Peonies in their prime. Winterthur, Delaware

Winterthur, Delaware, 2008 – 2019.

Legacy of Henry Francis du Pont, 1880-1969, American. 

 

The peonies are in flower now.  This year we won’t see them.

 

 

This peony garden  – upper and lower – at Winterthur was created in the mid-1940s. 

 

 

 

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In the upper garden a few irises have been planted at the edge of the peony beds in memory of those removed when this garden was created.

 

 

 

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Herbaceous and tree (woody) peonies.

 

 

 

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These benefited from the hybridizing work of the American peony pioneers, A.P. Saunders (1869-1953).  And the Pennsylvanian, J. Franklin Styer (1900-1996).

 

 

 

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A business heir of the Styers told me in the summer of 2019 that herbaceous and tree peonies have themselves now been successfully crossed.

 

 

 

 

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Winterthur’s upper peony garden is a lawn with a gazebo and peonies planted on its edges, overhung with lilac and beauty bushes in an enclosure of tall canopy trees.

 

 

 

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The upper peony garden with the beauty bush trailing 

 

 

 

Steps lead down to a roadway. Crossing it,  you reach a rectangle: the lower garden:  three stepped platforms.

 

 

 

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The lower peony garden in very early Spring

 

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The lower peony garden in May

 

 

Peonies grow in beds edging this rectangle, one of which overhangs it. Peonies fill the middle platform.

 

 

 

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Along one outside perimeter of the rectangle and also in the upper garden are planted Lenten roses. They bloom very early in Spring. 

 

 

 

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Lenten roses after flowering

 

 

 

As early, the ephemeral glory-of-the-snow with the promise of deep summer sky in the soil of the first growth of the peony plants.

 

 

 

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The beauty of these peonies are matched by their evocative common-and-garden names: Mystery, Hesperus.  Some of these plants have no names but accession numbers only.

 

The name of the species itself a reference to Pæon, the doctor of the Olympian gods, a disciple of Asclepias: 

a reference to the use of the peony root for medicinal purposes in more than one civilization. 

Their beauty a continuing balm.

 

 

 

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A peony named for the evening star, Hesperus.

 

 

 

The bushes are dead-headed when the flowers fade. The seed pods cannot be easily used to generate a new plant.  These are mulched.

 

 

 

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Winterthur is comprised of gardens in parkland.  There is also land used for agriculture.

The gardens are designed to flower in successive waves; linked by one man’s thinking over decades about growing and showing flowers.

 

 

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I find the peony garden the most peaceful of Winterthur’s gardens.

 

The beauty of peonies is extravagant.

Nothing edgy about them, unlike roses.  Not spear-perfect like tulips.

Sometimes a little too heady for their own good.  But always generous in their promise and their mature flowering.

 

Always extravagantly beautiful. Often voluptuously so.

 

I love peonies more than any flower except, perhaps for poppies which seem to be peonies in modest structural form.

And the fussy, fabulous mountain laurel which is as a god to us in Pennsylvania because it is the state flower.

 

 

 

Mountain laurel Mt. Cuba June 2015-6

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2 varieties of mountain laurel.  Mt. Cuba, Hockessin, Delaware

 

 

 

That said, we are missing the peonies this year.

 

 

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The peony as a form of the sun

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Peonies, Winterthur May 22 2015-15

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Peonies piled up in the entrance hall of the museum

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Fresh flowers at the front door of Winterthur’s museum.  This comprises 175 rooms of the decorative arts of the Eastern US,  1640-1850.

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Peonies, Winterthur May 22 2015-09

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Peonies, Winterthur May 22 2015-14

Peonies, Winterthur, May 2014-20

 

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