Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Garden: Tree Peonies

The tree peonies are blooming in my garden!
When we moved into our little house a dozen years ago, there were many existing flower gardens. One of them had this odd looking, scraggly bushes with old branches. Thankfully I just let them be, because these ugly stick bushes turned out to be tree peonies.

The tree peonies are often one of the first things to bloom each spring, usually around this time of year which just happens to be my birthday month. (I always think I am lucky to have a birthday that happens around the time of peonies, lilacs and lilies of the valley bloom in the garden.) After heavy snows during winter a few years ago, my poor tree peonies suffered some damage. Luckily, they have recovered nicely and rewarded me with many blooms again.

These flowers are so very, very fragrant! You don't have to stick your nose down into the flower to get their intoxicating scent -- just stand a few feet away and it's heaven. It's such a treat to wait for the school bus with my daughter each morning and be rewarded with the perfume in the air.

The blooms are really, really large -- pancake size -- and full of these delicate petals. Tree peonies are different than herbaceous peonies. Herbaceous peonies are plants that grow and die back each year on green stems, while tree peonies are just exactly what their name states -- trees, albeit more like a small shrub. You can think of it like a hydrangea.

Another tree peony from my garden -- a sweet shade of light pink.

In Connecticut, we are lucky enough to have a nursery that specializes in this wondrous plants. Cricket Hill Garden is also known as "peony heaven" and celebrates the blooming season by encouraging visitors to come see its many varieties in bloom. The tree peonies are planted on a small hillside and their blooms are protected from the sun by charming Chinese umbrellas. The plants have their roots in China, and the nursery is very knowledgeable about the history of tree peonies as well as its care. Tree peonies should be planted in your garden in the fall, so if you would like to add these gorgeous blooms to your yard, make note of the fall planting.

Many years ago, Martha Stewart visited Cricket Hill Garden and shot a magazine cover there. I can't find the image on the Web, but her website has many links to information on tree peonies as well.


  1. I also love peonies. I try and plant one each year. You are right, they smell AMAZING.

  2. A peonie's petal is as delicate as a piece of tissue, and even softer! They do give off indeed, one of the most heavenly natural smells. God bless, and happy gardening!!

    -Oscar Valencia