Peonies and red poppies make an entrance

red charm peony

This peony is always the first one to bloom, and it is the most fancy variety I have in the garden. This is the peony I’ve been photographing every week–

red charm peony shoots on March 31

it started out at the end of March like this. I love peonies, and I think I like the buds more than the flowers. The peonies I have come from various places–a few from a pricey but high-quality nursery called Klehm’s Songsparrow, and some from the Potsdam Agway. The red charm peony came from Miller’s Farm in Hopkinton, a wonderful nursery run by local folks. I was buying a pink peony and the owner thrust the red charm into my hands and said, “You want this one.” He was right–it always wows.

red charm

Many of my peonies came from my sister, and a half dozen are from “chips” I took with a shovel off the edges of venerable old peonies from my parents’ yard–they were there all during my childhood and are probably 75  or even 100 years old. I also have about a dozen from what I call “the falling down house” across the street. With the owner’s permission, I’ve taken columbine, lemon lilies, lady bells, yellow iris, phlox, and peonies from what was the front yard and is  now a shrubby woods.

a peony rescued from across the road

The row of peonies were spindly, leggy, anemic looking, certainly originally planted in the sun but now languishing in the full shade of a row of large maple trees. They bravely sent up one or two blossom each Spring. One by one I brought them across the road in buckets, where they promptly grew ten times bigger.

So, the other drama in the garden

big red poppy–worth the wait

is the poppies– not the orange kind that I have thousands of, but the larger ones. It has taken me four years to find the right spot for them, where they would survive the winter.

I went to visit my sister last week, and here is how the herb wheel is looking these days:

Jeanne’s herb wheel on May 25

One thing that impressed me about the herb wheel is the open space between the plants. She used lots of mulch, and put in no paths–she just wanders around between the plants.

herb wheel with birdbath

I like it that you can see each plant–it’s quite different from my riotous cottage-garden style garden, where you need a machete to get through half of the time.

southside garden

So this morning when I worked on the meditation garden I kept that in mind, and left more space between plants. I weeded out the volunteer phlox and violets, tore out the old and molding forget-me-nots, and dug out most of the narcissus that need to be separated. Then I planted some lavender and mulched it all. Jeanne is coming to visit tomorrow–she’ll see the result of the herb wheel inspiration.

Iris are also very showy right now. This one is actually in Jeanne’s garden, but I have some of this same kind.

dark purple iris

Like peonies, I like the buds as much as the flowers.

iris bud

Yesterday I was working at the bottom of the front yard re-setting, watering, and mulching the “Old Ironsides” astilbe collection I got from White Flower Farm and planted several weeks ago. My husband’s grandkids were visiting the other day and decided that one of the astilbe plants really needed to be dug up and replanted. They got as far as the dug up part but didn’t quite get to the replanting part. It looked very sad by the time I found it. Also, it has been very dry and all the astilbe needed some attention. So I ended up re-setting all 12 of them. I lifted them, dug them deeper holes, filled the holes with water, set the astilbe in the puddles, firmed in some dirt and watered again. This morning all of them, even the one that had the kid encounter, are looking cheerful as can be. I didn’t take a photo but I also saw a luna moth–whenever I see them it seems that they’re too exotic and beautiful to be real–like they should be in a tropical jungle somewhere. And speaking of insects, the swallowtail butterflies are all over–must have hatched recently. And the usual bumblebees are around–here is one on the comfrey, which is blooming now.

bumblebee on comfrey


3 thoughts on “Peonies and red poppies make an entrance

    • Hey Val! I thought of you when I wrote that, actually, hoping you wouldn’t worry about it. I tried to write about it light-heartedly, reflecting my lack of concern about it. I didn’t mention the place where they had removed a few (really heavy for small people!) rocks from one of the low rock walls, and decorated the rocks with a red magic marker. I thought it was kind of artistic of them. The rocks were easy to re-set, and the stranded astilbe recovered perfectly. Their dad was busy painting the house, which looks terrific! D. said that he had decided not to bring the kids again, though, because it was too hard to keep track of them while working. I don’t want to have the kind of garden where dogs and kids are unwelcome–this doesn’t bother me in the least!

  1. Dearest Anne: So much beauty here and in the posts I just read to catch up. Wow! Those peonies. And I’m thinking we might plant some astilbes and clematis along a fence and would love to learn more there. Happy belated birthday, gal! I hope it’s a great year. And thank you so much for the kind things you wrote about me and my blog in the post from May 23. I was/am extremely touched. And above all, thank you for sharing all this beauty and knowledge with us. These photos are great–must hear about your new camera! Happy gardening. I’d love to sign up soon for an afternoon tour and cup of tea. xx Natalia

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