A guide to Peonies by Butter Wakefield
We chat with the wonderful Butter Wakefield about peonies, picnics & the month of June.
I love Jan van Leeuwen which is a stunning white Herbaceous Peony with an RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit, which indicates an outstanding variety and is always good to look out for!) She has a gorgeous scent and a very beautifully open centre.
P. ‘Nymphe’ AGM, she has the most delicate pink single blooms with golden stamens. Another top pick is P. ‘Lemon Chiffon’ AGM, she has strong dark green foliage and large open double flowers of cream pale lemon. She is a stunner!
And finally, P. Dark Eyes. She doesn’t have an AGM, but she has the deep darkest, most sultry purple almost black single flowers with yellow centres and she is an absolute must if you like that kind of colour which I do!
How do like to arrange with peonies?
I think Peonies look best on their own in single bud vases arranged at staggering heights, one can then truly appreciate their sensationally fine petals and exquisite centres. The trick, as Willow knows only too well, is to have lots of them!
Anything else you can think of that we should know about peonies?
Peonies are gorgeously extravagant growers with sensational scent, and according to some, they symbolise happy marriage and good fortune. They are wonderfully l perennials both in the ground and as cut flowers. The Herbaceous varieties need staking and support, particularly in our wet British weather, the rain makes the blooms heavy and hard to hold upright. They benefit from feeding with an organic manure, but don’t top dress over their crown as they tend to hate that. They can also be slow to flower, often taking a couple of years to get going, but be patient as they are worth the wait. They also like a lot of space, so don’t cram them in next to too many overpowering big growing shrubs, they appreciate air and lots of lovely sunlight.
How will you be spending the Queen's Jubilee?
We are having a street party which we are all looking forward to. It’s a great time to celebrate with one’s neighbours and our incredible Queen who is a HUGE personal favourite and hero of mine and so many!
What is your favourite thing about June?
I love the month of June, our youngest son Kit was born on the 6th of June, soon to be 24 years old, yikes, where has the time gone! My garden is also particularly lovely in June; the Wildflower Meadow has gently shifted from the pinks of the Red Campion and Ragged Robin and settles quietly into a more subtle scene, with lots of Ox-eye Daisies, Buttercups, and Wild Carrot. The garden walls are also adorned with wonderful pink and white roses which fills the garden with a heavenly heady scent and feels somehow very romantic.
Summer picnic essentials?
A gorgeous heavy wool blanket or two from the Cloth Shop. Homemade lemonade with fresh lime, cucumber, and mint. Egg mayonnaise sandwiches on really stodgy, seedy bread with rocket and watercress. Good organic humus with carrots and cucumber (more cucumber!) radishes and root vegetable crisps. And banana bread, chocolate chip cookies and strawberries to finish. It is, after all, all about the food, isn’t it?!
Thank you, Butter!
portrait photo of Butter Wakefield: Eva Schwank