I have many clusters of peonies spread throughout my gardens, and they've all had a different journey in getting there. Some come from my mothers garden and some from my grandmother's yard. I've taken cuttings from cemetery plantings, bought them on clearance at a home improvement store, and transplanted them from old homesteads.
I love any color of peony I can get my hands on, although most are some variation of pink. I work them in wherever there's a sunny spot. This pink peony patch is the largest, and it is actually planted by my trashcan! I did it on purpose just to balance out the unsightliness and occasional unpleasant odors of the area. It's also the first part of my garden that becomes visible as you round the slight curve in our one-lane road and begin the approach to the house. It's a beautiful sight in the spring, and certainly draws the attention away from the trashcan and nearby water hydrant.
I've designed the area so it will be a succession of bloom throughout the growing season. First, the forsythias burst forth with bright yellow blooms, next comes the rush of multicolored iris blossoms, and then the peonies begin their fragrant pink explosions. This is soon followed by the mesmerizing display put on by two deep pink knockout rose bushes, which continue their riot of color until frost. Dancing around the feet of all these plants is a cluster of lambs ear, whose silvery green foliage anchor the display from early spring until late fall. All this chaos is supported by a trio of spreading junipers whose evergreen needles provide a backdrop for 3/4 of the year and then take center stage in the winter months. Each plant has it's season of glory, some lasting only a week and some lasting months. It all comes together to create a nice harmony of texture and color, and a nice first impression of my home and gardens--especially when peonies bloom and instantly become a magnet for attention. The only thing not welcome there are the weeds!
I love to make an entrance. Let me rephrase--I love to make an entrance look good.
When we moved into our house, there were a few random sprigs of periwinkle trying to survive between the pavement and the sidewalk, and on either side of the walk there was a lava-rock border running the length of it. It reminded me of an airstrip, without the runway lights. It certainly needed some help, and I had an idea--I would plant an entry garden. I love the laid-back style of cottage gardens, so I started randomly planting all my old-fashioned favorites: roses, peonies, lavender, tulips...all the tried and true varieties known to be well adapted to my mid-western climate. To my delight, they settled in and grew abundantly--without much help from me. The entry garden has filled in so well that it requires no weeding, and I don't do much fertilizing or watering either. What little food the soil gets in the spring comes from the plant's own leaves that fell and decomposed over the winter. The periwinkle has thrived in these new conditions and now acts as a living mulch. It helps smother weeds, cool the soil, and retain rainwater. The garden is almost it's own little ecosystem, and all I do is try not to interfere. It has become the entry garden I knew it could be, and now when I walk down my sidewalk, I can stop and smell the roses. And the peonies, and the lavender, and the tulips...
Old-fashioned perennials are a staple in my flower gardens. I especially love this purple iris plant that I got from who knows where...I wish I kept better track of these things. I don't know the name of this beauty, but I will tell you that it is the first iris to bloom on my property, and I think it's the prettiest.
It grows alongside my chicken coop that sits just outside my back door, and it's the first thing I notice when I step out every morning to check on the chickens. When it's in bloom it stops me in my tracks, and when it's not, it still makes me smile. Iris', like most old-fashioned perennials, only bloom once a year. This might turn some people away from them in favor of the season-long blooms of annuals, but not me. I like the iris mostly for it's foliage and shape. The spiky sword-like leaves and the clump-like growing habits provide my gardens with just the right amount of excitement and fun. And then in May they look like the photo above. Who wouldn't like a plant that does that?! And they are so fragrant when they bloom...I can't pass one by without bending down for a quick inhale. It wakes me up almost as good as my morning cup of coffee. I said almost...
I'm drawn to plants with a purpose. I like to grow things that have some sort of uniqueness to them: a great story, an unusual feature, a creative use. So, heirloom vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs make up the bulk of my cottage style garden. I also have a vegetable plot, berry patches, fruit trees, and herb and cutting flower beds. In maintaining all this, I strive to be as organic as possible by using techniques like companion planting, rotating my crops, and composting kitchen scraps and yard clippings. All this comes together to create a cleaner environment for my family, my livestock, and my gardens.