Sad and Happy Peonies

Sad Peonies

Hot weather has put the kibosh on my peonies, which had bloomed gloriously, but are now in tatters, and there are few things more dejected looking than peonies past bloom–they actually look sad, almost suicidal. So yesterday I went out with my pruners and put things to rights. Gardeners get nervous about things like pruning and deadheading, worried that they won’t do them right, and that someone will find out. I try to be relaxed, given that plants have lived on this earth for millions of years without gardeners taking care of them, and they apparently did fine. I have come to feel that pruning and deadheading are often aesthetic choices, and you can make the choices you want–I won’t tell!  At any rate, I clipped off the dead peony blossoms and the  plant looked much better immediately, except you could see the clipped stem ends. Then I grasped the stem and reached into the bush and cut more of the stem off, right above a leaf cluster. When this was done, no ugly stem ends showed, and the entire plant looked bushier and happier, almost elated. Then I watered and dug in a bit of compost.

Happier Peonies

Reality check: I see peonies used as landscaping material all the time–sometimes rows of peonies line walkways and driveways, looking glorious for about a week and then trashed for weeks after. Peonies are better as specimen plants to be appreciated for their rather brief, glorious blooming, and then to retire decorously into the garden background. The patterning of their glossy foliage is quite handsome.

4 thoughts on “Sad and Happy Peonies

  1. Oh, Lord, Fran – there are two things I won’t do in the garden (OK, three, but this is a family blog, I’m sure!! : ) ) and they are ROSES and PEONIES. Peonies are in the prima donna category as far as I’m concerned . . . gorgeous briefly, but quite needy. Somewhat like your wonderful description of delphs in your “Midwest Cottage Gardening” book: “Compost, please! From HOLSTEIN COWS!! What are you thinking?” Anyway – to each her own – I for one will not put up with these divas!

  2. I have to put in a word of defense for peonies, because every time I see them blooming I forgive their shortcomings, and I do like their foliage which stays good throughout the summer. And I would miss them if I didn’t have any! So I will keep tidying up after them. Fran

  3. You know, it’s strange – when you said “good foliage”, I was puzzled because I never considered their foliage. Ironically, I’m ALWAYS on the lookout for plants with good foliage because it’s what we see most of the season!

    Hmm . . . I believe this is a case of “plant prejudice” in ME! As I think a bit more, the dynamics of prejudging others are pretty similar: focusing on the imperfect (or “different” in the case of people) and not considering – seeing – the whole, which probably has a lot to offer!

    I may go out and get a peony!

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