When she first married and hop skipped one farm over to my father's farm, she planted a bed of peonies and in amongst all the bushes, she also planted bright orange poppies. I truly don't know anyone else who would do such a thing. Someone once commented to me about the shirts GG and I were wearing to a Buck and Doe - he, bright orange - moi, bright pink. It was sort of like my mother's peonies. Here were these simply over the top bushes of palest pale blush and bright hot pink and then along came screaming oranges. But you know, it actually worked and too, the peony bushes hid the poppies' messy foliage when their blooms were spent. "Zinnias" was my reply, but they weren't gardeners and it didn't matter. The peonies were planted in a huge circle just south of the clothesline, north of the lane circling the horse barn, west of an ancient apricot and between two English Walnuts. Now there was a lot of acreage, enough to leave space for the parking of machinery. But you know how it is. My father developed a nasty habit of running machinery over top of the peony bed and eventually, it all looked a bit bedraggled. When I was eighteen and in a funk over some silly boy, one Sunday afternoon when everyone was sleeping, I took note of the sad situation of the peonies and the boy and dug up the bushes replanting them along the east wall of a barn, we called, "The Steel Building." By the time I was done with the peonies, I was also done with the boy. It seemed a safe choice, as the only door to this building was a big honking sliding door which hung short of the ground by maybe two feet and required one to really lean into the thing to get it to slide. I stuck the peonies up as tight as possible to the block foundation and under the sliding door. Because it had to slide to open, the likelihood of my father tossing anything up against that wall and subsequently the peonies was slim. It worked. Over the years I noticed barrels and other farmy guy stuff along that wall, but always out by a few feet leaving enough space for a body to walk and slide that ornery door open or shut and of course spare the peonies.
My father gave them a shot of whatever he was spraying every time he drove past them and that took care of all the fungi and bugs. Thirty years later, I went and dug them up again and moved them to our home in the country. They had survived. I'd saved the peonies. Now I found out a few years ago that these bushes were on the farm long before my mother got there in 1950 something. My grandmother had put them in, when she had hop skipped to the farm from one farm over and one farm across, as a new bride in 1901. My mother only added the poppies. They are heirloom peonies, Albert Crousse and I think a Ben Franklin and the fragrance has not been hybridized out. I used to wear a perfume - Pavlova - it was unmistakably those peonies and I thought about the plants safely tucked alongside The Steel Building. The boy is long gone, the perfume no longer available but I have the peonies. They are simply heavenly and The Cat and The Other Cats use them as shade trees. I know there was a creamy white one too, with subtle streaks of raspberry, but am afraid it may be lost. I have one bush planted in too shady a spot which hasn't bloomed on that account. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that were the missing peony?
Toby at Six Months
5 hours ago