Many gardeners grow peonies for sentimental reasons. These old-fashioned flowers may remind them of their childhood or a grandmother’s garden. Peonies are lovely in the garden or as cut flowers indoors. Their fragrance varies, depending on the cultivar, as well as the time of day. Peonies are most fragrant in the morning before their volatile oils dissipate with the heat of the day.
People may perceive the scent of peonies differently, but peonies are usually said to have a sweet roselike scent or a clean, slightly citrus scent. Some single varieties have a slightly unpleasant scent resembling fish.
Peonies are most fragrant in the morning and when the blooms are young. As the flowers age, the scent fades. If you like the scent of peonies, cut them when the buds are just opening for an indoor arrangement. Place them in a location out of direct sunlight with good air circulation so that the fragrance is distributed through the house.
Old-fashioned peonies are usually very fragrant, although they may require more care than hybrids. Try "Hermione," "Myrtle Gentry," "Madame Calot" or "Chestine Gowdy." Plant a few hybrids for strong stems and early blooms. Some fragrant varieties to try include "Burma Ruby," "Claire de Lune," "Diana Parks," "Henry Bockstoce" and "Postilon."
Plant peonies in early fall in a sunny location. Dig a hole 1 1/2 feet deep and amend it with one to two shovelfuls of compost or manure. Add 1/2 cup of 5-10-5 fertilizer to the soil for good root development. Plant peonies so that the eyes (or buds) are 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface. Deeper planting delays or curbs flowering. Water peonies at least weekly during dry conditions and pull any weeds. Mulch the plants with straw or wood chips in the winter to protect the roots from freezing, and stake the plants if the stems flop over.