Thursday, January 20, 2011

Color Essay Number 5: It's a Pink Extravaganza of Peonies and Roses

It seems to me, that nature must love the color pink, because she dresses some of her most beautiful flowers in pink. 

I am embarrassed to admit that I do little to deserve the beautiful peonies that grow in my garden. A generous helping of mulch and an application standard fertilizer seems to prompt repayment well beyond what is owed for such a minimal amount of effort. 

I don't even stake the big floppy blooms. When they droop with the weight of early summer rains, I ruthlessly cut them instead. I bring the flowers inside, fill many wide mouthed vases and shamelessly enjoy the very subtle fragrance drifts up from each cluster of flowers.

This is a Cora Stubbs Peony that I saw at the Royal Botanical Gardens last 
summer. I have been thinking that it would be a nice addition to my family of peonies.

The forgiving ways of peonies do however have their limits. I have found out the hard way, that once established and comfortable in a garden spot, they do not like to be moved. There was a single petalled, pink peony in my back garden that pouted and refused to bloom for two years after I moved it. That will teach you, it taunted me every time I looked in its direction!

Peonies also demand full sun. I have put this to the test and can tell you that they protest a less than ideal location by not only going about the business of growing at a tortuously slow rate, they utterly refuse to be generous in their production of blooms.

I like to mix in flowers  like roses, weigela and spirea into my casual arrangements of peonies.

If the peonies in my garden are undemanding, my roses all but make more than up for it. They need winter protection, copious amounts of water, regular applications of fertilizer, and protection from insects and disease. Though I love the my David Austin roses they are the worst offenders. Despite the fact that I cover them during the winter months, these particular roses suffer through the cold Canadian winter only to emerge in spring looking defeated and forlorn. With a good deal of fussing on my part, they limp back into flower. Frankly, there has been many a spring when I have thought of ending this dependent relationship once and for all. Then when the roses open, all is forgiven.

I have been keeping my eyes open and my ears to the ground on the lookout for more hardy, battle ready roses. In a summer trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, I made mental notes on roses I might want to consider adding next spring. I figure, if they can make it through winter in this open park, maybe they would make good replacements for their more finicky cousins.

Here are some of my favorite rose pictures from last summer.

The Royal Botanical Gardens(RBG) in Hamilton has a large rose garden that is encircled by 
weathered grey arbors.

A hybrid tea called "Gemini" at the RBG in Hamilton.

A beauty from the Lucy Maud Montgomery garden. Sorry, we were unable to find an identifier. The David Austin rose "The Mary Rose" is very similar.

Planting more than one shrub rose can make for a spectacular display. RBG, Hamilton.

 This Hybrid Musk Rose called "Belinda"at the RBG was growing in part shade. I plan to order one from Pickering Nurseries for my own garden.

I like nontraditional roses that look like apple blossoms.

The "Alchymist"from the RBG in Hamilton.

Marjorie Fair Rose

I get more questions from passersby about this rose than any other in my garden. People usually think that it is some kind of new variety of hydrangea.

David Austin's Mary Rose

A great repeat bloomer this delicate pink groundcover rose is aptly named the Fairy.


  1. Peonies are one of the only flowers I miss being able to grow. I don't know if you remember I had that Japanese (?) one that looked something like the Cora Stubbs, only less frilly on the white part....I didn't even mind the freeloading ants that used to emerge after I'd brought the stems indoors! Your photos will be a lovely inspiration for my students doing colour essays and learning about different shot types. When is your book coming out ;-D?

  2. Such a lovely few moments spent enjoying the pinks of your garden! Beautiful shots.

  3. Ahhhh peonies and roses, it doesn't get more romantic than this! As always, I'm loving your photos and although the sun is shining right now, it's darn cold out so your pics help lighten the spirit!

  4. What beauties. They make me long for summer sun and color.I really like the looks of the Marjorie Fair Rose and the Gemini. I only had one peony in my garden a Sorbet until last year I planted a Celebration.I am hoping I get a bloom from it this spring.I have to hoop them up but they are worth the extra care. Thank you for all of the beautiful pinks today.

  5. I cut the few peonies in my garden as soon as the buds get big - I enjoy them so much more inside, where the passing weather is not a concern. Your photos are amazing! Have you tried any of the Canadian Explorer roses? I think they're supposed to be on the hardy side...

  6. I've only got one peony but really want to add more. They are such luscious flowers.

    Your roses pictures are beautiful. I have Alchymist and it has a very special place in my heart.

  7. hmmm, good to know about peonies dislike of being moved. I have one that is in a shaded location and needs to be moved. If it doesn't bloom after that I'll know why.

  8. All so pretty, they make me anxious for spring.

  9. Oooh, I love pink peonies!! I planted 3 bulbs last year. I can barely wait until they start blooming.

  10. Oh I'm loving all of your pinks! I used to have a pink Mary Rose in a previous garden...Maybe my angry farmgirl needs a little more PINK in her life! Your comment made me laugh!
    Happy Gardening~

  11. Jennifer, what a great display! Pink is my favorite color in the garden, but I think I have begun to say this about a lot of colors lately!

    I grew up with peonies flopping all over but now only have a single called Krinkled White, oh to have more room.

    I have Mary Rose and have ordered a couple more because I have lot two, they are not as hardy as they claim.


  12. I can almost smell these! Now I really can't wait for spring. My garden will not be complete without at least one peony. Maybe this will be the year. I appreciate you fussing with your roses - so beautiful. I added two, native wild roses last year - probably the only kind I will have the patience to keep. They both doubled if not tripled in size. I am hoping for blooms this summer – I, too, prefer the single apple-like blossoms. I cannot wait!

  13. Even on this cold and dreary day, those pinks are almost too much for my sensibilities.

  14. Lovely flowers. Fantastic photos

  15. Oh, gorgeous! I'm lovin' all that pink! Makes me want to haul out the catalogs and order more roses. :)

  16. I love pink!! I have it all over my garden! I love peonies and have a few in my front yard. I get excited as soon as I see their red tips poking through the soil. Gorgeous roses!!! You would probably love the big pink shrub rose Betty Prior. It has tons of apple blossom flowers that bloom like crazy in early summer and again later in the season.

  17. I was thinking of recommending The Fairy and there it was the last photo. You might consider Golden Wings or Bonica. Great photos of my favorite pink flowers.

  18. Hello,
    Would you be willing to allow the use of your Peony 'Cora Stubbs' photo for the website of a nonprofit plant sale in Minnesota, US? All proceeds from the sale go to the Friends School of Minnesota, and the sale is run by volunteers. We would appreciate the ability to use the beautiful photo and would gladly credit you.

    1. Hi Anna, I will be happy to let you use the image for the purpose specified. There are also great peony images in this post:


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