Tree Peony and White Feather

Once again out in the early morning, camera at the ready, looking for something of interest before the daily weeding occurs. Every day this week the newest bed, one half is the black garden, one half is the white garden, has been attacked on bended knees. The winter weeds are flowering and seeding like crazy. They must be dug before any more seeds are flung into the bare earth of these beds. There is bare earth here because the plants and shrubs are still small, most planted last year, some new, some moved from other parts of the garden to follow this new color theme. Why didn’t we mulch here last fall? Before we begin the arduous task let’s run up the hill to the knot garden and beyond. Behind the boxwood hedge and in front of the split rail fence that fronts the row of Osmanthus fragrans, sits the white tree peony. The tree peony, name unknown, purchased in 2002 from WalMart in a box bareroot for fifteen dollars, is showing white on one of the buds just today. We will have to keep an eye on that one. Needing a break from the repetitive motion of digging after about two hours, a trip up the hill to the tree peony shows some progress is being made on the opening of the petals. Alarming progress, for the day is warming quickly. That means the flower will open and fall apart all in one day. Luckily there are about twenty or more buds left still held tightly by the green outer skin on the bush.

As predicted, after two more hours, the flower is open, but the inner parts are held close. I need a ginger ale. And some lunch.

That is enough weeding for one day, the temperature has reached almost eighty and the area being worked is in full sun. We don’t know if this flower will be here tomorrow, so she needs to put her best face forward. Are you ready for your close up?

Now what is that trick about putting your hand behind the flower to focus on it? Oh, you say that you are supposed to remove your hand before snapping the shutter? But I want to touch those crinkly petals.

Does she look better from the right?

Or is her left side the best? Any way you click on her, she looks pretty good.

Meanwhile, down by the pond, behind the Garnet Japanese maple are three hostas given to us last year by daughter Semi, thanks Semi. Semi is the name she chose to be referred to after reading one of the posts about how we bought this house for our semi-adult daughters to live in while attending college here. She thought that title to be funny and adopted the name for herself. Sort of odd, but that’s the way she is. Back to the hostas, their name is White Feather and the photo in the catalog showed them to be all white. Last year they actually came up all white, then turned to straight green. This one can’t decide whether to go green or try white.

The middle one has a little lighter coloring.
They all are in the same dappled shade, although it is more sunny right now before the leaves are fully opened on the larger trees in that part of the garden, river birches and let’s not forget our dear walnut tree hung with numerous vines.

This is the lightest of the three, and the little piece on the left is a solid creamy color. It shall be observed whether any of the three hostas become more white as they leaf out, or must start out as white to be worthy of their name.


There are storms predicted to come across our state sometime today followed by a cold front that will cause a drop in our nearly eighty degree days down to the forties and fifties. That is fine for someone with lots more weeding yet to be done. But the night time lows in the low thirties are cause for a slight panic as the dogwoods, azaleas, and tree peonies, among many other plants, are in the midst of their once yearly bloom. There are too many things that should be covered, so our usual solution is to cover nothing and hope for the best. The seedlings and greenhouse plants are safely inside. Any losses will be shouldered with stoicism, unless it is a repeat of last year. Then you will be hit with a deluge of crying and wringing of hands for another whole year. That should get your thoughts onto the task of helping us avert that sad consequence. Ready now, all concentrate your powers on that cold front to take it easy on us this time. Thank you for your support.


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48 Responses to Tree Peony and White Feather

  1. Zoë says:

    I now have tree Paeony envy! I have 4, all quite juvenile still although one is promising me a flower this year, theres a bit fat bud growing.

    Love the photos, which one is she?

  2. Frances, says:

    Zoe, thanks. Name unknown on that one. So far we lose three out of every four purchased,an expensive situation, just lost another one this year, it has not leafed out, due to the drought we had last summer. I have learned that the tree peonies need regular water when small, lots of watering, and mulching. They are most drought tolerant when larger.

  3. Gail says:

    Good morning,

    She is a beautiful flower in profile and straight on. I have one tree peony and it’s in the wrong place, have you moved yours?

    You are so right, there is too much to cover and uncover if we have more than one night of frost.

    We can’t have a repeat of last year…


  4. tina says:

    I am concentrating real hard! Like last year I will be out of town this weekend. I came home (from up north which did not suffer as much damage as Tennessee) and saw nothing but blackened crepes and Japanese maples. Much crying and wringing of hands here!

    Your pictures are beautifully taken, and the peony too. Mine lasted a few days in the greenhouse but I that is fine. Are your tree peonies fragrant? I am wondering why they seem so much more fragrant than the other peonies.

    Thank you for faving me on Blotanical. I visit there and have tried to fave people but it only like let me do one and that was not what I wanted so I deleted as I didn’t want anyone to feel slighted. I don’t really understand that site much at all, though I occasionally check it. Thanks so much! I saw some pics of you at the spring fling, along with Gail. Wow, that was quite an event! I am going to try to drive to Chicago next year if they have one there. I couldn’t believe all the work the Texas people put into it and it was well planned. Too bad Layanee couldn’t make it. ttyl

  5. ourfriendben says:

    Hmmm, I actually like the non-white ‘White Feathers’, Frances! Maybe I’ll try to find them for my garden, to keep ‘Elvis Lives’ company. And of course I think tree peonies are the highest form of plant–with perhaps the exception of water lilies–but have never dared to plant them here at Hawk’s Haven because I’ve seen what happens when it rains on them too often. Those poor flowers! And now you say they need water as well. Guess that seals it for me, unless I could grow one in a stately container. But thanks for the vicarious view anyway!

  6. Dee/reddirtramblings says:

    Frances, that was so good. I love reading your writing. It makes me sigh with contentment.

    About that cold front. It is hitting here too. I’m only going to cover the Mandevilla I bought and planted. Yes, silly me, a Mandevilla. I had to have it. It was a lovely deep red. Everyone else in my garden will just have to buck up.~~Dee

  7. chey says:

    What a wonderful post! I love your photos of the tree peony bloom from all angles:)! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Nancy J. Bond says:

    The peony is gorgeous — the colors in the center are so striking against the white. Everything in your garden looks so fresh and green!

  9. GardenJoy4Me says:

    frances … that is one stunning white flower .. a tree peony to boot ! .. I only just planted a peony last year, not a tree type .. but I did go for the single red flower so it would not droop so much after the rain .. I know it takes time for these gorgeous plants to mature .. yours is amazing !
    White Feather hosta .. I don’t have one but a friend does .. she loves it .. even though the slugs do too.
    I have a thing for “blue” hostas .. and yes .. Blue Mouse Ears is on my list this year !
    Wonderful photos !

  10. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Your Tree Peony is so pretty. I don’t blame you for wanting to touch it. She looks beautiful from any angle.

    Our hostas are beginning to look like real plants not just stick ups.

    Our garden isn’t too far behind yours now. The buds on our tree peony are getting fat. The cold front will keep them tight for a couple more days I would say. It is to get down to 34 this weekend.Brrr that sounds cold now.

  11. Frances, says:

    Gail, thanks. I have not tried to move them, and have not had good luck even keeping them alive at all. Mucho dinero spent and only three living out of eight bought!

    Tina, I will have to check about the fragrance, usually I smell everything but all I am doing now is weeding! The Spring Fling was so well put together it was astonishing. I think a lot of people will come to Chicago to see what they missed. Keep the concentration going, please.

    Elly, thanks, they are exquisite though fleeting. I love that name ‘Elvis Lives’!

  12. Frances, says:

    Dee, thanks for those sweet words. Buck up is the perfect term to sum up our message to the plants.

    Chey, thanks and glad you enjoyed it.

    Nancy, thanks, that contrast is amazing. It makes the white a lot more showy. My other tree peonies are red and purple, the red has a bud, the purple is still small. I will check to see if their innards are as colorful.

  13. Frances, says:

    Joy, thanks. Does your friend’s white feather come up white? I want the blue mouse ears also. My best blue hosta is halcyon, do you have that one?

    Lisa, it amazes me how quickly your garden has caught up to ours, even with our earlier beginning and your flooding. Think warm thoughts for us all.

  14. Annie in Austin says:

    The white tree peony that we left behind in Illinois was almost a twin to yours, Frances – even to the 20+ buds – but mine never had a chance to star in a blog post ;-]
    This was a lovely celebration of an all too ephemeral flower. Thank you.

    I hope you and the garden make it through the storms undamaged.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. Frances, says:

    Annie, thanks. It sounds like you miss your old garden and home very much. Did you know the name of your tree peony? When I try and look online to identify mine, they all are so similar it can’t be done.

  16. brokenbeat says:

    so what you’re telling me is that i need to somehow combine my rain dance with my frost freedom dance? hmm. well. umm. yes. okay. i think i’ve got it. here we go.

    *arms flailing, feet tapping, hips shaking, singing joni mitchell, trying my best to hit the high notes, “sitting in a park in paris, france.”*

  17. Frances, says:

    Brokenbeat, oh yeah, you can get with me Joni every darn time! She is in my blood like holy wine, taste so bitter, and so sweet.

  18. Annie in Austin says:

    At this time of year I miss peonies and lilacs so much! Mine was also an unnamed bargain, Frances – maybe $8 for a really small plant at a nursery – it took a few years to bloom. My one hellebore bloomed for the first time when the ‘For Sale’ sign went up.
    On the other hand, I’m not digging up cannas each fall to store in the basement ;-]

    Thank you for the sympathetic ear,

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  19. Frances, says:

    Annie, anytime. When we moved to southern Calif. from PA, I had just started really gardening, instead of being pregnant and nursing all the time with four kids. I didn’t know a single plant that was growing in the garden that came with our house, former home of the president of the geranium society. I ripped stuff out and planted roses and azaleas. She came back to see the garden and was horrified! I didn’t know. TN is perfect for what I want in a garden, tulips and lilacs and peonies, but also rosemary and crape myrtles, and azaleas.

  20. tina says:

    frances, I visited a garden this morning that was about three acres, very big and more formal than what I am used to. She had TONS of tree peonies. Very mature specimans. Not blooming yet but in full bud like your pics. She is the President of the Tennessee Federation of Garden Clubs, so I guess that make sense. She also had tons of herbaceous peonies. I still haven’t planted mine and am afraid too.

  21. Frances, says:

    Tina, wow, that must have been some garden, I can’t even imagine lots of tree peonies. I think I planted mine bare root about this time of year. If yours has been inside, I would wait until later next week, anyway. BTW, the smell of the tree p. was kind of musty, not unpleasant, but not sweet either.

  22. Layanee says:

    Like a time lapse video your peony unfolds! White is so rich and pure. Lovely flower and post.

  23. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    I’m thinking you left your hand purposely in that shot to show how big that flower is. It is lovely. My tree peony is just starting to sprout. Yes, warm spring days are not the gardener’s friend.

  24. Frances, says:

    Layanee, thanks, that was the desired effect!

    MMD, I really just forgot to move my hand, not used to doing it that way. It didn’t seem to matter with the photo.

  25. Linette says:

    The tree peonies are beautiful! We’re supposed to get part of that same storm, sounds like some violent weather. Our temps have finally been spring like, now it’s back in the freezer. Just when I finally have daffodil blooms:(

  26. artistsgarden says:

    Lovely post – I know that feeling of checking on a flowers progress through the day. I want a tree peony now after seeing yours.

  27. Frances, says:

    Linette, welcome and thanks for stopping by. It is raining now but so far is less of a storm than predicted. Now we shall see about that cold front. Hope your daffs survive.

    Karen, Hope you can find a nice tree peony. Remember to water it well!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Ahh the beauty of white. I hope one day my tree peony will bloom! 20 buds that is amazing. I hope your hostas stay white this time. The joni frost feedom dance is on!! Love semi

  29. Meems says:

    frances, love the way that peony opened up for you and you progressively snapped it in your day long gardening. It is a beautiful bloom… no peonies this far south… sigh… again. I know what you mean about wanting to ‘feel’ the crinkle. And btw, it looks good from every angle.

    I do hope you don’t freeze with the cold front. Selfishly, I’m glad we will get some rain and cooler weather from this one… it is supposed to reach us by Sunday. Way too hot down here already.
    Have a great weekend.
    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

  30. jodi says:

    Exquisite creature, the tree peony. I don’t think she HAS a bad profile, do you?
    I hope the weather isn’t too rowdy, Frances. Now I flip from Canadian weather station to check CNN or other network to make sure that twisters and so on aren’t ravaging my southern/central gardening buddies. It’s a worry that I never gave a thought to a year ago.

  31. Frances, says:

    Semi, yours has made it through the first crucial years so it should. I wonder what color it is? Joni was put in the player right after brokenbeat’s comment.

    Meems, we need the rain also, and a little cool down will hold the blossoms on the plants longer. We didn’t have a severe storms here and now await the cold snap that is to come. Think Joni!

    Jodi, not Joni, or can you sing too? You are so right about paying attention to things now A.B., after blogging, that were not before. I watch what is happening in Canada on the weather…Oh Cana-da, with your face sketched on it twice…oh sorry, the kids have me in Joni mode.

  32. Marie says:

    The Tree Peony looks amazing! Beautiful photos!

  33. Blackswamp_Girl says:

    Oh my, Frances… what an absolutely gorgeous white peony flower!

    I had to giggle while reading the comments here, though. It reminds me of something I read in the smaller edition of (I think) Dirr’s Woody Landscape Plants book. It was the first line under Tree Peonies, and I’ll quote it as near as I can:

    “The care and cultivation of tree peonies is largely shrouded in mystery.”

    🙂 Whatever you’re doing with the white one, though, appears to be working just fine!

  34. herself says:

    Wow, I love those photos on a black background, what a great color scheme for your garden blog.

    I’m seeing so many cool things visiting all the other Spring Fling bloggers blogs.

    It was great to meet you there.

  35. Robin's Nesting Place says:

    That is a lovely white bloom on the tree peony. I have one that has never bloomed. I moved it last fall and I see growth. Hopefully it will bloom this year.

    The cold has moved in here too. Hopefully it will be the last cold snap.

  36. Frances, says:

    Marie, thanks, glad you stopped by.

    Kim, thanks, Dr. Dirr is a very wise man. The only thing I remember about that tree peony getting different treatment is that I set a watering can next to it up on the hill to remind me to water it.

    Linda, thanks and welcome. I like the black background too, others are fancier but I like the way it makes the photos stand out. It was great to meet you too, happy gardening in The Woodlands!

    Robin, thanks. Maybe your tree peony will be happier in its new home and give you a bloom. We feel good here just to see life in them, I see the dark red one next to the white is dead. It bloomed last year.

  37. Melanie says:

    Hi Frances, hopefully the weather front doesn’t hit you too hard. I’ve spent two days weeding and transplanting and tomorrow we are supposed to go down to 36 degrees. That’s awfully close to a freeze and my place tends to freeze before anybody around here. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

    The peony is stunning!!!!!

  38. Frances, says:

    Melanie, thanks. The rain came through, about one half inch, not bad storms, high winds are bringing in the cold now, hunker down!

  39. tina says:

    Holy smokes! You are easily going to hit 50 comments for like the 10th time? Good job! It is freezing up here in Evansville. Absolutely freezing. With a cold wind, but I would think the wind would help keep the freeze away. I am still concentrating….Don’t want to go home tomorrow to find the same thing as last year. Not enough tears can fix it.

  40. Amy says:

    I’ve read about tree peonies but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a photo. So lovely! I hope your plants survive the colder nights 🙂

  41. Frances, says:

    Amy, welcome and thanks for stopping by. I hope to still be able to offer shots of the tree peony after the next couple of cold nights!

  42. Piondröm says:

    What a beauty!
    We have it to but our is a small plant and I think we must wait several years to see it in bloom.
    Very fine pick on Your Peaony,we just love them.

  43. Frances, says:

    Ken, thanks, glad you stopped by. We have been lucky with this one, several others have died, including an expensive yellow one. Now we have the big white, a dark red with two buds, and a purple that is just a stick, but alive. Patience is needed to grow these, and also persistance.

  44. Benjamin Vogt says:

    Oh lordy, last year’s late freeze was awful–I’m only now realizing how it apparently hit the whole country. Nothing seemed to bloom, and nothing seemed as vigorous. Please, no, no, no late freeze this year in my new garden! My semi-adult garden!

  45. Frances, says:

    Benjamin, how true. HA to your semi-adult garden. They keep changing the forecast, making it colder and colder, Tuesday being the worst night, as of tonight.

  46. Frances, says:

    Tina, so sorry your comment was not answered in order, it did not appear in my email, it was sitting in limbo on blogger. It has been pretty cold here too, you may be home by now. Tonight is the night. Think warm thoughts!

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