Peek–A Peony for Fall

Do you know this plant?


Japanese forest peony (Paeonia obovata)

No? Well, it’s new to me too. I saw it on a September tour that I led to Philadelphia and the Brandywine Valley, in the garden of David Culp who wrote The Layered Garden.

Commonly called Japanese forest peony, Paeonia obovata is a woodland species native to forested areas of Siberia, Manchuria, China, and Japan. In spring, the plant’s fresh foliage emerges red before turning green. Its single-form flowers, which bloom in early summer and have a mild fragrance, range from white to rosy-purple and feature bold yellow stamens.

Autumn, however, is the peony’s best season. In late summer or early fall, its seed pods begin to split, revealing glossy blue-black berries set among infertile, luminous red kernels.

David grows a cluster of these perennials in the garden of his home, Brandywine Cottage, where they are nestled at the base of a massive fir tree. The tree has a raised canopy that creates an outdoor room, including walls made with a collection of potted plants and a picnic table for enjoying alfresco meals.

While signing books for the group at the picnic table, David noted the peony is easy to grow in good soil with part shade and regular moisture.

I hope to show you more of David’s garden soon; this is just a peek to whet your appetite, which is linked to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Peek.

20 thoughts on “Peek–A Peony for Fall

  1. Pat Webster

    I don’t get plant envy very often any more but for this one I have it, big time. I will start the search for it, and hope that it will survive in my very cold climate. Its origins in Siberia and Manchuria make me hopeful.

    I enjoyed David Culp’s book very much and think how lucky you and your group were to have visited him.

  2. Susan Temple

    I would have never guessed that plant was a peony. It stopped me in my tracks. If I had not been so enthralled with the pods, the foliage may have helped me see a peony. But the color of the pods!!! Fantastic!!

  3. Judy Mooney

    This is beautiful. I’m anxious to see more of David’s garden as I purchased his book at the gardening seminar when he spoke a couple of years ago. I refer to it often.

  4. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Alison–David Culp is a real sweetie and he has a new book coming out next year…but he wouldn’t tell us the topic. I do know, however, his photographer, Rob Cardillo, was visiting the next day to get some shots.


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