|Festiva Maxima peony|
The peony was one of several we had in a row against the back of our house. My mother also had a shrub rose, irises and a lilac but she generally didn’t bring those into the house – mostly peonies. I guess to her they brought back memories of a day in June 1946 when they filled a little country church for her wedding to a World War II Army Air Force veteran.
Although my mother has added a few gray hairs since then, she still loves her peonies. If I don't get her plants cleaned up early each spring, she's been known to get out there and do it herself, despite her advancing years and my admonishments to the contrary.
Peonies, without a doubt, are a great plant. They love clay soil, asking only for an occasional top dressing of composted mature. Many are fragrant. If the blooms aren't already big enough, you can pinch off some of the smaller buds so the remaining flowers become incredibly huge. They make great cut flowers.
My decision to plant peonies in all of my gardens, though, hasn't been made with my head. It was made with my heart.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as enthusiastic as anyone about new plant cultivars. I've grown some of the new coral-colored peonies (prompting a lot of oohs and ahs from my neighbors). I'm also dying to find a place in my garden for one of the new Itoh intersectional peonies.
Still, my garden will always have some of the time-tested peony varieties like Festiva Maxima, Kansas and Sarah Bernhardt. They're sentimental favorites. Every garden should have flowers that hold a special meaning for its owner. After all, that's what makes a garden uniquely yours.