It would be unseemly at best and ungrateful at worst to complain about anything related to my upcoming trip to Alaska.
My "Festiva Maxima" peony is running about 10 days behind schedule. In the past, it has bloomed like clockwork on May 1. This year, its fourth in my garden, promises to be spectacular. It has finally hit a good size and has tons of big fat buds. My best guess is that it will start blooming on Friday.
Unfortunately, I won't see it.
We are leaving for Alaska on Friday and will be away for 9 days. Coincidentally, that is about as long as one can realistically expect a peony to bloom down south. Some do a little better, some do a little worse. Either way, the show will be ending just as I return.
Peonies are so gorgeous when they are blooming that it is impossible to resist getting one, even though they are as fleeting a pleasure as gardens have to offer. Blink, or go on vacation for a week, and they are gone. People will try to convince you that the foliage is "handsome" and the form is "pleasing," but who are they kidding? Everyone knows we're in it for the flowers.
I am aware that missing my peony's brief bloom period for a fabulous trip to Alaska ranks low on the tragedy scale, but it is extremely annoying nonetheless. And it's all my fault. What sane gardener plans trips for May anyway? Had I been thinking clearly, I probably would have pushed for August, but I was preoccupied with risk assessment and my brain had shut down ("Ships and airplanes? Are you kidding?"). The peony never even crossed my mind.
So off I go to Alaska - excited, petrified, and more than a little miffed at Festiva Maxima. Wish me luck.
5/8/2013 10:42:16 am
I have a dog sitter/house sitter who can take pictures, but it's just not the same! Were you going to say that Judy was in Alaska in February? That sounds unpleasant.
5/8/2013 10:20:29 am
Thank you! I am hearing from several friends that they have planned vacations around their flowers' bloom times, so I think it must be universal.
Oh no, you will surely miss the peony, but you have a wondrous trip in store. We were in Alaska in June, for the summer solstice on the 21st -- not to be missed! But May will be spectacular even though you will miss the peony. Have a great trip -- itinerary? -- Anchorage for sure, but also Fairbanks and Skagway and where else? We had fun in Tok!
5/8/2013 10:44:30 am
I think Alaska is a place you have to visit several times, since it's so vast. The only place you mentioned that is on my itinerary is Skagway. I am sure it will be spectacular and I'll have a marvelous time and will forget all about my garden.
5/8/2013 10:23:10 am
Sarah, I'm telling you, your jaw will drop at the scenery and won't come back up for the whole trip--you won't think about your peony for a second.
5/8/2013 10:46:03 am
You are totally right - about the trip and the ants and the rain. But you have admit, peonies look pretty great for about 5 minutes.
5/8/2013 06:00:54 pm
Oh, what a shame. True, in the greater scheme of things this is probably not as bad as it gets, but it's still a pity to miss the peony bloom. Ours haven't even unfurled their leaves yet, so the bloom will be some time in June - and I don't have any travel plans around that time.
5/9/2013 03:25:46 am
I'm sure you're right, but I still say August would have been a better time to go. It's warmer in Alaska, and my garden is pretty much kaput by then.
5/9/2013 03:10:32 am
Shouldn't "Festiva Maxima" be the name of a mid-size sedan?
5/9/2013 03:27:11 am
I love it! The flower is size of a mid-size sedan, so why not? It would be an all white car with a red interior. Luxury, of course.
My favorite things about peonies are their smell and the fact that you can watch them open if you bring them inside, put them in a vase, and sit and stare at them for 15 minutes. Ants are just a bonus.
5/9/2013 06:25:58 am
I have heard you can put the buds in the refrigerator, too, which will save them until you are ready to have them open in a vase. As for my mother, yes, she always was a bit of a showoff. If had checked with her first about my vacation, she would have told me not to go. How do you think I got this way?
5/9/2013 06:22:57 am
Have fun in Alaska! We will miss you at Tristram.
5/9/2013 09:30:33 am
Thanks, Joel. Fortunately for me, I was looking for an excuse not to read Tristram Shandy, and now I have it. I'll be interested to hear what you thought of it.
You're a braver woman than I, I've never even been on an airplane. Whoever said that peonies have good form must never have lived very long in the South; mine often dive back underground to avoid the heat. Peonies are definitely all about the fleeting but gorgeous flowers.
5/11/2013 04:29:40 am
Somehow I feel better knowing I am not the only one afraid of planes and other scary methods of transportation. Peonies in the South - why do we torture ourselves?
5/11/2013 03:13:32 pm
I read that if you cut the stems with the buds on them and refrigerate them in a vase of water, they won't bloom until you take them out and bring them to room temp. It's worth a shot. Have fun in Alaska. :)
5/19/2013 04:48:29 am
I have heard the same thing. I am just back from Alaska (which was amazing) and to my great surprise I still have a few lingering peonies. It poured last night, so they look awful, but they are still hanging on. Hurray!
I feel your pain! Peonies are my second favorite flower, but I have also been to Alaska and it was breathtaking! You will have a wonderful trip, and maybe your peonies will surprise you and a couple blooms will hold out until you get back.
5/19/2013 04:54:06 am
I am just back from Alaska, and it was breathtaking indeed. Worth missing the peonies for! But you were right - a few hung on for me. So it was a win-win. I laughed when I saw that your mother complained about missing her crabapple tree and vowed never to visit in May again. She sounds like a woman after my own heart!
5/19/2013 04:55:16 am
Thanks so much - I had tons of fun in Alaska. The bugs weren't out yet, fortunately. I hope that your transition to Boston is going well. The garden sure will be different there!
5/19/2013 11:30:52 am
I'm glad to hear you that second my opinion. My sister loves the book and tells me I need to give it time, but I don't have the patience. I actually did return to a few peonies and have cut them for a vase. The flowers turned out to be harboring earwigs and other creatures so they are now making my deck pretty instead of my living room.
Hi Sarah...You've been to Alaska by now and I hope you had a great time! I would be sad to leave my garden, especially in May when everything is blooming like crazy! You commented on my post about the turtle I found. I have added you to my "read list" and look forward to reading your blog!!
5/21/2013 06:13:30 am
Thanks so much. I enjoy reading your blog, although I am always a little envious when I see your pictures!
5/22/2013 03:35:25 pm
I have been dreaming of a trip to Alaska for many years. It is on my bucket list, for sure. I have also wanted to grow peonies like those at my childhood family home. I have never forgotten those fabulous blooms. On my wish list for my garden as soon as I make a place for them. I understand your dilemma completely!
5/23/2013 07:19:06 am
Alaska is everything they say it is - amazing. And I even got to see a few peonies, although they looked pretty beaten up by the time I was back.
5/26/2013 06:45:35 pm
Um, Galloping Horse Gardener, you may recall that your mother planned the date of one of her children's weddings based on when the garden would be at its peak. Yet another way in which you have come to resemble her.
5/27/2013 03:57:09 am
Yes, "Jane," I am like my mother in more ways than I can count. Which isn't a bad thing.
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The Galloping Horse Gardener is a native New Yorker who packed it in in 2005 to live under the radar in Cary, North Carolina. In 2014, she removed to a new secure location somewhere in Raleigh.
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