This spring our lilacs weren’t spectacular, but the peonies outnumber any year in our garden’s history. Planted in 1922 and 1926, a sea of peonies, single pale and magenta pink to frilly pink (plain or with cream centers), deep magenta, peppermint, cream, white and white with flecks of magenta, cascade over borders and tips of triangular beds.
Normally, my husband and I tie them up the Friday afternoon before the Preakness. Because of steady rain this week, we did not do it until Preakness Day. Everything was too wet on Friday to wade through the beds. The next day, while some were out partying in the infield, we stepped carefully around sprawling bundles of peonies with our hands full of green twine, scissors and bamboo stakes. Like deadheading the daffodils that precede them, this has become a rite of spring.
My reward when finished was to admire the tidiness, then go inside and arrange a bundle I’d cut in the morning, before the heat opened them. I’ve learned that if ant-covered globes are too tight when cut, they’ll never open inside. And this year, because some stalks had so many buds, I cut only those with one per stem. Never do I remember dozens of stalks with five buds. Three is usually the most we have on one stem.
With the massive surrounding boxwoods gone around the peonies, they’ve had more sun. The rain and snow of the past two winters has also helped the elements converge to produce a bumper crop we won’t see soon again.