Peony – Heritage Garden

Peony – Living History – The Heritage Garden at the Cortes Island Museum

Early summer in the garden – peonies, roses, lilies and lavender – a wonderful season for colour and fragrance.

One of the first flowers to bloom in the early summer are peonies. The selections in the Heritage Garden were introduced in the 1880s and early 1900s; they come with associations of Edwardian times; extravagant, fragrant, colourful.

It was common for early settlers to bring a division of a peony from home to begin a new garden. If the settler moved on, often the few surviving plants on a homestead would include a peony.

See the Museum’s online exhibit The Peony – Symbol of Beauty and Survival for images of classic peonies,  including a peony found outside the cabin of Cortes Island author Gilean Douglas at Channel Rock.

A division of this peony was brought to the Heritage Garden and identified as Paeonia lactiflora ‘Nymphe’.

With their fleshy roots and drought tolerance, peonies are a good choice today with increasingly dry summers. For an extended season of bloom, choose an early peony such as ‘Edulis Superba’ a mid-season peony such as ‘Duchesse of Nemours’ and a late season peony such as ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ or ‘Karl Rosenfield’.

Blooming with the peonies in the Heritage Garden is the Lemon Lily Hemerocallis flava (L. lilioasphodelus), which is beautifully fragrant.  This lily is found in numbers around the Whaletown Church.

Heritage roses in the garden include ‘Ghislaine de Felingonde’ and ‘Dainty Bess’ on the walkway arbour and ‘Dr. W. Van Fleet’, ‘Awakening’ and ‘Felicite and Perpetue’ on the front fence, the white flowered rugosa rose ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’, the deep pink Damask Moss rose, and Rosa chinensis ‘Mutabilis’ whose flowers change colour from apricot to pink.

Blooming at the same time as the roses are the two day lilies in the garden, Hemerocallis fulva, the tawny orange lily, and Hemerocallis fulva ‘Kwanso’ a double lily, popular in gardens since the 1800s.

Soon to open are the Regale Lilies Lilium regale, in western gardens since the 1800s, and often planted with roses. This beautiful lily is fragrant and long lasting. Other lilies in the garden include trumpet lilies developed in the mid-1950s, such as Lilium aurelianense ‘Golden Splendour’. These sturdy lilies  come in a range of colours, including ‘Pink Perfection’ – a dark pink, and ‘African Queen’ – apricot orange.

The lavender  in the memorial circle is opening; the dark violet Lavandula augustifolia ‘Hidcote’ and the taller, mid-violet Lavandula x intermedia  ‘Provence’.  Lavender is another good choice for long, hot summers as it requires infrequent watering only.

For more pictures from Museum’s Heritage Garden please see our Facebook Heritage Garden Album.

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