One of the most spectacular of the spring-blooming perennials, peonies produce large, show-stopping, fragrant blossoms predominantly in shades of red, pink and white. Peonies are herbaceous perennials---they die down to their roots every year---and form a small bush shape about 24 to 30 inches high when growth resumes in spring. They are notorious for flopping over from the weight of their large blossoms. To get around this, provide a means of supporting the plant. A small fence about 18 inches high that surrounds it will keep the stems and flowers from ending up on the ground. Install special peony supports--available at garden centers and from seed catalogs--in early spring when the plants are about 6 inches high.
The variety Karl Rosenfeld (Paeonia 'Karl Rosenfeld') is a flamboyant red peony with double flowers and exceptional fragrance. Karl Rosenfeld produces flowers in mid-spring that can be up to 8 inches across. Arcturus (Paeonia 'Arcturus') is a single petaled peony and has rich crimson red flowers with prominent yellow centers. Blooms during mid spring on tall, stiff stems.
Sarah Bernhardt (Paeonia 'Sarah Bernhardt') is a classic pink favorite peony with double flowers with a slightly paler coloring on the edges of the petal. Sarah Bernhardt blooms in late spring. Another pink variety that has single flower petals, Sea Shell (Paeonia 'Sea Shell'), blooms in mid spring. The flower petals are bright pink with yellow stamens in the center of the blossom that add depth to the blooms.
Shirley Temple (Paeonia 'Shirley Temple') produces lavish 5- to 7-inch blooms set off by deep green foliage. It has beautiful, pure white full double flowers with an intense peony fragrance and blooms in mid spring. Krinkled White (Paeonia 'Krinkled White') is a single snowy white peony with crinkled petals and a tightly packed center of yellow stamens. This variety blooms in early spring.