denis wilson's peonies (pictured: a gardener) detail of a peony flower
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This is Denis Wilson's Peony diary. Please click the photos for a larger view.

November 2005 (13-23 Nov)
November 2005 archive 1 (2-12 Nov)

September 2005 archive
October 2005 archive

27 December 2005
End of the Peony season

The season for peonies is well and truly finished in Australia. It is now after the summer solstice, very hot, and the Peonies are trying to rest to prepare for next year. A few flowers which I deliberately did not cut, have seed pods formed on them, but whether or not they will produce viable seed is not clear yet.

I wish to thank Anni Heino for the inestimable service of hosting this web-page for me, and for starting off the whole idea. I was away in Canberra at the start of the Peony season, completing a course of chemotherapy, and was unable to be here to see my Peonies flower. So Anni offered to put up the web-page for me, so I could see the flowers. And she took the early photos herself, sometimes under difficulties - with me describing, by email, which pile of weeds to look under to find a particular plant.

The chemo treatment finished. I came back to Robertson, took many of the later photos myself, and Anni continued to upload them onto the site, to share with the world. Such a friend!

I have since started my own Blog site, where I will be commenting upon events in the natural world around Robertson. Mostly these are comments about plants and animals, but occasionally I stray into observations of the human species (but not too often, I hope). Recently I have been writing about native Ground Orchids, which I find fascinating, and beautiful. Some are bizarre in their methods of pollination. If you wish to read more, go to: "The Nature of Robertson".

white lactiflora peony

23 November 2005

"Ladybird" (not), a late flowered, creamy white Lactiflora Peony. This is yet another incorrectly named Australian Lactiflora cultivar. The official naming authority for Peonies accepted the name "Ladybird" for a bright red hybrid herbaceous Peony back in 1949, so this white flowered plant has no right to be called by that same name. I am so sick of this poor practice by Australian Peony growers. 

 At first I thought this flower might be a re-named form of Duchesse de Nemours, which is also a white flowered Lactiflora, with a greenish tinge to it. However, this variety is noticeably later in flowering, and importantly, it has an unpleasant odour about it. Duchess is exquisitely perfumed. For the record, this variety has 5 creamy white guard petals, and a cluster of pure white inner petals.

Wrong name, no perfume. I am not impressed by this plant. It might well be the first Peony I ever deliberately throw away! Maybe!


Edulis Superba (?) - "eye". Having just complained about incorrect namings, at least I acknowledge my own uncertainty about this variety's true name.

The "eye" of this lovely old flower is sweet, and simple. No fertile stamens at all, just small, hairy carpels amongst a bed of silvery-white petals (tinged with pink), surrounded by the softest lilac-pink outer petals. The carpels are twisted on the tips. Their colour is deep pink at the base, with a hint of greyness, because of their hairiness, but they are plum-red at the tips.
Contrast this eye with Bowl of Beauty (13 November) and the white flowered Queen Victoria (carpels with a green base, shading to pink) and Festiva Maxima (with a single huge carpel), (both 12 November). Then there is my favourite "nest of Baby Pelicans?" photo - which was the "eye" of Early Delight (10 November). It had tiny, soft pink carpels.

edulis superba

21 November 2005

Edulis Superba (?) This plant is another of my father's old plants, and so the identity is still uncertain - I have ascribed it to this famous old variety, but to be true to type, it ought be a lot fuller, with more petals in the centre of the flower. Still, it is quite lovely and delicate in colouring. I would describe it as having soft lilac-pink guard petals, shading to silvery white, with a hint of lilac-pink, in the centre. It is yet another old French variety of a Lactiflora Peony.

This is the flower which was photographed in bud, on 17 November. I described it as having lovely soft pink buds.

shirley temple peony

17 November 2005

Shirley Temple - a side-on view of this flower shows her prominent red stripes, on the outer and lower parts of the petals. In comparison with the similarly marked Festiva Maxima, this flower has less red stripes and swirls throughout the flower. The basic colour of the petals is a delicate cream with a faintest pink wash. It is pleasantly perfumed, and makes a good cut flower.

Introduced by the famous American Nurseryman, Smirnow, before 1948, and named for the famous American film actress (around the time she retired from cinema acting, aged 20 years of age).

arrangement of peonies

Shirley Temple, and Festiva Maxima together, (surrounded by other pink Peonies). Shirley Temple (on right) may be seen to be slightly creamier, almost pearly pink, compared to the ice-white base colour of Festiva Maxima (on left).

Mother and daughter flowers together, as Smirnow claims Shirley Temple to have been bred from Festiva Maxima.

Duchesse de Nemours, as a "fully blown" flower. Still sweetly perfumed, and even at this stage, an elegant flower. It is one of my favourite Lactiflora Peonies, for the refined perfume, and also for the quality of the whiteness of the flower, which is somehow "purified" by the greenish tinges to the flower.

The "eye" of Duchesse de Nemours, shows its greenish colouration, in its carpels, topped with yellow stigmas. It has no fertile stamens, but instead a mass of petals (and petaloids) which are sometimes greenish, fading to cream. This makes a nice comparison with the "eyes" of other "white" lactiflora peonies, namely Festiva Maxima (12 November); Queen Victoria (11 November); and particularly, "Early Delight" (the so-called "Nest of Baby Pelicans?" photo of 10 November). The "eye" of Moonrise (a Saunders Hybrid herbaceous Peony) shows green carpels, but they are surrounded with golden stamens (see 11 November's photos).

A mixed bowl of pink and white traditional Lactiflora Peonies. On the lower left are flowers of Sarah Bernhardt, of slightly different ages (and hence one is slightly faded). On the lower right and the right rear is "Bowl of Beauty". In the top rear is Festiva Maxima, showing its ice-white petals (with carmine-red tinges). In the centre top is Shirley Temple, a pearly-white flower, with just the faintest wash of blush-pink, and a few red touches on the edges of the petals. These colours are what people expect from the old fashioned Peonies.

Lovely soft pink buds, over bright green leaves, show a promise of new flowers. This bud may be contrasted with the heavy buds of Sarah Bernhardt, packed full of petals (8 November).

15 November 2005

"Not Sarah B".  This bud was weather damaged, unfortunately, and that has effected the quality of the flower (shown below). However, the mid-pink colour, and the red streaking on the sepals and the outer petals are normal for this variety, and are not a deformity. It is reminiscent of the markings on the white flowered "Festiva Maxima". As with that variety, there is some red flecking present throughout the flower, but it is over a pink base colour, not white.

An old variety of "Lactiflora" peony, of uncertain name. My code for it is "Not Sarah B".  It is a mid-pink flower, with a silvery touch. Note there are some red flecks amongst the petals. Unfortunately, this flower has opened unevenly, so it is not a good example of the variety. If I get a better flower, I shall post that photo instead.

This flower is a softer pink than Sarah Bernhardt, and it opens to show stamens (with pollen), and also carpels, in a way that Sarah B. does not.


13 November 2005

Queen Victoria - at last a reasonable quality photo. These white Peonies have been driving me crazy. The harsh Australian sunlight makes them almost impossible to photograph well in direct light - too much reflected light from the flowers!  

Two flowers together, show a slight lemon yellow base to the petals, and the little pink stigmas poking through the "overblown" flower. It is still not a flower with good substance or form. But it does have a pleasant fragrance.

 Caring for cut flowers. Yesterday and today were hot and windy (even in Robertson, it can get hot). These Queen Victoria flowers recovered from the heat of yesterday, allowing me to take this photo today. My partner Judy told me to run a cold shower of water over any stressed flowers, and to re-cut the stems every day (to expose fresh cells in the stem to take up water). Some cut-flower growers recommend adding a 1/2 tea spoon of sugar, with a sprinkle of Vitamin C powder, per litre of water. For the best results, keep the flowers in the coolest place in your house. Judy often puts cut flowers outside at night, to freshen them up.

Duchesse de Nemours: I promised you a better photograph than the weather damaged flower which was the first to open. This is a classic Duchesse specimen, showing the beautifully cupped form, like an "Old Rose". The typical greenish tinge is showing as well. The photo cannot show the exquisite perfume - worthy of being distilled.
A near perfect Lactiflora Peony.

Today's insect is one of the tiny little "Vinegar Flies" which have swarmed in the recent spell of hot weather. They love these sweetly scented, white Peony flowers.

The "eye" of Bowl of Beauty warrants a photo, to record its features. Its carpels are yellowish green, and almost smooth, not obviously "hirsute" (hairy) as with some of the hybrid varieties, and most of the Lactifloras we have examined. Most importantly, it is surrounded by these extraordinary "staminodes" - modified stamens which do not carry pollen.

Compare it with other "eyes":
Early Delight - 10 November - had tiny hairy pink carpels, and no stamens at all. Red Charm - 7 November - had fat green carpels in a bed of satin red petaloids (no stamens). Coral Charm on 6 November had very hairy carpels, surrounded by a mass of stamens. Flame - 18 October had a perfect cluster of carpels in a bed of golden stamens.

The "eye" of Moonrise - that perfect white single Peony (see 8 and 9 November) has a classically formed "eye" - with a wonderful boss of stamens, and four green carpels, with yellow stigmas on top. After some of the abnormal shapes we have seen recently, it is refreshing to see a Peony with a full set of sexual organs, both male parts (the stamens) and female parts (carpels and stigmas) - in full working order.


Denis Wilson's Peonies © ah