Plants - Perennials

Peonies on parade

With careful planning, you can extend your enjoyment of garden peonies for up to seven weeks

Flower forms
Herbaceous peonies range in colour from white to yellow, coral to pink, and red to maroon (there is no blue). Most doubles are more fragrant than singles, while pinks tend to be more fragrant than reds. The flowers are classified into the following groups.

Single: Five or more wide petals arranged around a centre of stamens with pollen-bearing anthers

Japanese: A double form made up of five or more petals around a centre of stamens with non-pollen-bearing anthers (staminodes), which resemble a soft mound of small petals. Sometimes called “anemone-flowered” when the stamens in the centre have been transformed into narrow petal-like petaloids

Semi-double: Five or more outer petals arranged around a centre consisting of broad petals and pollen-bearing stamens

Double: Five or more outer petals, but the stamens have been transformed into petals that make up the bulk of the flower. As a result, most double-flowered types are sterile

Seven weeks of bloom
Single-bloom types, which don’t need staking, start the peony season and are dominant in the first three weeks. Weeks 4, 5 and 6 encompass about 85 per cent of the cultivars and represent the blooming period that we commonly enjoy. Late ones that bloom in Week 7 tend to be doubles or semi-doubles. Here are just a few of the peony cultivars available.

Week 1 cultivars
'Little Red Gem': red, single
'Nova': pale but distinct yellow colour, small, single

Week 2 cultivars
'Early Scout': dark red, single
'Laddie': red, dwarf (30 cm tall), single
'Rubra Plena': red, double

Week 3 cultivars
'Claire de Lune': ivory-yellow with deep, almost orange anthers, single
'Early Glow': pale yellow with golden centre, single
'Early Star': opens pale yellow and fades to ivory; golden centre barely hides red-tipped stigmas, single
'Firelight': large, flat, rose-coloured blooms with darker pink flares; single

Week 4 cultivars
'Cytherea': large, cup-shaped, rose-pink flowers; low-growing; semi-double
'Mme. de Verneville': white, with crimson-accented centre crown of petals, double
'Paula Fay': vivid pink, semi-double
'Red Charm': dark red hybrid, double
'Scarlet O'Hara': red, large, single
'Sea Shell': satiny pink, single

Week 5 cultivars
'Diana Parks': carmine-red, the most fragrant red, double
'Festiva Maxima': popular old cultivar, white with crimson flecks, double
'Mandarin's Coat' P. Lactiflora: rose-pink petals surround sparkling gold centre, Japanese form
'Minnie Shaylor': white, large, semi-double
P.L. 'Miss America': white, semi-double
P.L. 'Westerner': light pink petals with yellow staminodes, Japanese form

Week 6 cultivars
'Ann Cousins': white, large, double
P.L. "James Pillow': pale dusky pink with rows of tightly packed petals hiding lemon yellow centre, large, double
'Martha Bullock': pink, flat, double
P.L. 'Sarah Bernhardt': rose-pink, double
'Shaylor's Sunburst': white petals around golden centre, Japanese form
P.L. 'Sword Dance': red, Japanese form

Week 7 cultivars
P.L. 'Glory Hallelujah': vivid rose-pink petals accentuated by silver tips, double
P.L. 'Marie Lemoine': white flowers on compact plant, large, double
'Marilla Beauty': blush-white, large, double
'Sinbad': red, tall, semi-double

Top photo: 'First lady' (week 4 or 5) by Tracy Cox


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