I HAVE A NUMBER OF SPECIES PEONIES, meaning NOT the big-flowered hussies of garden popularity but their wild, and more discreet, cousins. Two versions of one such species have shown off so far this spring, with several more kinds to come. Want to see?
Just to be clear: I love herbaceous peonies, or P. lactiflora, the blowsy, fragrant lovelies of most late-spring gardens. But I don’t grow them in my mixed borders; I relegate them to a cutting area, where I have enough for many, many vases-full (but not even one-twentieth of the number Martha has!). I might have 25 plants, all of them from our old friends the Klehms in Illinois, and they’ll bloom in another couple of weeks. But what I am loving at the moment in the garden (not the vase) are peonies the way nature made them.
Paeonia mlokosewitschii, more easily referred to as Molly the Witch, is “usually” a beautiful pale yellow, and enjoys a spot in a shady, woodland garden. My very big, old plant of nearly a decade ago, purchased at an auction at a botanical garden party where everyone had apparently had one too many cocktails and didn’t notice it (meaning: I got it really cheap), literally disappeared a few years back. Up and left, mystery never solved. But I had seedlings left behind, and friends have since brought more first-year plants that I have plugged in around the place among hostas and ferns and such, so they are coming on finally into adulthood. Molly the Witch gets to about two feet tall, and is lovely from its first hint of emerging foliage, tinged as it is with a little (or a lot) of red.
What happens sometimes, though, is you don’t get yellow flowers at all, as in the photo below. Seneca Hills Perennials explains this phenomenon in their listing of the plant, and some of my babies came from there. The extra redness in the leaves more than makes up for the fact that the flower isn’t yellow. Celebrating diversity, one species peony at a time.
Update: Another species peony bloomed in late May and early June, in case you’d like to meet it, too.