While my back was turned we somehow ended up in the middle of peony season. Now I am in a rush to celebrate before the show is all over. Peonies are indeed some of nature's most gorgeous flowers. Their size and vibrant colors can be almost overwhelming. As cut flowers they can add fragrance to our homes in addition to visual beauty.
But while their beauty makes us gasp, they can also make us gnash our teeth in despair. Their sins are notorious:
They flop -- and it is hard to admire a beauty who insists on staring at the ground.
Second, we are not their only lovers.
Ants, too, find them irresistible. Woe to any who fail to inspect their blossoms before bringing them indoors.
But worst of all, their lives are fleeting. We are lucky to experience more than two weeks of glory before the display is over. Sometimes not even that if a good thunderstorm comes along at the right time.
In short, the life of a peony-lover is at best bitter-sweet.
Nothing can make a peony what it is not, but there are a few steps we can take to ease the pain.
I keep the ants at bay with a combination of boiling water and cayenne pepper.
There are also a large variety of hoops and cages dedicated to fighting flops. My answer to this problem, however, is different. I am a passionate advocate for the tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa). This shrub form of the peony has a woody stem that simply will not flop. Tree peonies are expensive and sometimes have to mature two to three years before producing their first bloom. But once they flower there is not a more spectacular bloom on the planet.
Finally, for those of you who are really obsessed, it is possible to more than double your peony season by researching carefully. Different varieties of peony bloom at somewhat different times, so if you pick your cultivars well you can end up with a rolling cascade of flowers that lasts several weeks.