Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The first of the Herbaceous Peonies

Today, the Herbaceous Peony, Coral Fay, has opened up. She is the first of these Herbaceous Peonies to flower. I took these photos this morning, and when filing the images I noticed that last year, I took my first photos of her on 14 October - so she is pretty consistent, year on year.

Herbaceous Peonies and Tree Peonies are in the same genus, but they are very different plants. These behave much like Dahlias - they have large woody tubers (root stock, to be accurate), but they die down totally each year (they are "herbaceous perennials"), leaving only the woody root stock alive. The Tree Peonies are deciduous shrubs (something like Hydrangeas in behaviour).

This lovely flower is very difficult to photograph in its true colour. The base colour is what is known (in the Peony world) as "Peony Pink" - others might refer to it as "fuchsine" (after the dominant pink/blue tone of Fuchsias). It has a strong tinge of blue in the flower, and cameras have always had difficulty capturing blueish tones accurately. Even after a little work in Photoshop, it is still difficult to present these flowers accurately.

The very first image was taken in natural light, and it apppears a brilliant flame red in the harsh Australian sunlight. But the flowers are so shiny, you always tend to get "highlights" (or "flares") which distort the image. But you can see the tinge of purple in the "highlight" in the centre of the flower.With a flash (to supplement daylight), the blues come out a little more. The colour in this image is closest to the real tones of the flower.This flower tends to flop its head over a little, once it opens, and to show the wonderful "boss" of golden stamens, I used the flash to lighten up the center of the flower, otherwise, you would only see a dark outside rim of red, and see little of the glorious golden stamens, inside the flower. If you go to Carsten Burkhardt's website database of peonies, (the link takes you to the page "C"), then select the letter "o" - and scroll down the list to "Coral Fay", and click on that link. You will see numerous images of this plant - and you will also see the huge vaiation in colour representation on that page. It really is hard to photograph accurately.

None-the-less, I love this flower for its precociousness. The first of the herbaceous peonies always brightens my Springtime.

I have cut three of these flowers today, and given them to a friend. Partly this is to allow the plant to prepare itself for next year. Partly it is to spread a little Springtime joy - for that what these flowers bring with them.


mick said...

Beautiful! And your post and photos spreads the joy of them even further!

patientgardener said...

I found the photos fascinating - showing the different effect of the flash etc. I have really struggled with certain colours of flowers - I find pale lilac hard to photograph

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick - glad to spread the springtime joy further. Down here, in the cooler regions, these seasonal changes are really important - especially if one has northern hemisphere plants in the garden.
Hi PatientGardener
I understand your problem with the colour of lilacs - its the same problem with the pink and blue tonings to which I referred. Try daylight use of flash, with a small aperture setting, and medium-fast speed (if you have manual controls on the camera).
Thanks for dropping by.