Despite their all too short flowering season, the peony earns its keep in other ways – their large, splendid, glamorous blooms, fleeting by for a few weeks in spring and early summer.
Secondly, they’re great value thanks to the fact that plants can last simply decades before losing vigour and dying.
There are three different categories of peony available – ‘tree’ peonies (not actually trees but deciduous shrubs with woody stems that stay above ground all year), herbaceous peonies (the most commonly available, whose stems die back each winter), and intersectional (a cross between a tree peony and a herbaceous peony, with deciduous stems and tree peony-like flowers).
The latter are more expensive but the longest flowering, giving out blooms for a good two weeks longer than the others.
FACT: Peony plants can live to be 100 years old, and come in every colour except blue.
Tree peonies simply require a little pruning every year. Peonies are extra hardy and require little upkeep, and are well worth giving room in your beds to. They are easier to look after than roses and give equal amounts of impressive flower power.
All peonies like lots of sun, but don’t mind some shade, and appreciate fertile well-drained soil. Equally, in early spring all peonies will enjoy slow-release fertiliser around the base as well as a mulch of compost to help them along.
For tree peonies, trim old flowered shoots in summer and some older stems to the base in autumn. Support young branches with canes.
Deadhead herbaceous peonies after flowering, and to prevent peony wilt, cut down all of its old foliage in autumn and dispose of it carefully.
Make sure you plant intersectional peonies so their roots are fully covered up to where the branches start, and woody growth can be cut back in its wintry dormant months, too.
6 Beauties To Try
‘Shirley Temple’ – late-flowering ruffled white-pink herbaceous beauty. Height and spread: 85cm (33in).
‘Black Pirate’ – a tree peony with plentiful blooms of deep mahogany red. Height and spread: 120cm (47in) x 90cm (35in).
‘Bartzella’ – an intersectional peony with frilly, soft yellow large flower cups. Height and spread: 75cm (30in).
‘Cardinal Vaughan’ – saucer blooms of the brightest pink-purple. A tree peony. Height and spread: 120cm (47in) x 90cm (35in).
'Nigata Akashigata' – a sumptuous tree peony with white jagged papery petals and magenta centres. Height and spread: 120cm (47in) x 90cm (35in).
‘Sarah Bernhardt’ – seductive, ruffled pale pink classic herbaceous peony. Height and spread: 90cm (35in).