Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden, The Parterre Bench


Ode to the Peony

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Invariably, when I ask friends their favorite flower, whether they are gardeners or not, the answer is always peonies. And, yesterday at a small lunch party, my male friend on my right opined that they were his faves as well. Then he proceeded to chat about where and why he was adding peony beds to their property.

Well, speaking of peony beds, last year we moved our cutting garden collection to its own plot of land in the back courtyard (gardeners never tire of creating more gardens). And we have room to grow!

Why are so many of us besotted with this flower that only blooms for about two weeks (and only lasts for 2 1/2 days when cut)? I’ve just come to accept that during those short two weeks, I will put other things aside and devote my time to “the ritual”–from gathering them in the early morning, when there is still dew on their petals, to selecting just the right vase for your mood, and then cutting their healthy stems to cluster them in a tight collection, all cozy together. They look like such happy flowers, without a care in the world. Below are a few from our collection.

My English trug is almost falling apart, I overuse it so much during this season. At times, the Parterre Bench’s generous seat serves as a staging area for sorting and organizing before I choose my containers for the inevitable arrangements. And white is the perfect backdrop for this little task (did you know that the Parterre Bench is available in any color of your choosing…including the many shades of peonies).

This seemed just the occasion to share this practical garden tool. It’s officially called a “compost scoop”, and tidies up the process of moving dirt around (I christened it on my new peony bed). “Scoop your dirt with the best of them,” as they say. It’s from Sophie Conran in London. Thanks, Ellen.

Having mentioned peony arrangements, I couldn’t resist showing this to you…’Abalone Pearl’ has the distinct characteristic of changing over her short bloom period from corally orange to apricot to soft shell pink to, finally, parchment beige. Scrumptious!

‘Madame Emile Debaten’ is spotted around the house in small containers so that she can provide a pop of color to table vignettes.

That adored peony, ‘Coral Charm’, always receives special attention at Parterre…this year lending herself to a carefree, lyrical arrangement in an antique mirrored container.

Peonies come in such a riot of colors in the pinks and oranges that I couldn’t help thinking of my friend, artist Hunt Slonem and his paintings. Aren’t his signature bunnies a fun backdrop for this floral collection? Compliments to my talented art dealer friend, Jessica Hagen.

Enjoy your peonies…what are your favorite varieties?

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

12 thoughts on “Ode to the Peony

  1. I also love peonies and wait with great anticipation for mine to flower in May – usually by Mother’s Day here in Maryland.

    I love the ones with fragrance.

    BTW, Bettie, I put mine in the same Frances Palmer vase as you use!

    1. What a fun coincidence, Merrielou, about the vase! Isn’t it perfect for those sexy, captivating blooms?
      When are you headed up for the summer? xB

  2. Now that’s one good looking compost scoop! 😄❤️ Coral Charm or any that come in that deeply drenched magenta are my favorite. I love how loose and relaxed they are. As if the petals might flop off at any moment -which they inevitably do! Loose and lazy like a good hot summer. Xoxoxoxo

    1. Very descriptive, and you hit the nail on the head in describing peony’s languid stayle as well as their likeness to a loose and lazy good hot summer.
      Merci for the scoop! xB

  3. I adore peonies. Not knowing one from the other – I just love all of them. I’ve yet to plant any in my garden, probably because it’s just so hard to choose which ones to plant! They are all so beautiful. I’m a huge fan of Mr. Slonem’s art work. How lucky you are to have such interesting and accomplished friends. Thank you so much for the pretty peony post, Bettie.

    1. Oh Lisa, you must treat your self…just start someplace, and make sure it has enough room for a few other peonies. You see what happened to me, we needed to move out of one garden into another! Now do let me know which peonies you chose so I can live vicariously. xB

  4. I have only TWO BUSHES that do not give me many BLOOMS SO I cherish the ONES THAT DO!Both are FRAGRANT and at the moment I cannot recall the names!WHAT I DO NOT HAVE IS CHEDDAR CHARM which I need as I do MOSTLY YELLOW AND WHITE IN THE BACK!
    MAY I SHARE YOUR BENCH ON MY GARDEN CLUBS PROFILE ON INSTAGRAM?

    1. Yes, you need Cheddar Charm, and YES, please do share the Parterre Bench on your garden clubs Instagram profile!
      Stay safe and sound xB

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