dame, which in French means "great lady" is a
slightly flamboyant woman, prone to extravagant and eccentric fashion, such as feather boas, large hats, and excessive costume jewelry. 
What a perfect metaphor for the luscious shapes, colors, and scents of peonies. They are my favorite flower of all.

In thinking about how to organize my photos for this post, I decided to arrange them in the loose order in which the flowers opened. But before they open, there are those ants crawling across the flower buds. What are they doing? They are attracted to a nectar secreted by the buds; some speculate that they help the flower unfurl, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

I have one tree peony that produces the most lovely yellow flower, a color which doesn't exist in herbaceous peonies.

"Charlie's White", a tall vigorous plant, is the first herbaceous peony to bloom in my border, and only one of two plants whose names I remember. It's wide open outer petals enclose a mass of finely cut petals, tinged with a bit of yellow.

This deep pink flower has a similar form to Charlie's. These blooms seem excessive, a frothy confection, but there's also something about them that does not allow ridicule. They are also stately.

I love this flower, even though it's not scented. The simple row of outer petals open to show a mass of yellow tongued petals (?) I assume that they are a kind of petal, though their form is so unusual.

My other red peony is a carmine double, visited by a bee and a spider while I was photographing it (click to enlarge to see them).

One of the great all time favorite peonies is "Festiva Maxima", which is understandable considering its huge blooms tipped with crimson, and its deep rich scent.

Pale pink and pure white: each of these flowers have masses of irregular soft petals that invite my nose to bury itself in them. It's the sheer abandon of peonies, their lushness, that I adore. They demand admiration and I am happy to give it.


  1. Thank you for this post Altoon. I have most of these peonies in my landlord's garden, which I tend. My favourite is the Festiva Maxima. We have two huge bushes, so so beautiful with that red and that scent. I didn't know the names till I read this.

    1. You're welcome, Elaine. I wish I remembered the names of all the other peonies I have in my garden. I believe I recorded them somewhere, but where....

  2. I'm right there with you in loving peonies. I need to acquire more.

  3. You have a gorgeous collection, even if you don't know the names. And you have some that are fragrant. Most of the ones I have are beautiful but little or no scent. I should consider adding Festiva to my garden just for the fragrance. Those doubles make me want to grab a spoon and dig right in!