By Chuck Gleaves
With what must be thousands of varieties of hybrid peonies to chose from, it is fun to go back, sometimes, to actual natural peony species. One peony species of particular fascination also has one of the most unpronouncable of plant names, Paeonia mlokosewitschii. An effort to pronounce the second name in that binomial will readily explain its nickname, Molly the Witch.
Surprisingly it is seldom grown. Kingwood, for example, has none. It is rarely offered by nurseries, but with the power of an internet search engine a source is easily found. I took the plunge several years ago and have been intrigued and satisfied by its performance ever since. Mine blooms with creamy white flowers, although others have flowers that are pale yellow. I will let the attached pictures speak for themselves about the plant’s appearance.
I am also fond of my plant’s habit of gently seeding itself around. I would love to have a swath of Molly the Witch and eventually will as my young seedlings take several years to mature.
If you garden, as I do, in a naturalistic style one of the most fascinating aspects of the garden is watching the plants ebb and flow as they compete and interact with one another. A gentle self-seeding gives the gardener something to work with, and, of course, aggressive self-seeding turns into a battle to keep the plants at bay. Molly the Witch provides the former for me, although I have friends who say it never self-seeds for them. These things are often a matter of luck, but self seeding or not, Molly the Witch is a gratifying long-lived and reliable plant to have in your garden.