May is the month that peonies really make a statement in the garden. But before the named hybrids begin to bloom, we welcome the diminutive species peonies. The first in our garden is Paeonia tenuifolia, the Fernleaf Peony.
This European native would be worth growing just for its ferny foliage, but the early red flowers are pretty showy, too. It likes limey soil, so we do need to add lime on occasion to keep it happy in our acidic soil.
Next to bloom is Paeonia mlokosewitschii, the Caucasian Peony. Another peony of short stature, this peony has lovely foliage and cheerful single yellow flowers.
This one is happy with our heavy, acidic soil, and every year the clump gets bigger.
Our third (or maybe first, since it was the first species peony we got) is Paeonia veitchii, Chinese Woodland Peony. This one likes partial shade, and is so happy in the garden that it self seeds. It is fun to have a peony that will bloom in less than full sun.
In another few weeks, the hybrid and tree peonies will bloom, with their enormous flowers. For now, we’re enjoying the smaller ancestors and their smaller blooms.