Prized for their blowsy, glamorous blooms and glossy, deeply cut foliage, peonies are held in deep affection by many gardeners, despite their shortish flowering season and vulnerability to peony wilt in damp weather. It's easy to see why. From the promise of early spring, when their red, mottled shoots push through bare earth and the handsome foliage unfurls from spherical red buds, to early summer, when the huge flowers burst open, peonies exert a fascination that few can resist. 'Shirley Temple' is later flowering than many peonies with large, pale pink, double flowers, gently fading to buff-white, and mid green leaves. The centre of each beautiful, scented flower is full of small, loosely arranged ruffled petals. It will thrive in full sun or partial shade. Fill the bare ground around the peony before the leaves appear with spring bulbs to prolong the season of interest.
Garden care: Deadhead after flowering. In early spring apply a top dressing of a balanced, slow release fertiliser around the base of the plant and mulch with well-rotted compost or manure. If the plant shows signs of collapse or the leaves become spotty, this may be a symptom of peony botrytis. Remove affected leaves immediately. In the autumn, cut off all the foliage and dispose of it to prevent reinfection the following spring.