Old-Fashioned Peony Plants
There's something excessive about the beauty of traditional herbaceous peonies. Perhaps it's their dense foliage that emerges glossy and green each spring. More likely it's their flowers. Full and fluffy, peony blossoms are sometimes so big they must be staked.
The fragrance of old-fashioned peonies is exceptional, too--sweeter and lighter than honeysuckle but just as seductive, particularly on warm nights.
Grow your grandmother's peonies.
Paeonia lactiflora, the standard herbaceous perennial peony many of us remember from childhood, has long been a staple in gardens. If your grandmother grew peonies, they were probably standards.
Standards have soft stems that die to the ground in fall and return in spring, their reddish stalks looking like little horns as they poke through warm earth. In May, standard peonies erupt in lush beauty, producing fragrant flowers until June.
Although cultivars vary, most standard peonies are hardy in Zones 3-8.* They perform well in full sun or partial shade and prefer well-drained soil.
Place herbaceous peonies near entrances so that you can enjoy their scent. Grown singly or as hedges, they add beauty to any landscape.
Bombs & Doubles
Two types of perennial herbaceous peonies traditionally popular in the U.S are the bomb and double varieties.
Bomb peonies have large, flat bottom petals called guards which are topped by a fluffy snowball of petals. Two popular varieties include Laura Dessert, which is white with a touch of lemon yellow, and Raspberry Sundae, a mix of white, yellow and pink.
Semi-Double Peony Plants
Semi-double peonies have flat guard petals surmounted by a cluster of shorter, more upright petals.
The semi-double Edulis Superba, pictured above, is popular cultivar. It produces fragrant blooms with matching guards and centers in a lovely, deep pink.
Japanese Standard Peonies
Japanese Standard Peony Plants
Japanese standard peonies have centers that contrast in color with their guard petals. Not to be confused with the many Japanese hybrids available today, Japanese standards are just like other herbaceous perennials in that they disappear when the weather turns cold and emerge in early spring when the ground warms.
Bowl of Beauty, above, was first introduced in the 1940s and quickly became a favorite of many gardeners.
Not only are its flowers, with their pink guards and fluffy white centers, particularly beautiful, but Bowl of Beauty is also extremely fragrant. Its deep green leaves form a relatively large, compact shrub.
Single-petal standard peonies produce large, flat flowers with yellow centers.
Varieties like 'Krinkled White' can produce blooms as big as dinner plates.
'Tom Eckhardt' is a single-petal perennial peony that's easy to grow and gorgeous.
Hot pink and extremely fragrant, 'Tom Eckhardt' will form a lovely hedge for a cottage garden when planted in a row.
*Find your hardiness zone.
To find out which growing zone you live in, visit BackyardGardener.com for links to hardiness zone maps in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, New Zealand, North America, South America and the U.S.
About the Author
The Dirt Farmer has been an active gardener for over 30 years.
She first began gardening as a child alongside her grandfather on her parents' farm.
Today, The Dirt Farmer gardens at home, volunteers at community gardens and continues to learn about gardening through the MD Master Gardener program.