up and down

Can we talk peonies? I’ve always kind of shied away from peonies. They just seem so loud. So boisterous. And so unpredictable. One minute they’re in fabulous display, hollering “look at me! look at me!” and then, after just the teeniest bit of wind, they’re a hot mess. Petals everywhere.

I acknowledge that one of my hang-ups with peonies actually goes way deeper—to a reluctance over pink. I’ve never really embraced pink. That is, until I got nieces. They’re teenagers now and are no doubt sorting out their own issues with pink. But back in the day, life was pink! Pink, pink, pink. Everything was better with pink. And for the first time in my life, I kinda fell for pink.

Not that all peonies are pink, but they do own a fair share of the market. Being fond of pink only helps their case.

A few springs back, I was in Winter, Wisconsin, browsing a killer nursery, smack dab in the middle of nowhere (google it, and go if you’re close), not even remotely considering a peony purchase, when my eye caught the tag of a mostly leafless plant. I was mesmerized. I wasn’t standing in the Winter Greenhouse anymore. I was sitting cross-legged on the warm brick patio of my childhood back yard, bad haircut and thick glasses, watching the ants march dutifully up and down the stems of our one and only peony bush. Up and down, up and down.

I have a lousy recollection of my childhood. I’m pretty sure the childhood itself was happy (save the bad haircuts), but the details of it are hazy. So when I get a random, vivid memory, it always kind of shakes me. Our peony had the classic white blooms with big, sunny yellow centers. And I spent a lot of time watching it, creeped out and captivated, all at once. Up and down, up and down.

Next thing I knew I was checking out and there was a ‘Gold Standard’ peony in my cart. Not the most exciting choice in Winter’s lineup of peonies, to be sure. But this was the one. This was the plant that completed me. I’ve never been so excited to get home and transplant.

It went so well that I went back to Winter the next spring for a second, flashier, pale pink number, ’Pillow Talk.’ And it too sends me into the garden, brimming with anticipation and optimism.

So imagine my delight this spring when my sister-in-law called to offer me divisions from her mother’s, mother’s peony patch (both dearly departed women whom I love and admire). I’m so pleased to have a piece of this heritage in my garden. But I’m still a little startled by my new love of peonies. I’ve even started following peony_addict on Instagram. It’s easily one of my cheeriest feeds. I guess I’m finally ready for unapologetic, frilly pink.

All this said, I still wrestle with my peonies’ overall manners. I have a brand new rock-walled garden bed outside my front door, currently taking applications. But I hesitate to move a peony in. It’s a small space. What will happen, I wonder, when a peony throws up all over it?

But then I know. Life is what will happen. Beautiful, unplanned, haphazard life.

4 Responses to “up and down”


  1. 1 Pat Juett June 27, 2017 at 7:44 am

    Fun to read from you again. I do not know when my peony love affair started, but I can’t have too many in my gardens. A friend said to me that astilbe is god’s perfect plant and I agree(one of) because its’ foliage is beautiful and after the fluffy flower comes it stays itself till the bitter end. I think peonies are like that too.I have year round supports around mine and they behave amidst all the randomness. Best of all I use the leaves in bouquets, they hold other flowers in place and last a long time. Mary Rehwald wrote a poem about peonies, I wish I could remember it exactly but she related the blossoms to a womans’ breast; the tight buds opening to fecund glory and then the sagging!
    I bought a tree peony at the Winter Greenhouse a few years ago that has a Japanese name. It is truly magnificent, a lavender color. I do not deadhead, the seed pods are too fascinating.
    I was at a wedding recently and peonies abounded. I brought home one of the table bouquets and they have flowers of the most deep ruby color. When I get one and it gets big enough I will share it with you! NOT pink.
    O.K. going the that instagram site now.

  2. 3 Mark June 28, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Nice post pig. Keep writing.

  3. 4 Ella Bella June 28, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    So true, so now, ever changing us.


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