Tree peony ‘Renkaku’: photo credit: http://www.kelways.co.uk
So here we are, the last day of January 2015, and we have had deluges of rain and wind for the last 3 days. So it’s good to look forward to something that will bloom later in the Spring. It’s a delight. Tree peony or Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Renkaku’ (‘Flight of Cranes’) is really worth the wait. It is a very old variety, dating back to Japan pre-1889 according to The Peony Society. The huge 8 inch flowers, white with just a hint of pink at the centre, are chiffon-like in their delicacy with bright gold stamens. I always count the buds from early Spring, and really look forward to them flowering. It makes a wide, spreading shrub with branches that elegantly reach out like arms, making a graceful shape that remains all year. You need to plant it in a sheltered spot, with dappled shade if you can, and in reliably moist soil. Neutral-ish soil seems to suit it best. It’s actually pretty tough, so totally hardy, but it won’t enjoy hot sun or drought.
Our peony has travelled! I bought it at Greenbank Garden, Glasgow in 1992, when it measured about 6 inches in a small pot. It moved to Livingston in a pot, was planted for 10 years in Linlithgow, potted up and moved to France, and it has been moved about 4 times over the first 6 years of our living here. Poor thing. At one time, we had up to 30 flowers, but each move sets it back a bit, and so, last year, we had 13. But, as Dan Pearson says, you don’t always get it right, and sun and moisture are very variable with us. But I think we have finally got it right. So, in a month, I’ll be bud counting and maybe we’ll make more than 13 in 2015. By the way, it now measures a majestic 1.5m x 1.5m.