“So Krsna says, punyo gandhah prthivyam ca. When you smell something very fragrant… Just like in the flower. There are different varieties of flower, and they are exacting different varieties of aroma from the earth. So the good smell of the flower… In some other place it is said in the Bhagavatam that the…, when you see flower, you see Krsna smiling. That is the seeing of Krsna smiling. Therefore the flower should be utilized for Krsna’s service. Because these flowers, everything, is Krsna’s energy.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.26.44 — Bombay, January 19, 1975

Earlier in the year I was hunting for some plant I wanted and stumbled unto a nursery that specializes in peonies and has over 600 varieties. The choices were bewildering so I asked the owner to make recommendations based on the parameters of being early and late bloomers, to spread the season, and being very fragrant. Based on that I ended up buying 3 new varieties.

Chestine GowdyAahh! What a wonderfully fragrant, late, full double. With a bright rose pink center and guard petals separated by a collar of cream colored petals it creates a unique effect. 26″ tall. In a bouquet this is just heavenly for the fragrance. Use it generously along a fence for a plentiful supply of blooms to share with friends and family. Plant in full sun.

Burma Ruby: APS Gold Medal and 2009 APS Award of Landscape Merit Winner! A single, bright red hybrid with a little purple in the background that gives it an extra brilliance, very early blooming. A generous bloomer with large petals forming a cup shape set off by the deep green foliage. The added bonus is it has a pleasant fragrance too! Plant in full sun in well drained soil.

Pink Hawaiian Coral:  Semi-double, fragrant salmon-pink to coral with a cupped shape bloom. 34″ stems. A late-mid-season bloomer. This hybrid peony won the APS Gold Medal in 2000 and received the Award of Landscape Merit in 2009.

Peonies are great because they have tremendous flowers early in the year long before the annuals make a show. Deer don’t bother them, which is a major consideration here in West Virginia, so they can be planted without being fenced.  Peonies, along with iris and day lilies, are sometimes referred to as the ironclads — relatively easy to grow, long lasting and reliable flowering.  Once planted in rich, well drained soil, the only care peonies need is removal of the foliage in the fall to prevent disease incubation. I do top dress with compost in years I have the energy to do so.

I already had a row of about 14 peonies and am happy with that amount. I have a few of a white variety the name of which is lost in the sands of time, but it is very fragrant. The rest came from divisions that my sister-in-law sent me from my mother’s garden where they have been happily pumping it out for more than 50 years.

I dug three of my mother’s peony progeny and divided them into about 40. I was a little surprised how dense the root structure was as they had only been planted 4-5 years ago. I split them using the criterion of 3-6 “eyes” per division. Then I got on the phone list calling everyone I knew that  does some gardening until I found homes for them all.

While it will be a few years until the new peonies mature enough to divide, I do hope to expand their numbers if they are as brilliant as their descriptions promise.  As with most perennials, it is “first year sleeping, second year creeping, third year leaping” and apparently 5th year plenty of divisions to propagate. Not that I have any surety of living that long, but just in case I do I will have something to do.

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