Peonies In The Hidden City Garden

– Posted in: Garden Design

In this post, our colleague, Dutch landscape designer, Harry Pierik, shares artistic photos and talks about peonies from his personal garden, The Hidden City Garden.

While the vanes of the dove tree, Davidia involucrata, are swaying on the branches in my Hidden City Garden, the first botanical peonies are starting to flourish.

Davidia involucrata

Davidia involucrata

Peonies are perennials of the ranunculus family, with tuberous, fleshy roots and beautiful foliage but it is their flowers that especially speak to the imagination!

For good flowering, the eyes of the rhizomes should not be planted deeper than a few centimeters, in nutritious, humus-rich, well-drained soil in a light spot.

Paeonia mlokosewitchii

Paeonia mlokosewitchii in bud


Paeonia mlokosewitchii

Paeonia mlokosewitchii

In January 2012, it was pretty hot in Holland. It looked like we might go from a mild winter and slip straight into an early spring. But suddenly the whip of severe frost (-70 F) destroyed a lot of plants.

Some peonies were already so far into development, so full of moisture and little hardened against the cold, that above ground parts were severely damaged.

Under normal conditions peonies are resistant to -70F. But during this frigid time, the stems snapped like frozen water pipes. The leaves, which looked like cooked endive, lay on the ground.

Paeonia mlokosewitchii in bloom

Paeonia mlokosewitchii in bloom


Paeonia mlokosewitchii

Paeonia mlokosewitchii

Paeonia mlokosewitchii is a peony from the Caucasus. She has blue-green frosted leaves and reddish stems  with soft yellow, cup-shaped flowers that are reminiscent of a butterball. Between her ocher yellow stamens are light pink pistils.

Her popular name, Molly-The-Witch, is a degeneration of its more difficult scientific name, Paeonia mlokosewitchii.

She usually blooms in my garden during the first week of May. Depending on the temperature, the bloom lasts about ten days.

Meanwhile I have two young Molly-The-Witches planted. I am now waiting to see how they mature.

Paeonia wittmanniana var. tomentosa

Paeonia wittmanniana var. tomentosa


Paeonia wittmanniana var. tomentosa

Paeonia wittmanniana var. tomentosa

Paeonia wittmanniana var. tomentosa is a perennial plant with velvety carpels that grows in alpine meadows of the Caucasus.

The robust cross between P. lactiflora and P. wittmanniana, Paeonia ‘Avant Garde’ blooms in late May, early June with light pink magenta hems along some petals.

Paeonia wittmanniana 'Avant Garde'

Paeonia wittmanniana ‘Avant Garde’ 


Paeonia wittmanniana 'Avant Garde', in the background Rosa glauca and Rhododendron rex

Paeonia wittmanniana ‘Avant Garde’ in the background with Rosa glauca and Rhododendron rex

View Harry’s movie Spring in the Hidden City Garden, Garden of Eden.

To learn more about Harry, check out his website.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Tell us about the peonies that you have growing in your garden.

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the recently published 10th Anniversary Edition of Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book".  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, and CBS Radio New correspondent.

Click on Fran's website,, to sign up to receive a free gift: "The 38 Creative Tips That Are Preventing You From Leading A Richer Life" and to read articles on creativity, well-being, gardening, and spirituality.  

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Fran Sorin

4 Comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Donna March 15, 2014, 12:16 pm

Fran, your photos look like paintings, so pretty for the peony. I have peonies myself and always look forward to the bloom time, yet I like them in the garden for the green leaves as well.

Mary Yee March 15, 2014, 1:02 pm

Thank you! I loved this post and especially the photos of the species peonies–you don’t get to see those very often! The P. wittmanniana tomentosa is especially gorgeous. Last fall I acquired seedlings of a number of species peonies including regional variants of P. mascula. They are only about an inch tall right now and ensconced in three inch pots; it may be years before they reach blooming size but the red shoots, some with silvery hairs, are beautiful.

Laurin Lindsey March 15, 2014, 2:17 pm

Beautiful! I love the photo effect on the blooms! Happy Spring : )

Garden Maintenance Specialist September 21, 2015, 9:17 am

Beautiful flowers! I really love them just before they bloom. They are still cuddled in a ball, but you can already see that the flower is about to blossom soon. They are really resistant to cold, but it’s best if you take precautions to protect it from it, if you want to enjoy a quality flower later in spring.