With its huge blooms of silken petals, the peony is a sumptuous treat. It takes centre stage in early summer, adding glamour to flower borders from the moment its  globe-shaped buds begin to open.

Native to many parts of the northern hemisphere, breeding programmes in China and Japan, and more recently in North America, have given rise to a huge range of different varieties, many of which carry the faint but unforgettable peony scent.

No one knows more about peonies than Billy Carruthers. His nursery, Binny Plants in Ecclesmachan has long specialised in growing and breeding these long-lived plants, which can persist in the garden for 60 years or more.

Billy is a frequent exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower Show and he has travelled extensively, visiting growers in New Zealand and in other parts of the world where peonies are grown on a large scale.

His love of peonies dates back to childhood when he fell in love with the old-fashioned red peonies, Paeonia officinalis, that grew in his family garden.

Now his nursery sells one of the widest collections of peonies in the country including some that are rare to cultivation.

“Despite what many people think, peonies are actually very easy to grow,” says Billy.

“Problems only arise if they are planted too deeply, which is what can cause them to stop flowering. They crown should in fact be planted just under the surface of the soil and they should be grown in rich, but well-drained soil in the sunniest part of the garden.”

Scottish Gardener:

There are three distinct types of peonies, all of which are worthy of a place in the garden.

Herbaceous peonies

These are the most familiar types; their red shoots appear in spring, turning green as the foliage matures, and they die down again in autumn.

They come in a mix of single and double blooms in colours from white, through pink and coral, to deep red.

Tree peonies

These are shrubs, not trees, and they have been cherished for more than a millenium in China. The flowers are similar to herbaceous peonies but the woody framework persists all year.

Intersectional Hybrids

By crossing herbaceous and tree peonies, breeders have been able to produce plants with hybrid vigour that can carry as many as 60 flowers in one season.



These are some of Billy’s favourite peonies.

Scottish Gardener:

Soft Salmon Saucer -  This beautiful herbaceous peony has a single flower and a light, soft scent.

Scottish Gardener:

Canary Brilliants - Like all intersectional hybrids this peony is highly floriferous and has a strong fragrance. The pale yellow flowers have a splash of coral.

Scottish Gardener:

Sonoma Velvet Ruby - This rare and unusual intersectional hybrid produces its flowers on a sturdy framework.


Garden Notebook
Binny Plants
Binny Estate, Ecclesmachan Road, Uphall EH52 6NL
T: 01506 858931