Blog Description

A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Under the Peony Spell

Thursday, June 28, 2018

P E O N I E S  

... cast a spell on flower lovers. 

As long as I can remember, I remember my mother loving peonies. And, her mother loving peonies. Hydrangeas and peonies. 

Now, my sister and I, are under the spell of peonies and hydrangeas and love them. 

Under the beautiful peony flower spell for generations

And, my aunts, cousins, and distant relatives twice-removed(?) loved peonies. All were under the spell of tissue petals that hang heavily, touching the grass, after a rain. 

Actual relationships are now murky after so many years. So many are no longer alive. How was I related to those women? Are they relatives on Mother's side of the family or Daddy's side? I see their faces, can recall their names after pondering a moment, hear snatches of past conversations, but how were we related? 

Regardless, they all loved peonies. My family has been under the peony spell for generations. 

Peony plants were pass along plants in the past

Peonies were pass-along flowers shared with family and friends down the street or from church. No one bought peonies in my childhood, either as plants or as blooms. No florists, no Trader Joe's, no online nurseries. 

Peonies were shared as plants. Dug up, separated by "eyes" of roots, and transplanted, knowing peonies take their time re-establishing and blooming after a move. 

Sort of like me... moving to a new city and settling into new friendships and jobs. All those moves in my younger years were hard. And moving as an adult due to my husband (military, college after service, his new job) were hard. Being the new math teacher, establishing my place on new faculties, being assigned the less favorable schedules since I was the new teacher, and then blooming in my second year with promises of teaching upper level math courses in my third year . . .  

Just to move again, and start all over. 

Maybe I am a peony. 

For 30 years I worked in the same school district, and feel my life made a difference. 

Under the spell of peonies my family mispronounced peony for generations

P E O N Y   P R O N U N C I A T I O N 

How do you pronounce PEONY? 

My Southern mother, grandmother, relatives, and church friends with their slow, deep Southern drawls said, "Pee-OWN'-knee."  Accent on the second syllable . . .  OWN . . .   Sounded like you were about to be urinated on your kneecap. 

Pink peonies in sunlight in the kitchen
Sometime, someplace other than Alabama, in my adult life, I discovered the dictionary pronunciation for PEONY. 

"Pee-uh-nee," and I stuttered, stammered, and struggled pronouncing the dictionary way for a long time. My mother sort of stopped pronouncing it at all. She was more torn between the pronunciations than I was. 

I have to say I like the dictionary version better; does not sound as offensive. And now, "pee-uh-nee" rolls off my tongue. 

Under the spell of peonies French gardeners developed new varieties of French Country flowers

T H E   F R E N C H   C O N N E C T I O N 

While there are two less-spectacular peony varieties native to the Americas, the peony BEAUTIES came from China and cast their spell in England sometime in the 12th century. Early American colonists brought peonies from home when they came to the New World. 

French gardeners in the late 1700s also cultivated peony varieties brought from England. Records from 1811 indicate Empress Josephine Bonaparte's royal gardens contained peonies.  

French growers from the 1850s worked together to create new varieties of lovely French country peonies which still cast their spells and are highly sought today. 

Modern day sources provide information for people under the peony spell

M O D E R N   D A Y   S O U R C E S  


by Jane Eastoe and Georgianna Lane

Beautiful photography with a full range of information about peony history, varieties, and growing care. The book is not just a coffee table book of beautiful flower photos (which it is), it is also filled with information. 

The American Peony Society's website naturally gives information about membership and usual organization details. In addition, the site has an extensive listing for sources of where to buy peony seeds and plants. 

Sources for peony blooms with tips for prolonging the blooms

P E O N Y   B L O O M S  

Local Businesses  Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, Sprouts 

These are places to buy peony blooms in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Peonies can also sometimes be found at Tom Thumb grocery stores. 


- If you buy blooms, choose flowers in the bud stage, not fully opened. The arrangement will last longer. 

- Set your arrangement in the refrigerator each night to cool the flowers which slows their growth. Be sure NOT to store peonies, or other flowers, in the same refrigerator area as fresh fruits and vegetables because the ethylene gases from the fruits and vegetables will affect the flowers. 

Keep cut peony flowers out of direct sunlight
- Sunlight on a peony arrangement is beautiful, but will cause the flowers to fade and die more quickly. Display cut flowers out of direct sunlight. 


Dropped peony pink petals
After my mother died and before her house was sold, my sister collected plants from Mother's garden to transplant in our Texas garden.  

The hydrangeas have bloomed, the wild wood violets, that hitchhiked rides in the pots of small redbud seedlings, have bloomed, but the white peony plants have not bloomed yet. 

The plants look healthy and have grown bigger for each of the past two years, but no blooms yet. Next year will be their third year, and we are hoping for blooms. 

See Peonies, Hostas, New Upholstery for photos of the last peony blooms Mother gave me from her garden. They were cut from the plant my sister later transplanted to our house. 

Are you under the spell of peonies, too? 

Do you have any growing tips, resource information, or a source for buying blooms? 


  1. I love Peonies and have two different kinds and two different colors. I do well growing them. I had 5 hydrangeas, but lost two this year. I just don't do well with them, but love them. Hopefully in the next home they will grow better for me.

  2. I love how you've drawn the analogy of yourself and the peony, Judith. I am slowly falling under its spell, trying my hand at my first root cultivar this year, hoping to transplant it in the fall. We shall see...
    In the meantime, I found a beautiful, small [faux] arrangement in acrylic water that leaves one guessing "is it real?" very inexpensively, and it has me smitten. :)

  3. I am also under the spell of beautiful peonies. And I'm going to keep pronouncing it like your Southern relatives and mine, too. I'm too old to change now! :o)

  4. Lucky you! It isn't cold enough here to grow peonies, and only recently have they developed a hydrangea that will take our summer heat. I've not planted any as yet, but hope to next year when we do a small remodel and add a courtyard. Thanks again for the heads up on my blog not updating. It seems to be working now. 😘

  5. Beautiful remembering. I have a fertilizer that has worked wonders on some plants in my yard that I thought were done. IT is Jobe's organic rose and flower fertilizer. I got it at Lowe's. I had a hydrangea that I thought was done. Hadn't bloomed in two years. I fertilized it this year and I got blooms. I also had some spider lilies that had not bloomed in years. They have all bloomed this year as well. You might try it.
    I like the Alabama way of pronouncing peony...maybe because that is my birth state.

    1. Sandy,
      We will have to try Jobe's organic rose and flower fertilizer for sure. Thanks for sharing about it.


  6. Judith, I LOVE your peonies! Pronounced correctly, now after reading your fun and informative post. I never knew a lot of this! I have hydrangeas and don't have any friends or family with peonies, so I'm sad to say I might be out of luck. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful peonies with us at the Thursday Favorite Things party! I'm featuring your beauties at tomorrow's party. I'm afraid I'm quite under their spell as well now.
    Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance

    1. Theresa,
      There is no better spell to be under than to be under a peony's spell. :) Thank you for featuring the post on your Thursday Favorite Things party.



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