Some members of the plant world have star quality – the blue Himalayan poppy or tender Bird of Paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae) fall into this category. So too does Paeonia mlokosewitschii, flowering in my garden right now.
Molly the Witch, as she is commonly called, comes from the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, sheltered by trees from the strong winds in the area. While a sunny spot is tolerated, light shade brings out the best in this plant. Starting from pink buds in March, the slightly glaucous foliage unfolds, to be followed in May by glorious pale yellow flowers. These only last a few days (and at their best for twenty minutes as Christopher Lloyd wryly observed), but their fleeting appearance makes the anticipation so much greater.
Plant in well cultivated soil with adequate moisture retention and a deep root run (think woodland soils) but keep the resting winter growth bud at soil level. Feed heavily each spring and wait three to five years for the first flower. Even better, buy one in bloom as seed raised plants may have pink flowers rather than the coveted pale yellow, pretty but disappointing after waiting so long for them to appear.
When the first bud finally opens, ring your friends, tell the local newspaper, drag strangers in off the street, and watch them all fall under Molly’s bewitching spell.