Saturday, 10 September 2016

Tree Peony Developments

The circus has come to town; the brass band is playing its jauntiest tune. The big fat cymbal-clashing trumpet-blowing moment has come on a windy sunny bright spring day, all gusts and blustery and warm get the picture, I was pretty excited that a metre-high stick was alive (alive!), sprouted leaves and now covered in luscious white blooms. We're talking Mum's tree peony again (Paeonia suffruticosa, or Moutan (or Mudan (which means `male red' in its home of China where it's been used in gardens since around the 4th century but in medicine for longer)), and counting the annual growth spurts, it's about 35 years old. But I'm still pinching myself that this huge branch (with its little rootball attached) has not just survived the move - luckily in the cool months - but thrived, developing 9 fat buds with these five fine satin-sheen flowers opening on a day warm enough to be Melbourne Cup Day.

Mum loved to sit in her comfortable chair and gaze at her flowering peony (as elderly Chinese gentlemen were wont to do, gardening legends have it), its silky milk-white petals opening to show the crimson blotches, lordly, not ugly little marks like the blemishes on most Cistus, but lovely, proportional features rendering this aristocrat ever more elegant.

Maybe I need to pop a chair near this magnificent plant...and sit...with gratitude.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (

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