Peony News

'Festiva Maxima' peony has been in gardens since the 1850's. It was hybridized by Miellez and introduced to the world in 1851. These double peonies have lots of loosely arranged petals, providing that full, sumptuous heirloom quality. The very white petals are flaked with crimson, predominately on the center petals. Dark green foliage. Excellent as a cut flower and a lovely garden peony, which may benefit from staking. The very large flowers and superb fragrance elicit memories of Grandma's garden. Grows to about 36" tall and is an early mid-season peony bloomer.

More details on some of the Antique Heirloom Peony Varieties we grow

I reference the American Peony Society’s (APS) registration information from Carsten Burkhardt's peony data base and my own observations as I comment on the following very old peony varieties. I list the plant height as it grows here on our Oregon farm.

The last name of the hybridizer and year of introduction follow the name of the peony. We have many of these peonies available in pots at the farm during bloom season. Some are also available bare root for fall shipping (check our website Peonies tab) or email us to check on bare root availability of these or other peonies you are searching for. 

Edulis Superba (Lemon, 1824)  This is one of the oldest hybridized peonies and continues to be popular year after year. The double, old-rose pink flower with nice guard petals develops a ‘crown’ with its narrower, inner petals. It is one of the earlier blooming double peonies. The weak stems benefit from staking in the garden; however, this very fragrant, floriferous variety provides great medium sized cut flowers and is continually available in commerce. 36” tall, midseason.

Festiva Maxima (Miellez, 1851) Very large, white, double peony flowers with crimson flecking on a few central petals. The full, loosely arranged petals on this globular shaped peony makes this a ‘fluffy’ peony. The stems are generally strong on this taller variety; but, cutting an extra bouquet of buds will help this plant to weather the rain. Upon discovering the perfumed fragrance wafting from these peony flowers, many visitor’s say ‘this is the one Grandma had’. A wonderful, old fashioned bouquet peony. 36” tall. Early season.

Duchesse de Nemours (Calot, 1856)  An early blooming double, creamy white peony. Guard petals surround the heightened center petals which have a pale yellow at the base.  These medium sized flowers lighten to white and are excellent cut peonies for arrangements. Very nice fragrance. An early midseason bloomer, growing to about 34” tall.

Mons Paillet (Guerin, 1857)  A rose-pink blush, double peony with loads of side buds makes for a ‘bouquet on a stem’. Soft pink guard petals with tufts of softer colored, narrower inner petals. Lightens to pale blush/white. Very fragrant. An early midseason bloomer, growing about 36” tall. People gravitate toward this old fashioned variety and we are growing more of it for future years.

L’Eclatante (Calot, 1860)  Red, double, fragrant peony. (It’s 154 years old; but new to us at Brooks Gardens, so descriptive observations will be forthcoming). 

Mons Dupont (Calot, 1872)  This creamy white, huge double peony has stiff stems. There is an inner glow from the yellow stamens and splashes of crimson red on center petals. This distinctive peony has some petals cupping inward. It’s fluffy and very fragrant. One of my favorite peonies. Late season.

Felix Crousse ( Crousse, 1881)  Crimson red, bomb-style, double peony. Vigorous. Shorter variety at 32” tall. Weaker stems, but very nice as a cut flower. Midseason. Referred to as one of the best reds and very popular for over 130 years.  

Avalanche (Crousse, 1886)  Large, white, double peony. Light fragrance. Blush white with a faint pink center and very narrow crimson edges to a few petals. The flowers are generally incurved with the tips of the outer petals recurved from its ball-like center. Nice foliage. Midseason bloomer. These white peonies captivate our farm visitors. 

Mons Jules Elie (Crousse, 1888)  Rose pink, double bomb-style peony flowers. Broad, smooth guard petals; center incurved and silvered with light pink. Very free-flowering; stems lax and loose, may benefit from staking. Very popular as a cut flower. Fragrant. 36”, Midseason bloomer.  

Mikado (Japan, 1893)  Japanese style peony. Waved and cupped petals of dark, rosy crimson; center of thick, buff yellow staminodes infused with rose coloring. Floriferous; erect stems. Seed parent peony. Midseason. 34” tall.

Lady Alexandra Duff ( Kelway, 1902)  Pale blush, large,  double peony flowers. May appear semi-double. Long, loose petals and saucer shaped side buds make for a graceful looking plant.  Very nice fragrance. 36” tall. Midseason.

Therese (Dessert, 1904) Old rose pink, double peony. Very large flowers of long old rose pink petals; paling toward the base and illumined by a golden yellow glow in the center. Fragrant. This floriferous, strong stemmed beauty is truly splendid in form, texture and color. We will have more available in a couple of years. Midseason. (I am partial to this peony, as I share the same lovely French name).

Sarah Bernhardt (Lemoine, 1906) Large, soft pink, double flowers. Occasional red edging on a few petals. Pleasant fragrance. Very popular as a cut flower. Floriferous, 36” tall on strong stems. Late midseason. Beautiful & fluffy.

Benjamin Franklin (Brand, 1907) Crimson red, double peonies on an upright plant. Outer petals large and the center is composed of smaller overlapping petals mixed with many stamens. Vigorous and free flowering. Blooms held high above the foliage. A nice landscape peony plant with mild fragrance. 36”-38” tall. Midseason. Often commented on as 'reminds me of grandma's peony' and because it is upright, it is very popular. 

Frances Willard (Brand, 1907) A blush to white double peony flower with a tiny bit of red petal edging. Very nice flower form. Fragrant. Stout stemmed. Named after Frances Willard (1839-1898) an American educator and women’s suffragist. 36” tall, midseason.

Karl Rosenfield (Rosenfield, 1908) A large red, double peony with stunning petal structure, Strong stems, good foliage. Good cut flower – I think it’s show quality. This common peony continues to be popular year after year.  Midseason.  34” tall.

Chestine Gowdy (Brand, 1913) A pink and creamy white, double peony. Guard petals and crown are light rose pink, the latter surrounded by a creamy white collar. Very nice fragrance. What I call a ’frilly’ full peony flower. 38” tall. Mid-late season.

The snow melted, the sun came out and our peonies are doing their thing - sprouting. Our early blooming varieties generally make a good showing in February and they are not disappointing this year. Every year we love the sight of peonies pushing through the soil.

When it’s wet and rainy, I have more time to research peonies, peony varieties, hybridizers and all things related to these gorgeous perennials. There is always something to learn or discover, and lately I have been smitten by the great old-time peonies.

The definition of heirloom peonies may be debated by experts and gardeners; but, it seems a general consensus is cultivars that have been raised for generations. These are often referred to as old fashioned, homestead, Grandma’s or heirloom peonies. Many date from perhaps 50 – 160+ years ago.  They are often noted for their wonderful fragrance and big, full blossoms. They are stunning in arrangements and bouquets. Some are stout, upright plants while others benefit from staking.

I am looking forward to seeing my new, very favorite heirloom peony grow and bloom in the next couple of years. I don’t know what color it is, how old it is, if it’s fragrant or what name it has. I may even find I grow it already; but, I am thrilled with anticipation to watch it grow.  Yesterday I detected the eye, just beginning to emerge! Last fall I received the small root with an eye from my cousin in Alabama. It was our great Grandmother Mary’s peony. Mary was born in Germany about 1862 and immigrated to the U.S. about 1882. She lived in Newton, Kansas until moving to Mt. Angel, Oregon between 1895 and 1900, passing away in 1956. No matter the variety or age, I intend to propagate and share this 'family heirloom' peony with my siblings and cousins.

It got me to thinking about some of the very old varieties we grow; still so popular today. Here are some of the 100+ year old peonies that you can see blooming on our farm each May. We offer some of these varieties each year. Many will be available in pots this spring and a few are offered bare root through our website. 

      

Photo's: Festiva Maxima; Mons Paillet; Benjamin Franklin; Frances Willard.

  • Festiva Maxima (Miellez, 1851) – white, huge double, super fragrance.
  • Duchesse de Nemours (Calot, 1856) – white, double, fragrant.
  • Mons Paillet (Guerin, 1857) - blush, double, fragrant.
  • L’Eclatante (Calot, 1860) – red, double, fragrant.
  • Mons Dupont (Calot, 1872) - white, huge double, fragrant.
  • Felix Crousse ( Crousse, 1881) – raspberry red, double.
  • Avalanche (Crousse, 1886) - white, double, light fragrance.
  • La Perle (Crousse, 1886) - soft lavender pink, double, very fragrant.
  • Mons Jules Elie (Crousse, 1888) - rose pink, double bomb style, fragrant.
  • Mikado (Japan, 1893) – rosy red, Japanese style.
  • Lady Alexandra Duff ( Kelway, 1902) – pale blush, double, fragrant.
  • Therese (Dessert, 1904) – old rose pink, double, fragrant.
  • Sarah Bernhardt (Lemoine, 1906) pink, double, fragrant.
  • Benjamin Franklin (Brand, 1907) – scarlet red, double, mild fragrance.
  • Frances Willard (Brand, 1907) – white/blush, double, fragrant.
  • Solange (Lemoine, 1907) – creamy white with suffusion of buff, double, fragrant.
  • Karl Rosenfield (Rosenfield, 1908) – red, double, stunning petal structure.
  • Chestine Gowdy (Brand, 1913) – pink, double, fragrant.
  • Lora Dexheimer (Brand, 1913) - crimson red, double.

You can see more photos of our heirloom peonies on Pinterest

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