Home   |   Blog   |   A Librarian’s Daughter: The Smell Of A Good Book Is Just As Enticing As The Fragrance Of A Peony

A Librarian’s Daughter: The Smell Of A Good Book Is Just As Enticing As The Fragrance Of A Peony

As peony growers, the pace of modern society can make it feel like the world is flying by us, with technology bringing us new information at every angle, making it hard to slow down and enjoy the calm beauty that we’ve created outside in our gardens.

Today, in honor of the old-time charm that peonies bring to our lives, we would like to share some of our favorite peony reads, an ode to pages of hard-bound knowledge that are passed from gardener to gardener, through the generations. We hope you are able to find a new favorite, a peony book to brighten your day the next time you have a few minutes to settle into your favorite reading nook for a bit of garden inspiration. 

Peonies by Pamela McGeorge

Peonies by Pamela McGeorge

“Where did they come from, these sumptuous flowers that have seduced gardeners for centuries and sell in floral shops today for enormous prices? The answer is complicated.”

If the words above don’t immediately grab your interest, the stunning images and easily digestible text will. This book almost reads like a fairy tale, comfortable and familiar. Like an afternoon conversation with a friend. Easy, breezy and dreamy.

The photos, drawings and graphics are just as enticing as the cover. Several full-page photos give you the feeling of stepping into the page.

 You may also find chapter three particularly fascinating, as it covers the ancient medicinal and culinary uses of peony, and the obsession with the “King of Flowers” in Asia. One of the best features about this book is the list of organizations, suppliers and easy-to-read variety tables towards the back.

Peonies by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall

Peonies by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall

“The light and the dark, the red and the white, should be spaced apart; the early and the late should likewise be planted in due order. My desire is, throughout the four seasons, to bring wine along, and to let not a single day pass without a flower opening.”

At first glance, this book may seem like a peony dictionary. And though it is part dictionary, it also includes lessons on geography, science, history, and art, as each subject pertains to peonies. 

This is a great all-in-one book for the peony lover. It hits on many topics including a list of herbaceous peonies, tree peonies, and intersectional hybrids. There is also a nice short chapter on “Where and How to Plant Peonies.”  Perhaps the best feature is that it provides an international list of where to view peonies, from museums and arboretums to botanical gardens, nurseries, and farms. 

The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Peonies by Martin Page

The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Peonies by Martin Page

“The correct name for the plant is peony, rather than paeony, which is a recent corruption of the Latin name. Man has always held the peony in high esteem; an ancient Greek poem referred to it as ‘The Queen of all herbs’ and the ancient Chinese considered the tree peony to be the ‘King of Flowers’.”

Some of the unique features in this book include a wonderful recommended variety list for home gardens that diverges from the typical recommendations. It also contains a resource called “12 Plates” which shows numerous peonies side-by-side for examination and comparison. If you are interested in learning more about the various leaf forms and flower anatomy, the “History & Botany” chapter provides beautiful drawings and descriptions.

One of the plates included in Martin Page’s book

Peonies by Allen Rogers

Peonies by Allan Rogers

“Just one glimpse of these flowers of remembrance and I am reminded of my grandmother’s garden. Then as now, peonies are the essence of the word perennial, thriving in the same spot for forty years or more.”

Often celebrated as the most famous peony book, Peonies is an easy and very informative read. For many peony enthusiasts this book is referenced over and over throughout the years because of the unique resources included in the pages.

Special features include a nearly 100 page list of “Peonies in Cultivation Worldwide” and a guide to nursery sources. The chapter on peony propagation is presented in such a captivating way that it makes the reader want to dive in for further investigation.  There is also a chapter titled “Getting Started Commercially” which is a must-read for anyone with the desire to start a peony farm. 

The Gardener’s Peony Herbaceous and Tree Peonies by Martin Page

The Gardener’s Peony Herbaceous and Tree Peonies By Martin Page

“There is little doubt that peonies are among the most beautiful of all flowering plants— but this beauty threatens their very survival.”

This informative book sheds light on why it is so hard to answer the question, “what kind of peony is this?” The chapter titled “Morphology” should be read by anyone who loves peonies, particularly those involved in local peony societies or those attempting to name unknown varieties in cultivation. It is an ongoing challenge that even the top breeders and growers struggle with.

If you want to take a deep dive into peony taxonomy, species, cultivars and  hybrids, then this is your book. Martin does a wonderful job breaking down the sometimes difficult topics for the everyday grower. This book also offers extensive information regarding tree peonies and a bit on Itoh Peonies.

The chapter titled “Growing Peonies” hits a large variety of topics, and the helpful tips in this chapter alone make owning the book worthwhile.

For many readers, their favorite part is the Q&A section, which is a feature not found in any other recommended book above. After growing for many years, it may clarify long-time misconceptions or teach new growers how to achieve the long-lasting and beautiful peony displays we all desire.

Lastly, there is a whole chapter dedicated to short stories about different peony breeders so you can get to know them and their insights about our favorite flower. 

Peonies by Jane Eastoe

Peonies by Jane Eastoe

There is a sense of drama in the construction of the peony flower. It is apparently so innocent in form, yet even the simple five -petalled blooms carry exotic trims, splashes, stripes, fringes, washes and freckles to draw the eye to the heart of the flower.”

The layout of this book, in many ways, is perfect. With chapters titled Pure, Dramatic, Romantic and Fragrant that lead right to the heart of what all peony lovers desire.

Each feature page includes the peony name, authors personal description, breeder, variety standards and care and an attractive photo. 

Peony visuals are always a plus and the ones found in this book are captivating and charming. Georgianna Lane displays a high level of art through photography with clean crisp images throughout the whole book.

The chapter “Growing and Care” finishes this book with a perfect blend of enjoyment and education.

This lovely book is gift worthy for any peony enthusiast or to add to your own peony library.

Pour a cup of tea, pop open one of your new favorite peony books, and take a deeper exploration into the world of peonies. Each book is a treasure and will serve as a reliable resource for many years to come.

Our farmer’s copies of these books are well thumbed and dog-eared, some even with dirty hand prints from numerous trips to the garden. We wish the same for you. If you have a favorite peony gardening book, please share it with us below in the comments, or even snap a picture of the cover and send it our way. Most of all, happy gardening!

-Written by the Member-Farms of the Alaska Peony Cooperative


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