I was blessed to have a lovely neighbor and dear friend in my life for many years. Flo’s light of love and wisdom brightened so many lives during her 100 years in this world. Now she shines down from above through our memories. One such happy memory was when she shared a start of one of her gorgeous tree peonies with me. I had grown herbaceous peonies for years but had never had a tree peony. I was ecstatic at the prospect of huge crepe paper petaled blooms in the future.
I sited it in my south facing foundation bed, keeping it well watered for the rest of the season. Spring arrived and I watched in eager anticipation for new growth to emerge on it’s woody stem. After a few seasons of less than expected growth and seeking Flo’s advice she said “maybe it’s too hot next to the foundation.” So, out came the shovel. I moved it to the center of the newly-dug Island Bed, being careful to site it where it would receive the same amount of sun as the parent plant.
A few more years passed with only minimal leaf growth and absolutely NO flowers. By then it was 2012. The previous year had brought us -22 degrees in February followed by a long dry summer and a high of 118 degrees in August. I lost several full grown shrubs in 2012 due to the previous summer’s heat and drought. My little straggly peony wasn’t going to be one of them as long as I could help it.
Once again the shovel came out and I prayerfully moved the peony farther west in the Island Bed where the Chinese Pistache tree offered it a bit more shade. I wasn’t ready to give up on this special token of love given from one friend to another.
Over the next few years, I nursed it along, giving extra water and covering it on the frigid spring nights and eventually it began to fill it’s stems with lush foliage. Then, a few years ago it set on bloom buds. None opened the first year. Just as it had with the leaves, after a couple of years the buds began to open to a surprisingly beautiful deep pink color. It had been so long that I had completely forgotten if the parent plant was a white or pink variety.
When Flo’s daughter sold her mom’s house, she dug up the parent plant and placed it in her yard in Manhattan. Sadly, it did not survive. I have tried saving seeds for her from my plant but so far they have not sprouted. I’ve collected them soon after bloom, let them dry on the plant first, stored them with drying tabs and without, chilled them and stored them at room temperature. Nothing so far. I’ve even offered to dig up my plant and give it to her, for which she kindly declined.
So, for now what I call Flo’s Persnickity Peony lives happily in it’s third spot. This Spring it rewarded my efforts with 8 beautiful blooms which I shared with a couple of friends. It’s not always easy to know when to give up on our persnickety plants. This is one time I’m so glad that I didn’t.