I love peonies! If I could find a way to make them bloom all summer along with poppies, I'd be a happy camper. Of course, that's not going to happen, so I settle for the next best thing - I just plant lots of them!
I've been not-so-secretly coveting my mom's double maroon peony - I keep joking that some day when she's gone, I'm just going to go dig part of it out of the ground. But instead, I begged her to take me to the nursery where she bought it so I could get one for myself. So last year in May or June (I can't remember if it was Mother's Day or Mom's birthday), we drove out to Hul's Nursery in St. Wendel (where? you ask ... seem the map here: map of Hul's Nursery). The people who own this place are great! They answered tons of questions and offered really good advice. I came home with my very own double maroon and a white Japanese-type with a yellow center. I think they were $10-15 each.
I wasn't sure where I was going to put them, so they sat in their pots until September. I was worried I had waited too long to get them in the ground, but they're both coming up roses (er, peonies!).
Compare that to the three peonies I picked up at the Cub flower mart on sale for $6 each. Two of the three look like this:
Lesson learned: buy the good stuff. From people who know what they're doing and care about their merchandise. I'll be going back this year for a few more - I think I've got just the spot for a fern-leaf peony.