23 Peonies at the New York Botanical Garden, May 19, 2012

Riches and Honor peony

The official Texas Fireframe Co. blog has headed outdoors for the summer – as have many Texas Fireframe grates (for those who enjoy the beauty and warmth of an outdoor fire).  After posting a few spring highlights from my own (small) garden, I thought I’d follow up with a knock-out show of peonies from a truly world-class garden – one of my favorite places in New York City if not the  entire universe – The New York Botanical Garden, which I wouldn’t trade for all the shows on Broadway and all the paintings in the Met.  This garden boasts over a million plants, of which 23 are pictured here – all herbaceous peonies, which means they die completely back to the ground every year and spring back from tubers in the spring. (Tubers can be planted “bare root”  like a bulb  in the fall.)

Bartzella peony

Tree peonies, on the other hand, bloom from woody plants and show their massive, exotic blooms about two weeks prior to the herbaceous peonies. There are plenty of enormous blooms among the herbaceous varieties, however. I stuck my hand into a few shots to give a sense of the scale of some of these flowers with buds the size of golf balls. Take a look at the fully double Bartzella peony to the right. Then imagine half a dozen of them open at once. I think nature accomplished her goal of attracting pollinators. (If Nikons could pollinate, there would be no need for bees at this garden.) Be sure to click on the photos to see them full size, and then click again to zoom in for a butterfly eye’s view. These pictures don’t begin to do the flowers justice unless you magnify them with two clicks.  But when you do, please forgive the “hand model” who was working in her garden that morning and is definitely not ready for her close-up!  Above to the left is another luscious double peony; Riches and Honor was so laden with blooms, I lost count at 50.

Seashell peony

Most of the peonies are supported with peony rings and other devices that keep the stems from flopping down. Nothing is sadder than a fully open peony with its face in the mud. But you have to think ahead. Peony rings need to be put in place as the new stems begin to emerge, not later after the plant begins to bloom. An extremely large plant such as Riches and Honor  or Seashell will require more than just a peony ring. Tall stakes and plenty of heavy (green) twine may be required. Seashell is considered a single peony because a single row of petals encircles the stamens. You’ve got to click on Seashell.

Coral Charm peony

In between doubles and singles are semi-doubles such as Coral Charm – an unusual color among peonies. I nudged a bud into the shot so you could see the darker shade of the flower as it begins to open. Part of the beauty of the more open peonies is the contrasting color and texture of the stamens (not to be confused with petaloids – the burst of tiny petals in the center of Show Girl, Doreen and others).

I won’t get through these peonies very quickly if I ramble on like this, so without further ado, here are several dozen of the most beautiful flowers ever to grace a garden…

Chou-Dynasty peony

Scarlet O'hara peony

Bev peony

Many Happy Returns peony

Krinkled White peony

Madame Butterfly peony

Legion of Honor peony

Show Girl

Amalia-Olson peony

Fantastic peony

Bu Te peony

Doreen peony

Empress Wu's Yellow peony

Myra MacRae peony

Peony Heaven Hybrid Pink Double

Reine Deluxe peony

Unidentified peony

Red Red Rose peony

Krinkled White peony (close-up)

Waterlilly and Moss

Waterlilly and Moss literally draws you in for more. Click to enlarge, then a second click and a drag of the cursor has you hovering over the flowers like a hummingbird.  Video games should be this real. Rated M for magnificent.

For plant geeks, Peony or paeony is a name for plants in the genus  Paeonia, the only genus in the  flowering plant family Paeoniaceae. Peonies are native to Asia, southern Europe and western North America.

Near one of several peony gardens in the NYBG is the spectacular Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden which was also in full bloom Saturday. (Earlier than usual due to the warm winter.) I hope this one shot of Kordes Moonlight will tide you over til next year when I plan to post  photos of my favorite roses in the  garden.

Kordes Moonlight rose

This blog post is dedicated to my father – the inventor of the Texas Fireframe grate – who passed away six months ago today. He loved the New York Botanical Garden, located in the Bronx, NY – just a few miles from where he grew up.

Warmest regards,                                                                                                                     Nicole Cranberg

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