This “secret” garden room near our Flower Garden Walk derives its name from the peonies that bloom in mid-May through early June.
Best known for its inviting coral and pink color palette when its nearly 200 peony plants are in bloom, the Peony Garden is also home to a variety of perennials, including hostas, lilies, ornamental grasses, and shrubs that together provide year-round interest.
In the spring months, bleeding-heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) treats us to its heart-shaped vibrant pink blooms, hinting at the peony bloom to come. Typically starting in mid-May, the peonies take center stage, along with orb-like ornamental onion (Allium ‘Globemaster’ and Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’), as well as lavender-blue catmint (Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’) and cheerful gaura (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Harrosy’ Rosyjane).
A total of eight cultivars of peonies can be found in the Peony Garden, planted in sweeps to highlight and elevate the individual cultivars. We have selected those cultivars not only for their color palette, but to showcase peonies that fall more into the garden-use variety, as most of the peonies are sturdy, single-flowered varieties versus the double-flowered varieties most often see in cut flower production. The cultivars include five herbaceous peonies (Paeonia ‘Coral Charm’, P. ‘Coral Sunset’, P. ‘Cytherea’, P. ‘Cheese Country’, and P. ‘June Rose’) and three intersectional, meaning they are a cross between herbaceous and tree peony (P. ‘Garden Treasure’, P. ‘Canary Brilliants’, and P. ‘Julia Rose’). A rounded flower bud is more characteristic of an herbaceous peony, while a more pointed flower bud helps identify an intersectional peony; intersectional peonies tend to be shorter and mounded, typically not requiring any staking. Herbaceous peonies typically bloom first, followed by intersectional peonies.
Starting in early summer, the trumpet-shaped Lilium ‘Black Beauty’ and Lilium regale begin to shine, as do the soft, cup-shaped Japanese anemone (Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’) and dainty hardy begonia (Begonia grandis). Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) ushers in the fall months with its reddening hue, while shrubs like oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Flemygea’ Snow Queen) provide winter structure and interest.
No matter the time of year, the large sundial in the center of the Peony Garden strikes a whimsical tone, serving as a nod to the legacy of this beautiful garden space.
Take a virtual stroll through our colorful Peony Garden in full bloom.
The Peony Garden sits in a space originally developed by Longwood founder Pierre S. du Pont in 1908 as one of three garden rooms south of the Flower Garden Walk. The westernmost of the garden rooms, this space originally featured a simple sundial on a pedestal in its center, surrounded by four low boxwood parterres divided by narrow paths. Throughout the years, the garden has also been known as the Sundial Garden, Maze Garden, and Curlicue Garden.
As Longwood transitioned to a public garden following Mr. du Pont’s death in 1954, the garden remained unchanged for some time. In 1972, staff began to evaluate the area to determine if there were better ways it could serve the public. To that end, it was decided the Sundial Garden would be replaced with the Peony Garden. Designed by Thomas Church, in 1975 the Peony Garden was transformed with the removal of its boxwood and the addition of tree peonies, laburnum trees, iris, and astilbe. The large sundial from the former Rose Garden was relocated to the new Peony Garden.
In spring 2017, our Peony Garden received the final touches on a redesign to make the garden even more impactful and beautiful for our guests. The transformation began in fall 2016 when the beds were redrawn to allow for more planting space and the top 24 inches of soil were replaced with a better-draining soil mix. The plant palette changed to include eight select peony cultivars of a coral and pink color palette, increasing the previous population of peonies in the garden by more than 40 percent. The garden’s sundial was restored and its stone base refurbished.