Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Star of the Garden: A Lovely Yellow Peony

When our yellow peony blooms each spring, no matter the weather, it's always a sunny day.

An unusual color for a peony, Singing in the Rain graces our garden with a gorgeous display of blossoms that move through a range of colors.  Dark pink buds open into warm peach semi-double flowers reminiscent of tree peony blooms. When they first open, the blossoms are heavily tinged with a rosy apricot color that gradually fades over time to yellow as the blooms mature. Once fully mature, the butter yellow petals have an occasional dark pink streak.

With new rose-tinged blossoms opening among older yellow blossoms, the shrub, which grows as a perfect mound, is covered with a rainbow of colors ranging from papaya to banana against a backdrop of dark green foliage.    The word "stunning" hardly does it justice.

I acquired this beautiful yellow bloomer as an anniversary gift for my husband several years ago.  While I prefer rose, burgundy, lavender, and magenta hues, Steve loves autumn colors -  yellow, rust and orange flowers.   When I initially designed the garden, I didn't include any yellow or orange bloomers in the design plan.  As we added new plants and shrubs, Steve would point to a brilliant orange or lemon yellow bloom but I resisted  mixing yellow and orange with my mostly pink, rose, purple, white, magenta, and lavender palette.

Then, while I struggled through a very difficult chemotherapy protocol, my wonderful husband took over the lion's share of the garden maintenance.  He single-handedly cared for all of my "pink" flowers without complaint and especially without pointing out that none of his favorite colors were included.  When I was finally back on my feet, not only did I begin to introduce yellow and peach into the rest of the garden, but I also built a mostly orange and yellow bed just for him.  The bed gradually took shape over two summers and this shrub is the crowning glory.  Positioned next to the head of the stone walking path that meanders along the entire length of the bed, it anchors the bed.  Along with the yellow trumpet vine that cascades over a pyramid trellis behind it, it serves as a border between the yellow garden and the herb garden.

According to Select Plus Lilacs, where I purchased our shrub,  the name Singing in the Rain  reflects the way that the blossoms stand up to and are completely unaffected by the rain.   We can attest to that.  Unlike our herbacious peonies, the flowers are held up on very sturdy stems and never droop, even when the blooms are heavy with water from a driving rain.  Another advantage to these gorgeous blooms is that since they are sterile, they do not attract ants.  I can cut a few stems for a vase on the table without having to worry about tiny ants hiding in the crevices between the petals.

Like our tree peonies, this peony also blesses us with a bloom season spanning several weeks.  Initially covered with blossoms from the terminal buds, there are many side buds on each branch that will mature and bloom over the succeeding days and weeks.

Unlike what we experience with our herbaceous peonies, we see virtually no loss of the side buds. Once the terminal bud finishes blooming, virtually every side bud matures and blossoms in another wave of blossoms that are just as beautiful and as large and as sturdily held as the first ones. 

These "intersectional" peonies are a cross between a tree and an herbaceous peony, with some characteristics of each.  While they remain the size of a large herbaceous peony, the structure, especially of the base and main trunk area, is more like that of our tree peonies.   I have learned from experience to treat them more like tree peonies when it comes to feeding, pruning, and winter protection.

hen I drastically pruned another Itoh at the end of the season way that we cut back our herbaceous peonies, the short stems did not survive the winter and the base of the shrub could not sustain new growth.  Now, I deadhead the spent blossoms as they fade in spring and prune off  damaged leaves in the fall, but we don't do any drastic pruning and no cutting back in the fall (as we do with the "regular" herbaceous peonies).  I find it much better for the shrub if I wait until the new eyes sprout from the shrubby base in spring.  After the new eyes sprout and begin to grow, I carefully cut back the deadwood from the previous year.  A very sharp pair of rose pruners does this quite nicely.

Blossoms open with a rosy peach hue....
... and gradually become more yellow as they mature.
A mature yellow blossom with a dark pink streak

Mature blossom, pale bright yellow, with rose streaks.
Taken two days after the above photograph, you can see the color change as the blossoms gradually open.

This lovely peony is available from Select Plus Lilacs. You can check their web site or email them for ordering and delivery times.


  1. What a beautiful metamorphosis you captured in both photos and narrative. I have a rose that changes from red to fuchsia.

  2. This is gorgeous. And the fact that it's not affected by rain is amazing! I like the rosy coloring.

  3. I love this peony! What a great attribute that it doesn't sag with rain as most peonies do!

    Lovely photos

  4. Beautiful! I can't get over how upright it held itself.

  5. We had a minor sprinkle last night and this morning, when we were out for our early morning gardening routine (Steve and I garden together from about 5:30 AM to 7:30 AM daily, rain or shine), the Sarah Bernhardts were toppled over completely, flower heads full of water, while the Singing in the Rain blooms had been doing just that and were standing straight and tall!

  6. What a great name for an amazing Peony. Your photos are terrific, I like the gradual change in colour.Hope the tornado two weeks ago didn't come too near your place.

  7. Alistair, thanks for asking. We fared well, actually. We were right in the path of the entire storm system as it moved east and it was very tense as we were under a tornado watch and tornado warnings that afternoon, but aside from some microbursts that took down a fair number of trees in the area, we had no severe weather, which was very fortunate. We are finally seeing the end of tornado season here (which is usually very benign -- we rarely have tornadoes). But we'll soon be seeing the onslaught of hurricane season, and those do reach this far north, and being right on the coast, they are no stranger to us.

  8. I have to tell you all that this little gem is really everything it claims to be - the colors are glorious, the blossoms are exquisite and they never, ever droop, and it cuts well for indoor bouquets.

    I don't know if it's just in our garden or not, but it doesn't seem to attract ants the way the others do.

    Last year it bloomed enthusiastically but this year it has really come into its own. It has already been blooming for a couple of weeks and with the side buds just beginning to mature, it will be several more weeks before the colorful display is finished. If I had to choose again and could pick just one yellow to have, this would be my "go to" peony every time.

  9. That is a gorgeous peony. As I was reading your post, I kept thinking that I don't even remember seeing a yellow peony before.

  10. I had to come check out your peonies... wow, that is SO beautiful! I had never heard of that variety. Just love the color, and how happy and exuberant it looks! I think it is an intersectional one (cross between tree peony and herbaceous peony).


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