Tree peonies are the blessing of my garden and perhaps yours as well. When the weather is finicky, I spend the winter checking to see if they do not bud out too early. While other gardening friends worried about too much rain, I thought, it’s ok my tree peonies need a drink to get through the winter. Winds, a little snow, and a ring of mulch to protect anything that might unfurl before it’s time.
Surviving in less than perfect regions of China, Paeonia suffruticosa is the botanical name for the tree peony. The difference in tree peonies and herbaceous peonies are significant. The herbaceous peony will die back to the ground. Paeonia suffruticosa does not have this trait. In fact, the winter appearance looks like sticks standing 3 – 5 feet in the garden. The longevity of the tree peony is simply amazing. I remember visiting the boyhood home of Woodrow Wilson in Staunton, Virginia. There I found a beautiful stand of tree peonies on the property that are over 100 years old. This truly speaks to their strength. The woody stems help the tree peony survive through the winter madness to show off her frilly blooms in early spring.
Last fall, I had contractors doing work on the exterior of my house. The tree peonies were in their natural autumnal state of sticks in the garden. If you do not know what they are, one might not know how cherished the blooms are in the Spring landscape. My tree peonies came from my Fredericksburg garden 15 years ago. Every Spring they dance in the border like no one is watching. As the buds swell, I patiently await their unfurling. Little by little, it is like a daily striptease in my front border. Every year the bloom count increases.
SURVIVAL OR DEATH BY CONTRACTOR?
I was worried that my tree peonies were doomed when I noticed that the contractors were not aware that they are my joy in the Spring border. My contractor did not know plants and was not aware of my passion for my garden. Today, the first day of daylight savings time, I could see that my tree peonies are just like me – stronger than I ever imagined. After being trampled on, laid on with a ladder, and who knows what else, I came home to see my prayers answered.
As I looked closely at each of them, I mentally reflected on their journey from the loving border in my Virginia garden.
In my Maryland cottage garden, the tree peonies are holding on to help usher in a new year in the next garden season.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I celebrate my tree peonies because they are like strong women who have endured much and still survived. Here’s to Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Fannie Lou Hamer. Each of these women prevailed, survived and left an example that no matter how beaten down you are, no matter how dim hope might appear to be…only the strong get up, bounce back, and continue to survive.
I am a tree peony. Are you one as well?
Planting seeds of hope,
Teri, From the Cottage in the Courtby
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