Today’s posy is made up of flowers and leaves from the lemon yellow tree peony and a beautiful blue brunnera. I think of blue and yellow as a classic springtime combination before the pinks and purples of early summer take over.
My brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ grows a shady corner of the garden, planted along with primroses, Welsh poppy, camassia and Solomon’s Seal. Brunnera is like an airier, more refined version of the wild green alkenet, but sadly doesn’t self seed itself around the garden quite so prolifically. Each flower has a finely lined white ‘eye’ which gives it a delicate starriness.
I only rarely cut peonies for the house – it just seems too extravagant. However these are the very last of the tree peony flowers, and they were blooming unseen at the back of the bush so I have sneaked a few into the house.
There are few different sorts of peony in my garden. The two tree peonies are tall – over 6 feet high and form two elegant architectural bushes with huge deeply serrated leaves. They bloom in April and the modest yellow flowers are replaced by fat podgy seedcases like giant peapods. These split to reveal shiny black marbles of seeds, which self seed all over the garden. I suspect the squirrels help them along, as they pop up in all sorts of unlikely places like in tulip pots and the middle of the lawn. The mature bushes I have are too big for the border but too beautiful to remove.
In late April my smaller tree peony comes into flower. Its shorter at only three feet high but has show stopping dinner plate sized pink blooms. The plant came with the garden and it’s my best guess that it’s a Japanese tree peony of unknown variety, although it could also be an intersectional peony as it looks similar to both.
It has been poorly for the last couple of years, growing healthily through Spring then random stems suddenly wilting and dying off. I suspect this is because the grafted rootstock has been sprouting from below the ground. I didn’t realise what was happening at first and merrily let the new low, bushy leaves grow and produce small, dainty flowers, which I thought were quite pretty without recognising the cuckoo in the nest.
When I read up a little I found out that most of these plants are grafted onto herbaceous rootstock, which can take over and leech the grafted plant of energy. This year I have been rubbing the low shoots off as they appear and mounding up soil around the base, hopefully the plant will recover with time. While I have only one flower this year it’s voluptuous and blowsy and looks like a Georgia O’Keefe painting.
Next month my herbaceous peony will come into flower – below is a photo taken last June of them in full flower. ‘Bowl of Beauty’ is currently covered with lots of fat buds, which in turn are covered in lots of little black ants. There’s an interested post about this on ‘In Defence of Plants‘ blog. The buds secrete a sugary nectar to attract the ants, which will then feed on the nectar but also pick off any small caterpillars and other pests which could nibble the bud. A diminutive bodyguard for my beautiful blooms!
Thanks to Cathy at The Rambling Garden for hosting the In a vase on Monday meme. Head over to her blog to see the other pickings.