I took this photo of one of my peonies to give credit to its secret helper, the ant. (Click photo to enlarge.) Until I researched this posting, I (along with perhaps half of the rest of the world) believed that ants tracking through the gooey residue of these buds are essential for pollination. Not so. A peony’s ability to bloom is directly related to its root stock. So if you are very generous and divide your larger bushes to share with friends, none of you is likely to have flowers for several years, unless care is taken that every divided plant has at least five “eyes.”
Ants do serve two other purposes, according to my research. They eliminate other insects and are actually helpful in opening the dense double-flower buds found in many peonies. I have two varieties in my garden, both given to me by my father who divided them from some given to him. When it blooms, this bud will be magenta and visually exquisitely beautiful, but without a scent. I have two stands of a light pink variety. While it will not be as pretty, it will have the most heavenly fragrance you can imagine.
I find this often happens with roses, too. The most exquisitely beautiful, frequently don’t have a strong scent, while the strongly scented ones are not necessarily the most gorgeous. Has anyone else had this experience?
Oh … and if you have peonies, stand them upside down in water before you bring them into the house and you will rid them of the ants. We will visit this plant, and its paler sister mid- to late-May when they bloom.