A Celebration Of Peonies

Close up of pink, peach and cream peonies

Peonies in pastel shades: Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’ with Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Benhardt’

If I was forced to name my favourite flower, there’s a good chance it might be the peony. I love to see the red fronds of the herbaceous type pushing through the soil back to back together in their unearthly  fashion around this time of year, full of promise for the season to come. And when their blooms appear – well, could you blame me for deserting the rose in favour of these?

Primrose Hall, a fixture at all the best UK flower shows, are currently teasing a sketch of their proposed 2019 Chelsea Flower Show design online. Arrangements of blooms tower over a garden of peonies. In the background, a garland tumbles down towards flowers floating in a traditional clawfoot bath. That’s my kind of outdoor bathroom!

The pictures I’m sharing here were taken on their stands at last year’s RHS Chatsworth and Hampton Court Flower Shows.

A large flower bouquet made from 'Coral Sunset' peonies

Paeonia ‘Coral Sunset’ on the Primrose Hall display at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

I had thought that there must be more than one peony here but as Primrose Hall’s Alec White, who kindly agreed to identify the peonies, observed, “Note that the corals change colour quite a lot as they mature!”. Continue reading

Variations On A Theme: Rose, Peony Or Camellia?

Camellia with many petals

When I first started working with roses and discovered I was going to need to distinguish between 30 or 40 pinks and know their names, I resorted to flash cards: the kind young children use to learn words. In no time at all I was well on the way to a lifetime of floral nitpicking. Is a the shape of a double flowered rose technically a shallow cup, recurved, a pompon or a chalice? That kind of thing.

So I often notice when people mistake a peony or a camellia for a rose, even if I’d have to concede that the colours and forms of their flowers can be essentially the same.

Roses with many petals

Continue reading

Cheerleading For Frilly Flowers: Double Peonies

Pink peony

If ever a flower looked like it was wearing a petticoat, this is it. It’s hard to believe this bloom is only partially open. The yellow petals in the centre will gradually become more prominent, but I like the flower at this stage while the outer petals are still a pure pink, and are forming a protective cup around the inner petals.

White peony

The second peony has it all for me: I love the pearly character of the creamy white petals and the way those yellowy petals create an inner glow.  Continue reading

Photographing peonies: how it all went ‘orribly wrong

Peonies with a view: looking out from the patio at The Inn at Whitewell

I often write about roses, but peonies are my first and abiding floral love. I’ve already explained how this year I hopped around from foot to foot (metaphorically of course) waiting for the season to arrive. My idea was to have fun learning how to prepare them for photography, then taking pictures in a nice setting. We live and learn: today, I’m sharing my six biggest mistakes when I hoped to have been sharing pictures overflowing with peonies!  Continue reading