'Festiva Maxima'
Peonies have been garden favorites for many years. They originated in China about three thousand years ago when they were valued for their medicinal attributes. After they were introduced into Europe they became very popular and during the 19th century were hybridized resulting in some cultivars that are still popular today. During this time large full pink or white flowers were most popular and those are the ones that have survived. Peonies are outstanding plants for spring bloom and the heirloom cultivars are some of the loveliest of all.

Here are five favorite white heirloom peonies that were introduced in the nineteenth century, so are well over 100 years old. All are available through catalog and/or on line sources.

The full white flowers of ‘Avalanche’ are fragrant and the edges of the petals are flecked with red. The good petal substance makes helps them stand up to wind and rain.  Look similar to ‘Festiva Maxima’ described below.

    Breeder and Introduction Date: Crousse, 1886
    Height: 35”
    Type: Double
    Bloom Time: Midseason

‘Duchess de Nemours
The creamy white fragrant flowers are full and globe-shaped with touches of green on the petals and a yellow center.

    Breeder and Introduction Date: Calot, 1856
    Height: 34”
    Type: Double
    Bloom Time: Midseason

‘Festiva Maxima’
Probably the most popular and available of the white heirloom peonies, ‘Festiva Maxima’ offers large, loose, fragrant blooms with red flecks. The flowers are similar to those of ‘Avalanche’ but the bloom date is significantly earlier.

    Breeder and Introduction Date: Miellez, l851
    Height: 36”
    Type: Double
    Bloom Time: Early

Madame de Verneville
Another white peony with red flecks but this one has an inner glow of yellow from its base and is very fragrant with a rose scent.

    Breeder and Introduction Date: Crousse, 1885
    Height: 31”
    Type: Double
    Bloom Time: Midseason

Baroness Schroeder
The white flowers open with a blush and then turn pure white. They and are mildly fragrant. and are excellent as cut flowers.

    Breeder and Introduction Date: Kelway, 1889
    Height: 35”
    Type: Double
    Bloom Time: Late-midseason

Most of the old heirloom white peonies are double, fragrant, but they vary in height and bloom time. To get a long bloom our of your peony bed, plant a variety of cultivars so that at least one kind is blooming from early to late.

Herbaceous Perennials pointer

By Karen