Gardening Nana — Peony Memories
Writer / Nancy Craig
My mom always had fresh-cut flowers from her yard on our dining room table. Some of my favorite bouquets were of lilacs or peonies, with their wonderful fragrances that trigger fond memories. Another childhood memory is taking bouquets of peonies out to the family graves on Memorial Day. One of the oldest peonies (an ancient species known since 1581) is the ‘Red Memorial Day.’
The peony plant is not native to Indiana, but it is such a part of the history of American gardens. The colonists brought over the peony, Paeonia officinalis, as plant starts that had medicinal uses. Later in the 1800s, the plant we are most familiar with, Paeonia lactiflora, was brought over to the U.S. For information on the types of peonies and how to plant them, see the Purdue University Cooperative Extension publication The Peony: State Flower of Indiana by Michael N Dane and B. Rosie Lerner.
Peony flowers have such grand names like ‘Festiva Maxima’ or dramatic ones like ‘Sarah Bernhardt,’ but also fun ones like ‘Fancy Nancy’. I’ve given my great nieces, Lindsey and Lauren, the book Fancy Nancy: Tea Parties by Jane O’Connor, which has an “alfresco” tea party chapter. Since my niece, Elaine, the twins’ mom, lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, we will be taking our tea party out to the Peony Gardens in the Nichols Arboretum, which is operated by the University of Michigan. See their web site for a detailed plant database on peonies.
After the tea party we will have the twins pick out a favorite peony flower to plant in their own garden to create more peony memories.
The Gardening Nana
Nancy loves flower gardening almost as much as she does her great nephews and nieces. Her interest in gardening intensified while living in Holland and was perfected with Master Gardener courses.