In a Vase on Monday. A Paean to Peonies.

I was going to save my luscious tree peonies for my Top Ten May Blooms because they certainly come in at number one on any list. But they just won’t wait, they flaunt their gorgeousness every time I go into the garden and at the moment I am out there all day, every day, racing against time to get everything perfect for my first group of garden visitors next week. In ancient China these beauties were grown in the Emperor’s garden, you can see why they were considered too special for ordinary mortals. Here in England the Tudors had strict sumptuary laws forbidding the lower orders to wear rich fabrics. A commoner could be fined or go to prison for wearing silks and satins and ermine was just for royalty.  In my garden the tree peonies are certainly the aristocrats and no other plant, however lovely is dressed so luxuriously. I don’t think they would dare. The excitement starts with the nice plump buds.

And now the whole bushes are covered in huge satiny blooms.

I wrote here how I grew the seed of what was then called Paeonia rockii, although this is now considered an invalid name. I expected white flowers with dark purple  blotches but instead I now have three lovely plants with flowers in shades of pink and magenta but they all have the distinctive blotches. Although it would have been wonderful to have the glorious white one these are magical too.  The correct name for them is Paeonia ‘Gansu mudan’ which means Peony from the Gansu area of China.

People are very impressed when I say I grew them from seed but there is nothing very clever about it. I just sowed the black shiny seeds in individual pots and left them outside. I forgot all about them and nothing  appeared to happen at all for the first year but that is because they put down a nice root before anything appears on the surface. The next year you get a little shoot which is unmistakably a peony. At this point you have to protect them from slugs and mice. After three years I planted them in the garden. In their sixth year they had two blooms. Now after eleven years they are big bushy shrubs smothered in massive blooms. It may seem a long time to wait but other things are happening in your life and in the garden; you are not just nurturing peonies. They look after themselves and you get on with other things.


I have another tree peony which was already in the garden when we came. It is not so bushy and its spindly stem needs support. If I am honest I have to admit its blooms are even larger than those of my seed grown ones but I don’t love it as much, because I didn’t do the horticultural equivalent of changing its nappies and helping it with its homework. Still it is sumptuous even though it doesn’t have the lovely purple markings inside the flowers.

I have a white one too which I love because my son gave it to me. This year it has four lovely blooms. They are huge with frilly edges.


Now my peonies have reached a good size I can afford to pick the odd one to enjoy inside.  As the flowers are so big I think the best way to display them is to float them like a water lily.

It is great to have them on the table to examine the beautiful centres.

Thank you Cathy  at Rambling in the Garden for hosting In a Vase on Monday, it is always fun to join in. Don’t forget, My Top Ten  May Blooms will be posted on 23rd May. I have some unusual flowers to show you even if they are not as extravagantly dressed as the peonies, they are certainly not shrinking violets. I would love it if you would show some of your May favourites too and link with my post.

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60 Responses to In a Vase on Monday. A Paean to Peonies.

  1. Oh my gosh they are so beautiful!!! While the ones you started from seed were growing, and after first planting, did the garden change to allow for growth? You must have planned well ahead!

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Absolutely wonderful.

  3. I love your variety of peonies. The one you grew from seeds is very special. It is a long time to wait, but now you will be rewarded with beautiful blooms for a long time to come. That must make that plant very special to you.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, tree peonies can live up to 100 years so they will be giving pleasure long after I am gone. Meanwhile each year, I am eagerly awaitng them and counting the buds.

  4. What a beautiful post: history, a story, wonderful photos and gorgeous flowers! Thank you for showing the plants in place as it really gives one a sense of their size. It’s chilly and gray here and your Peonies have given me a perfect start to the morning.

  5. Sam says:

    Plants that you nurture from seed or are gifts from loved-ones are extra-special, aren’t they? These are absolutely gorgeous.

  6. Sam says:

    Sorry if you get two comments from me. My last one seemed to disappear. Anyway, these are gorgeous flowers. And I love your metaphor about nurturing plants from seed. It does make them extra-special.

  7. Cathy says:

    Definitely worth waiting for, Chloris, and of course you are quite right about the feelings we have for things we have grown from seed (and cuttings too) ourselves. Enjoy them all while you have them – how long will the plants flower for each season?

    • Chloris says:

      OK, they don’t last for very long, but as they don’t all come into bloom at the same time, the display lasts a couple of weeks. But before that you have the excitement of watching the buds swelling and then the seedheads with shiny black seeds and the foliage always looks good.

  8. bcparkison says:

    Be still my heart. I am in love with these beautys.

  9. Peter Herpst says:

    Luxurious blooms fit for royalty! So beautiful.

  10. Kris P says:

    I swear, without a single thought, a deep sigh emerged from my throat as soon as I saw the first photo of your peonies. The white-petaled flower in the 6th photo has completely stolen my heart. I’m somewhat comforted by your history of growing them from seed to flower, not that I’ve ever attempted to grow these from seed but because I retain the faint hope that, just given more time in the ground and perhaps another few good rain years like this one, I may eventually get a bloom. Getting as many blooms as those covering your shrubs would be too much to ask for.

    • Chloris says:

      I’m glad you like them. I am always drooling over the wonderful plants in your garden that I can never hope to grow. But with a bit of luck and some rain yours will bloom eventually.

  11. Glorious! I am certain I have never seen one of the Tree Peonies in real life.No wonder you love them. In some way blogging has inspired me to grow more things from seed and propagate plants, (an unfortunate side effect is feeling you must find homes for them all) so I understand and agree with what you are saying.

    • Chloris says:

      Growing things from seeds and cuttings is the most fun part of gardening. I never think about where I will plant everything. At the moment I have 100 seed grown dahlias and goodness knows what I will do with them all.

      • Laughing, I just rehomed 15 Bridal Bouquet Plumeria cuttings and 2 Lobsterclaw Heliconias! 100 Dahlias will be a real challenge for you. Have fun.

  12. Eliza Waters says:

    Fabulous peonies and even though you are modest, I’m impressed you’ve nurtured them from seed to maturity.

  13. March Picker says:

    Chloris, there are no adequate superlatives for these peonies! Thank you for sharing them with us. I agree that waiting years is not too long to enjoy these.

  14. Heyjude says:

    These are glorious – I love the white ones with the blotches, but I also love your pink and pale pink ones. My garden is too small to grow peonies so I shall just have to enjoy yours!

  15. Frog says:

    What to say ? Your tree paeonies are absolutely gorgeous. You must be so proud ! I just binned a herbaceous paeony that was not a good performer and was taking too much space. I am not a good paeony mamma ! 😉

  16. Cathy says:

    So lovely to see your peonies close up Chloris. You really should take more credit for growing these from seed! Thanks for sharing them with us. 🙂

  17. Glorious pictures. They are gorgeous. I’ve serious peony envy!

  18. Oh! They are stunning! You have such beautiful varieties. I love the lilac pink tones.

  19. Ah, they are heavenly, and that scene with the urn looks like it belongs in a magazine. I love the idea of floating the large Peonies in a bowl.

  20. Mrs Jane Halvey says:

    I didn’t know you could grow these beautiful tree peonies from seed sooooooo worth the wait to see them flower. I might have to explore getting some seeds myself and having a go as there is no way I can afford buying flowering size plants.

  21. Anna says:

    They are beauties Chloris. How well do the flowers stand up to rain?

    • Chloris says:

      I’m not sure Anna as we so rarely get any rain at all, never mind heavy rain. But as the flowers don’t all come out at once I imagine it would only effect the full blown ones.

  22. Oh, Chloris! Such beauties these peonies are. I hope your visitors enjoyed the garden. I bet they did.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Cynthia, lovely to hear from you. My first visitors are coming next Thursday so I am still beavering away trying to get everything looking its best.

  23. tonytomeo says:

    So . . . where’s the vase?
    I wish I could grow these. They do not get sufficient chill here. Some people grow them, but I can not figure out how. There does not seem to be any reason for them to do well in one garden, but not another just a block away. I suppose that our climate is just that marginal. Supposedly, they can be grown at the top of the Santa Monica Mountains above Los Angeles, but I have never seen it. I am not sure I believe it either, since I know what survives through winter there.

  24. snowbird says:

    Oh my!!! Utterly delightful!! I’m besotted with them all. Good luck with your garden visitors, what a treat they are in for!xxx

  25. Gorgeous! You should certainly feel a parental pride in the tree peonies you grew from seed, but they are all sumptuous. I think I love the white one best.

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