Two young things were the subjects of the first two flower portraits. So it’s exciting to turn to a more assured, mature beauty for our third. She is known formally as Paeonia Suffruticosa, but Peony is the name we are likely to recognize her by:

Chinese Tree Peony

How lush, how full, how magnificent she is! Proud. Self-confident. And somewhat different from the herbaceous peonies that we grow in our flower borders.  (At least to my eyes.) Paeonia Suffruticosa belongs to the family of tree peonies, tall hardy shrubs that are temperamental enough to suit a diva’s personality, but rewarding enough to be worth the effort.

And what a family history she has! Tree peonies already hundreds of years ago were considered the ideal flower by Chinese literati, the poets and painters of ancient times. She has been found for centuries “on vase and jar, on screen and fan” (to borrow from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado). If there can be said to be a national flower of China, it is the tree peony, the pride and joy of many public gardens there.  And the admiration and veneration of the Japanese doesn’t lag far behind. 

When we visited famed Chanticleer Gardens in Wayne, PA, last summer, we were greeted at the entrance gates to the mansion itself by a whole tribe of tree peonies. I chose one among these gorgeous sisters for a close-up; but any and all of them were stunners:

Chanticleer Mansion Entrance

When we lived in the Berkshires, I was a guide at one of the so-called “cottages,” actually mansions, from the Gilded Age. Naumkeagthe home of Joseph Choate and his family, has magnificent, unusual gardens. But in the two summers I worked there, the terrace of tree peonies never fully came into bloom, at least not for more than a couple of days, and sparsely. Conditions were never quite right — too cold, not cold enough; too much rain, too little rain. Perhaps because Chanticleer is farther South, perhaps because this was a particularly favorable late spring, tree peonies were bursting forth all around us, a deluge, a veritable waterfall of beauty.

I’m glad to have seen them.


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  1. My favourite flower.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Great picture. I tried to figure out which Paeonia Suffruticosa you actually photographed. Couldn’t.
    When are we seeing you?


  3. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Wow as far as I can remember I’ve only seen white tree peonies!


  4. Proud and self-confident, that sounds right. Don’t think I’ve seen any peony like that. Gorgeous!


  5. mybrightlife says:

    So enjoying this series…and learning!


  6. oururbanwilderness says:

    A diva, all right, all layered flounces and showiness. we don’t have such exotics here, making it all the more gorgeous to admire.


  7. Madhu says:

    Such a beauty Judith! And beautifully captured. I have never seen a real Peony!


  8. Tree peonies – my favorite ones! So pleased to see that you have one as well, dear Judith!
    How gracious are these, I call them “my Chinese Beauties”.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      A lovely name for lovely flowers.
      But I have none of my own. I have a pot of geraniums in the back in summer, and some “volunteer” black-eyed susans (a kind of big wild-ish daisy) in the front border. Otherwise — I have to use “borrowed views.”
      The tree peonies are from a trip to Pennsylvania, to a famous gardens. They were well worth the travel!


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