Monday, March 27, 2017

Spring Plant Sale Preview: Dazzling Peonies

Paeonia 'Coral Sunset.'
By Annie Yang
Photos by Jason Holmes

Native to Asia, Europe, and western North America, peonies have fascinated gardeners, botanists and plant enthusiasts for centuries. Scientists have identified dozens of species, all known for impressively beautiful blossoms in a vibrant array of colors. Fortunately, peonies are hardy as well as attractive, and they can make a colorful addition to any garden or household bouquet.

Below are four peony species we’re excited to bring to you at our Spring Plant Sale this Saturday, April 1, from 8 a.m. to noon. Gardens members get 10 percent off all plants at the sale, as well as first dibs via our Member Preview Sale on Friday from 4-6 p.m. Urge your friends and family to join as well, so you can shop together! Learn more about the sale and membership here.

Paeonia 'Coral Sunset'

Gazing upon this gorgeous peony variety, visitors will notice the coral of ruffled petals gently melting into pale pink or white, enclosing yellow stamens at the center. The vibrant, colorful bloom is reminiscent of a warm, summer sunset. Just one look will make it clear how Paeonia ‘Coral Sunset’ earned its name.

Every spring, ‘Coral Sunset’ puts on a bright display. An early bloomer, this peony is especially suited to North Carolina, where springs are short and the summers are hot. Durable and long-lived like its peony cousins, this variety faces few problems with pests and is drought-tolerant once established. Give the plant well-drained soil and partial to full sun, and ‘Coral Sunset’ has the potential to thrive for decades in your garden.

Don’t be discouraged if miniature sunsets don’t light up your garden immediately. Peonies take time to establish deep root systems. But patience is a virtue, and ‘Coral Sunset’ will come back year after year to brighten garden borders and bouquets.

Paeonia 'Armani'

With a name inspired by the high-end fashion brand, Paeonia ‘Armani’ flaunts an elegant, dark red flower sure to stand out in any garden. ‘Armani’ distinguishes itself among peonies for boasting some of the darkest reds in the family; double flowers bloom in the late spring to early summer before deepening into a rich burgundy.

You may think that this beauty requires a high level of maintenance, but ‘Armani’ is actually quite easy to care for — just make sure to provide the plant with enriched, well-drained soil with partial to full sun. Don’t forget to trim old stems to keep the plant healthy. As a bonus, this perennial is tolerant to drought, and it attracts butterflies but resists deer and rabbits.

The showy ‘Armani’ also makes an exquisite cut flower, a trait especially convenient given that cutting is one way peonies reproduce. So, don’t be afraid to whip out some scissors and snip at these beautiful blooms in your garden, because they will be back!

Paeonia ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’

Paeonia 'Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt'
A refined, sophisticated flower, Paeonia ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ exudes grace and charm. Gentle, soft pink and creamy white flowers unfurl into an almost waterlily-like arrangement — a sight to behold! It also has a lovely fragrance. ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ was introduced in 1932 and has continued to delight gardeners into the 21st century.

The pastel color would may suggest that the blossoms are delicate, but ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ is another tried-and-true peony — durable, long-lasting, and vigorous. The plant is deer and rabbit resistant, virtually pest-free, and attractive to butterflies. Another low-maintenance peony, it will be perfectly content with enriched, fertile, well-drained soil and partial to full shade. The gorgeous blooms can be relatively large and heavy, so ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ will appreciate some support or shelter to keep the rain from weighing her down.

This peony can function well within many different garden roles: it shines as a specimen plant or in groups, as a walkway or driveway border feature, or as  informal hedges. ‘Mrs. F.D. Roosevelt’ is also, of course, an exquisite cut flower, certain to stand out in any floral arrangement and captivate the hearts of many.

 'Felix Crousse'

Paeonia ‘Felix Crousse’ was introduced to American gardeners in 1881, and it is easy to see why the variety has remained popular for so long. Magenta to raspberry hues combined with a silvery sheen and an inviting fragrance have made ‘Felix Crousse’ a crowd pleaser and showstopper for generations.

As with other peonies, maintaining the durable ‘Felix Crousse’ involves relatively little hassle. Fertile soil and partial to full sun will help this perennial thrive. Keep in mind that the brilliant flowers are so large that ‘Felix Crousse’ may require some support in heavy rain to prevent them from arching toward the ground. It will be useful to find a sheltered spot in your garden for ‘Felix Crousse’ to settle down in, but don’t let the extra care dissuade you from cultivating this classic garden flower.

Consider combining  peonies with roses or other perennials in your garden to create riveting color patterns. ‘Felix Crousse’ blooms in the late spring to early summer, and growing this peony with varieties that have different bloom times can extend your peony season for more than an entire month of captivating flowers.

SPRING PLANT SALE: Saturday, April 1, 8 a.m. to noon. Free admission & parking. Please bring wagons/carts and boxes if you have them.

MEMBER PREVIEW SALE: Friday, March 31, 4-6 p.m. Sign up or renew your membership online in advance or on site. Your support helps Duke Gardens preserve the Duke and Durham communities and visitors from around the world with educational programs and nationally acclaimed horticultural design. Thank you!

Blogger Annie Yang is a Duke freshman and a work-study marketing assistant at Duke Gardens. Jason Holmes is the curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens.

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