A fine silver peony by Anne Choi, my favourite bead maker.

California peony.

Athena, a Saunders peony.

Duchesse de Nemours.

It is time to plant peonies. My choices, Duchess de Nemours and Baroness Schroeder, date back to the mid-eighteen hundreds. That happens to coincide with the period when French hybridisers released more than a hundred Noisette roses into the global market. West Virginia is not Noisette country. They need warmer climate such as that of South Carolina where Philippe Noisette brother grew the first Blush Noisette from seeds of a cross between a pink China rose and R.moschata. White, fragrant Sombreuil is an exception to that rule. It grows beautifully in Zone 6 and I suspect that Gloire de Dijon would do fine if planted next to a wall with southern exposure.

Good old Festiva Maxima partners my Sombreuil well–my Gloire de Dijon is still its infancy–but just as one can never be too rich, one can never have enough peonies. The good thing is there is a huge variety from which to choose. The bad thing is that there is a huge variety from which to choose. Peek at Klehm’s Song Sparrow catalog and you will see how easy it would be to fling caution to the window and order a truckload of, say, Saunders’ Athena. Multiply sixty dollars by a truckload and you might be flirting with insolvency. It might be more sensible to pick Coral Charm, which costs only twenty four dollars. But either is a good investment. Peonies multiply and they usually outlive those who plant them. What better legacy to leave than a lovely peony border?
Gardeners who prefer all American plants might want to look at California peonies, one of our native species. I have no problems with immigrants. French, Japanese, Dutch peonies are all welcome in my garden. I am currently eyeing the yellow Bartsella, an Itoh peony. It would look lovely with Gloire de Dijon.