Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Peony Flower

Red single Peony on Forsythia Hill
Is the Peony the perfect flower? It is very difficult for a plant lover to narrow the list down to just one Species but when thinking about how much delight a Peony blossom brings and weighing it against the others, it just might come out narrowly ahead. The top competitors in my garden are perennial Iris, Daffodil, Hibiscus, Lily, Daylily, Rose, Dianthus, and Primrose.
Pale Pink Tree Peony, 50 + yrs old in Ted's Cville Garden

Peonies are long lived, being recorded to live in flower beds for centuries. This Peony Garden article published by China Daily talks about plants over 100 years old and one 170 years old!

Top competitor, My Grandmothers Primrose, 50 + yrs old

Also long lived are Daffodils, Primrose, and Iris. I have some that my Grandmother planted 50+ years ago. I LOVE Dianthus and at one time collected it but they don't make it from year to year in my garden. Store away a little seed each year, from non-hybrids, to ensure you have a backup plan if they peter out.

Climbing Rose, Seven Sisters, on my trellis on Forsythia Hill

Roses are breathtaking and I have several, but once again, it all depends on the type of Rose as to its longevity. I tend to go for Climbers, Grandiflora, or Rugosa as for me they are easy to grow and require only pruning to keep alive and happy. Generally, if it does not have a glorious scent then I am not interested.

Faithful perennial Hibiscus, stunning in its own right
Daffodils are by far my favorite Spring bloomer and I collect them as well but most don't have the color variety or size like the Peony to make you GASP. Perennial Hibiscus is also a knock out plant that lives many years in the garden but it doesn't have the layers of petals like the Peony. Lilies and Daylilies come in all sorts of varieties and seem to last a very long time as well but I go back to the massive pillowy layers of petals in the Peony that brings out romance and reminds me of the finest of old fashioned floral arrangements.

This Double Peony head is heavy and will kiss the ground
My only complaint about the Peony is that often the big doubles get so top heavy they sink to the ground when it rains. To assist, I shake mine off and fluff them up. Also planting a few other clumps of Summer blooming sturdy plants in front of them helps to prop them up. That is one reason I lean toward the single Peony. It has less weight and is more upright. In my collection I have a Red and a single Pink that was my Grandmothers, planted at least 60 years ago and in appearance to the original Peony that all were bred from.

I don't have any Tree Peonies because they are so ungodly expensive but hopefully one day someone will want to share!

Glorious Single Hot Pink Peony on Forsythia Hill
After the Peony bloom dies, you can cut off just the bloom and leave the foliage (never cut this down because like Daffodils it provides needed energy for next years blooms) until it withers away. The leaves are actually very pretty as well and can provide a nice backdrop for small Summer bloomers.

What can outshine a faithful plant that returns each year, blooms its head off, and provides such delight. I would love to know!


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Historic Garden Week in Virginia 2014

Underground Monticello in the service area looking out.
Historic Garden Week in Virginia began with days of torrential rain but ended with ideal tour weather. If you are a hardcore gardener like me, a little rain never keeps you away from attending events during this special week.

As part of garden week, the University of Virginia invites visitors to the gardens surrounding the President's house on Carr's Hill and the Academical Village. This year a friend took me to a play for my birthday and prior to the event walked over to Carr's Hill. We laughed as we passed by the large kitchen window and caught President Teresa Sullivan washing dishes dressed in her standard issue business attire. I didn't have my camera at the time but thought that would be such a great shot. Who knew the President of UVA washed dishes! She didn't even notice us, as there are so many passerbyers during Garden Week. A little while later we saw her at the play we were attending which explained why she was not "dressed down" whilst scrubbing dishes at the kitchen sink.

Monticello when the rain let up, Tulips, Tulips, Tulips!
Next on my hit list was to attend a lecture and tour of the Restoring Monticello's Kitchen Road, a project partly funded by the Garden Club of Virginia. It was pouring rain to the point that my eyeglasses fogged up and water was dripping down the top of my nose. I was drenched but I'll jump at any opportunity to be on the grounds at Monticello, regardless of such trivial things as looking and feeling like a wet rat. The architectural historian, Gardiner Hallock, was a good sport to take this group of hardcore gardeners on this trek.

Beautiful statue and purple Tulip at Rosalie.
The indoor lecture was well attended and while outside there were breaks in the rain to allow me to snap a few photos. The ongoing restoration will include extending Mulberry Road back down toward the Barn, rebuilding a Slave House, restoring the Weavers House, and reconnecting the original pathway between the service areas and the formal house. If you have followed my blog about the Levy Lions, the area that is being restored is in the vicinity of where the Lions once stood. Of course I took the opportunity to do a little side research while I was out and about.

Beautiful urns adorn the entryway.
Yesterday we headed out early to tour Lexington where 3 homes and 7 gardens were open for visitors. It was a glorious day with temperatures moderate in the 70's. Skies were blue and gardens were bursting with new Spring growth. All gardens were immaculate.

A secret side pathway from the back garden to the front.
There were no rough edges on these pristine gardens. Even wooded, hidden pockets of secret spots and work areas were tidy and obviously well tended. There were historically important gardens on the tour created by well known Garden Master, Charles Gillette. Blooming in the various gardens were beautiful Iris, purple Tulips, Azalea, Hosta, Dogwood, Solomon Seal, pink Trillium, and sweet scented Lilac in various colors. On Stonewall Street we found a huge Climbing Hydrangea that must be simply beautiful when in full bloom. The masses of Peony at Castle Hill marching up the pond hillside were ready to pop.

Entryway into the Charles Gillette Marshall St garden.
It was impressive to see homeowners interested in preservation of two historic Charles Gillette gardens. We moved from our historic family home and yard that I toiled in for 20 years and I have great respect for any homeowner that has appreciation for the past. At Castle Hill we loved the preserved boxwood maze and strolling the estate grounds. The carefully scripted self guides along the way were a nice addition.

A fun moment during the tour.
We really enjoy tours where you can walk from garden to garden instead of driving. Lexington fit the bill, we walked between all gardens for the exception of one, which was Ok because we stumbled upon an old historic greenhouse along the way where we purchased plants.

Our garden club hosts were cheerful and helpful - even the snacks and punch were delicious and we had a few laughs along the way.

Flowers for fresh arrangements made by club members.
After checking out a few Thrift Stores and making some detours, we were back at dusk, exhausted but happy to have explored beautiful Lexington and the homes of fellow gardeners. Thank you Blue Ridge Garden Club for a lovely event!

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