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Peony Envy

Every so often, I like to whip out my peony pics.

How’s your garden growing?

We’ve got a bumper crop of hydrangeas here at Chez Hockey Puck. We named the old homestead Chez Hockey Puck after our kids. I believe that’s how the states of Georgia and Maryland and the city of Elizabeth, NJ got their names. (Note to Editor: I haven’t fact checked this.)

Anyway, Chez Hockey Puck’s hydrangeas are ridiculous. Our bushes are six or seven feet in diameter with a zillion blue pompoms. And here’s the thing; I have no idea why. Some years are good hydrangea years, and some years aren’t. This year’s a good one and that’s all I know.

Mr. Hockey seems to think it’s because he didn’t prune them last year. He has a joke about pruning.

Q: When is a good time to prune?

A: When your clippers are sharp.

Mr. Hockey is so funny! (Note to Editor: I have fact checked this. He’s not. I’m the funny spouse.)

If Mr. Hockey is right, I won’t let him prune the hydrangeas until they take over the yard and we can’t get to the pool. But, again, I don’t know if he’s right.

I suppose I could do some research, maybe read something, or watch a Youtube video to learn how hydrangeas actually work.

I’d rather not.

I’d rather raise them by the method of benign neglect. That’s how we raised the hockey pucks and it’s worked out fine. (Note to Editor: I haven’t fact checked this. Those puckers could be heinous criminals.)

I’m new to the gardening game. The outside of the house has always been Mr. Hockey’s domain. Mine was the inside. The key to a good marriage is to divide the labor. (Note to Editor: I haven’t fact checked this. The key to a good marriage is probably to just keep your mouth shut.)

Anyway, I wasn’t involved with the gardening. Then one day a visiting city friend asked if she could deadhead my peonies. “Excuse me?” This was a very forward question about my peonies.

My friend – I’ll call her Lily, in keeping with the flower theme – explained that deadheading was cutting off the dead flowers. I said sure! Have at it. City folk like to get their hands dirty every so often. I was happy to oblige.

After Lily taught me how to deadhead them, I wasn’t afraid to cut my peonies. I began making flower arrangements. These stunning peonies shouldn’t be limited to the perimeter of my driveway. I put them in the “good” vases – those unused crystal wedding gifts we’ve been lugging from home to home for the past 30 years.

I know I’m bragging but my peonies are spectacular. When they’re in bloom, I take anyone who visits my house out to the backyard to see the rich magenta flowers. I don’t care that the UPS guy is on a tight schedule.

When they’re not blooming, I’ve got photos of my peonies on my phone. I whip out those peony pics every chance I get.

My peonies are so fabulous, that another friend – I’ll call her Petunia – asked me if she could take some of my peony tubers.

“Excuse me?” Another forward peony inquiry!

After Petunia explained we could separate the tubers and grow more peonies, I said no. Tuber separating involves digging. With a spade. This country folk doesn’t like to get her hands dirty.

Petunia will have to propagate her own peonies to get over her peony envy.

Last spring, Lily gave me some bare root rose plants. She had given me two bare roots a few years ago and one is still alive today. I couldn’t believe Lily took another chance on me. If I failed to raise fifty percent of the hockey pucks, I don’t think anyone would just hand me more hockey pucks.

So far, my roses are okay. Not spectacular but surviving. I think my error was planting them too close to a hydrangea bush so they’re not getting enough sun. In my defense, I had no idea how big that hydrangea would get.

I think I’ve made it clear here: I’m no Marilee Foster.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hockey ordered a couple cheap rose bushes online, plunked them down near the pool, and since we’ve eradicated the deer from the backyard, they’re growing like gangbusters.

Maybe Mr. Hockey is the Marilee Foster of the family.

About the deer, our backyard fence kept out them for ten years. Last year, they hopped it with complete disdain, then ate the roses, hydrangeas, and everything in the vegetable garden.

Mr. Hockey, being the rugged outdoorsman he is, has made the fence higher. But be warned: the deer are adapting. And they like okra.

The deer made last year a bad hydrangea year. I had hydrangea envy. I drove around drooling over everyone else’s.

As a hydrangea stalker, I know where all the best ones are. A house on Cove Hollow Road has some sapphire gems. A friend has huge white pompoms in her front yard. And the houses on Sagaponack’s Cemetery Lane have hydrangeas to die for. (Note to Editor: I had to make that joke).

I rarely experience peony envy myself; our peonies are locked in. Come to Chez Hockey Puck during the last two weeks of June and I’ll drag you to the backyard.

Otherwise, I’m happy to whip out my peony pics and give you peony envy any time.

Photo of those hot looking peonies, by ME!

Published in The East Hampton Press on July 29, 2022.

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