Struggling with Peonies

February 22nd, 2011

February in Kansas is bitterly cold.  So I thought that perhaps a post on peonies would make Spring get here a bit faster.  But first, I must most regretfully inform you that I chronically mispronounce the word ‘peonies’.  I say it like this – Pee-OH-Neeze.  I have no idea why I say it this way and I fear it is too late for me to change my ways.  Even though my mispronunciation has caused me much embarrassment at my job where the following conversation has taken place more than once…

Customer – I am looking for that plant that has real big blooms.

Me – Oh… you mean hydrangea?

Customer – No.. It blooms in the spring and it has big round blossoms…

Me – Maybe a snowball bush?

Customer – You see it a lot in graveyards.  It tends to bloom on Memorial day…

Me – Oh!!!  You mean Pee OH Neeze!

Customer – No… but it is sort of sounds like that.  It is a short plant and usually pink.

Me – Are the blooms like cabbages?

Customer – Yes… that’s right.

Me – It’s Pee OH neeze.

Customer – Pee Oh What?

Me – Pee OH neeze.

Customer – Oh!  You mean PEEahneeze!

Me – Yes!  That’s what I said.  Pee OH neeze.

Customer – You gotta funny way of talking lady.

Me – Oh… well… I… uh… I come from… I was born in… I… Here… let me just show you where they are…

My struggles with Peonies do not end with my inability to pronounce them correctly.

I also have developed a resistance to their short blooming season, their tendency to droop under the weight of their own blossoms and the sticky ant infestation that often accompanies the plant.

The cure for my Peony resistance turned out to be a long and persuasive exposure to the Nippon Chief Peony at the garden center where I work.

The massive deep pink unusual looking flower was just the medicine I needed.

And so I eventually brought one home and planted it on the north east corner of the house amidst a trio of Snowbelle Mockorange, Emerald Triumph Viburnum and various perennials.

Memorial Day will be much prettier this year.


  • That is a beautiful variety. Peonies are worth it. Don’t worry about the ants. They aren’t hurting anything. Just make sure you shake them off before you bring the blooms in the house. I hate finding an ant colony on my kitchen table.

  • GA in GA:

    Beautiful! Love the big barn in the background, too!

    I love peonies, but they do not love our heat and humidity. :-(

  • Bdaiss:

    I adore peonies. No matter how you pronounce it.
    And how did you know I was just going through all the garden catalogs making my spring wishlisy?

  • poppy:

    Oh, heck! I love PeeOhknees. My mom has them planted all across the front of her garage. Her grandmother lined a driveway with them. They ARE voluptuous and heavy. That is exactly what makes me like them. They remind me of home. They remind you that the strawberries are gone and you’d better go water the tomatoes. Screw the ants!

  • jane:

    Around here, it is pronounced “pie nees”

    • JudyB:

      There are two opinions where I live…the older ladies tend to call them pie nees, like you, and everyone else calls them pee ahh knees. Whatever they are called, they are beautiful! I still remember, when my mom was terminally ill, a good friend of hers brought in a large vase with a beautiful bouquet for Mom to enjoy. So lovely! except for all the teeny ants that came out of them and all over the table in her room. It really got quite funny, and made us laugh, which was much needed at the time.

      • Samantha:

        I grew up in New England and only heard them pronounced as PEE-a-neeze but I’m now living in Virginia and the locals here call them pee-OH-neeze.

        I love them and I don’t worry about the ants…

        • JustPeachy:

          I’m in New England and say PEE-a-neeze, but have heard the other pronunciation as well. They are beautiful, and sadly… I’m not graced with a green thumb, so my attempts to have some didn’t work out well.

          Rechelle, the photo with the barn in the background is lovely!

  • farmgirl:

    Screw the ants! Tie em up when they flop! The bloom period is short but nothing is sweeter! The peony is hands down the purtiest flower on earth! And don’t even get me started with the TREE peony—-no plant gives more and asks for less. And they can live a hundred years! I know their faults…..but a peony makes a rose look like a flower in training……

  • Oh, I love pee-a-neeze too. I have the double blossom kind and am so excited when I get just one bloom. The cold is what they like. They struggle so in warm SoCal winters.

  • LucyJoy:

    Beautiful! I have one, but it’s never bloomed. I blame the soil…

    My MIL was raised in Kansas & pronounces it Pee OH neeze, too. I was raised in Washington state & pronounce it PEE-oh-neeze…minor difference…

  • Jo:

    love these.

    ps :here in australia, i pronounce them pee-oh-nees.

  • Pie Knees is how i remember it. i got married and my MIL said it was ” PEE on Kneeze” . pecan were “pra kohn” quickly became PEE CON. and we said crayon some way different that i cant remember. no wonder my DIL said ” You Guys have got an accent”

  • Martha in Kansas:

    The pronunciation is regional and by listening to how you say a variety of words, linguists can figure out where you’re from.

    You know those short tomato cages that don’t really do much for tomatoes? I shove them over my PEE-uh-neez when they first come up. They’re exactly the right height to hold up those heavy heads, tho you may have to tuck some behind the wire as they grow.

    The ants eat the wax (or something) off the flower, which allows it to open. (My head is full of such useful stuff.) Most of them fall off with a shake.

    Around here people pick the flower when the head is developed and barely softening (just thinking of opening). They wrap them in plastic wrap and store them flat in the fridge. They last a few weeks and will open normally when you take them out. (Trim the stem so there’s a fresh cut.) Thank the Pendletons for figuring that out!

  • Trudy:

    I transplanted some of my mom’s pee oh neez last summer. I am so hopeful that they took and I may have a chance to have some. They are one of my favorites, but I don’t have much luck with them….and after this dreadful winter, I am soooo ready for flowers.

  • Glyndia:

    I love the double reds! I was told that the peonies needed the ants to open them. Was someone pulling my leg?