The Lush and The Subtle

3, Jun, 2013 Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

Luscious Peonies, and Subtle Native Bloomers

On the Greenway, we are passionate about Peonies. Full, decadent, soft, layered, luscious, and wonderful; this is their time in the spotlight. We are lucky to have many wonderful specimens throughout the Greenway, including numerous cultivars of Paeonia lactiflora, as well as Paeonia suffruticosa, the Tree Peony. You will find them blooming now in Chinatown and Fort Point Channel Parks, as well as a collection of coral-blooming peonies in the Boxwood-edged beds of the North End Park. Peonies have a rich history in many countries. The name ‘Peony’ is derived from Greek mythology and the flowers are an important, fortuitous symbol in both Chinese and Japanese cultures. The Peony has long been a popular flower in American gardens, as well as gardens all around the world.

In the Wharf District, we focus on native plants and their offspring, we have much more subtle flowers, but equally seductive and charming. The Bowman’s Root – Gillenia trifoliata, is unknown to many people. With shrub-like qualities it is a sturdy plant with narrow leaves and a wonderful, pink-tinged, star-like flower. Like many natives it is rather ephemeral.  The flowers fade quickly, leaving a soft green presence in sometimes shaded garden areas. It pairs wonderfully with the Anemone canadensis – with its even more fleeting, small white flower, leaving behind a nice thimble shaped seed head providing interest for much of the summer.

More flowers will be blooming every week as we head into June and the height of summer. For now though, the Iris also have a prime spotlight. The native Iris versicolor, tall strappy leaves with a smaller, but typical, Iris flower in blues and lavenders, is distinctly quieter than the ‘full of frills’ show you get from the sky blue Iris germanica ‘Breakers’ and the apricot Iris germanica ‘Depth of Field’. These two Bearded Iris cultivars saturate the slopes of the Boxwood beds in the North End, even providing drive-by satisfying bursts of color to commuters on Surface Road.