In my quest for knowledge about Japanese peonies, I planted several introductory-sized varieties in my test garden to see how they would perform; I wanted to determine if they might be suitable for my clients. One variety that disappointed me was Itoh peony Morning Lilac; it flowered in the color of beet soup instead of the lavender-pink tones depicted in the supplier’s catalogue.
The saturation of its color was too deep. No perennial growing nearby is that vivid or rich; a situation that made the new plant stand out for its boldness. Allowing it to remain in my garden would disturb the color theme that I labored for so many years to develop.
However, on the day set aside to dig it out for discard, the flower opened fully. That is when noticed how dramatically its rich, gold stamens contrasted with the petal coloration. At that moment, I cancelled my plans to administer capital punishment. This peony didn’t deserve the compost heap; all it needed was an appropriate home. I have a colleague who likes rich colors and I am certain that she will appreciate this plant more than I do.
Don’t be deceived by the color of the twin peonies in the photo immediately above this paragraph. The camera captured a shade of purple, just a little bit closer to the soft tones depicted in the catalogue, but unlike the deep bold tones I actually saw in my garden in blazing sunlight. Sometimes cameras produce images that are unreal. So do suppliers' catalogues! Next season, I intend to order Itoh peony First Arrival. Perhaps that one will produce a more accurate lavender-pink flower.
Regal colors can work well in a flowerbed when they are combined with others of similar saturation. That will create a balance appreciated by all, even if the bold colors themselves are not.
Readers will find a relevant and passionate discussion about hot colored flowers written by Sarah Raven, in The Bold and Beautiful Garden. Find my review of this well-received publication here and look for the book in the far right column, at the top of this blog page, under the heading Book You Need: 12 favorites.