peonies, again

Supposedly, when one attains the title of Sophisticated Gardener, all of the “traditional” garden plants are ripped out of the garden kicking and screaming, to be replaced by the more “refined” species.

Maybe it’s true, I don’t know. If I said I wasn’t an admirer of multi-colored triple-headed echinaceas, or heucheras with leaves other than green, or hybrid tea roses, some people would take this personally, which I find to be a very strange reaction (as though the people were the plants), but I won’t say anything of the sort. Pretend I never wrote this.

One of the activities demanded of the Sophisticated Gardener is admiration for the ephemeral, even if this means complete trust in perfect weather and being in the right place at the right time, year after year.

I do like peonies–in other peoples’ gardens (which is where most of mine now reside)–especially the old Saunders hybrids. I gave my sister ‘Requiem’ and ‘Nightwatch’, the latter a dark, dark single red; her plant might be the only one within a thousand miles in any direction. When it blooms, it is stunning. For a week, or less.

The species peonies are something else again. I can definitely see the attraction they hold for some people, you know, wild peonies and all that, but really, the flowering period is so short that they’re best appreciated by a person like me, someone with nothing better to do than wait for a flower to open.

I took a photograph of Paeonia anomala this morning. I’ve acquired a DSLR camera, but by the time I read all the instructions (gulp) and get the software loaded, the flowers will have been gone for weeks, so, behold.

According to the monograph by Josef Halda, this is subspecies anomala, the carpels being glabrous. (Yes, I looked.) I got the plant from Wrightman Alpines who sells some species, grown from seed collected by Halda.

I grew a species from seed, too. One of my gardening pen-pals, now gone, sent me a baggie with four of five dark blue seeds, of maybe P. obovata, with the instructions to plant them immediately, right smack in the ground, which I did.

Just a few minutes ago I looked around for the little plant, found it (damaging one of the leaves lifting it out of the sea of sweet violets and dead nettle), and took its picture. I bet this peony is ten years old. Maybe in another ten years, it will grow to be a flowering plant, and I’ll sit in a chair watching the buds open, the flowers unfold, and then disappear on the wind.

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