Sarah Bernhardt Peony

The flowers of Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ are tightly packed with beautiful pink petals. The delicious fragrance is equal to their physical beauty. When summer begins, I look forward to the gorgeous flowers of this peony.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' perennial
Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' perennial

My ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony usually gets about 20 to 30 flowers in part shade, each one pretty on its own, but together they put on a spectacular show. The extra full flowers tend to arch over, especially in the rain. I use a one piece metal ring to hold up the peony flowers, inserted when the perennial is about 30 cm (a foot) tall. The ring is quickly hidden by the rapid growth of the foliage.

This Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’  is planted in an area that is part shade, with more sun than shade. It would probably get even more flowers in full sun, but I’m happy with the couple dozen flowers produced by the perennial here.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' flower closeup
Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' flower closeup

The double pink flowers of  ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ are tightly packed with delicate looking petals. Each overlapping petal is crinkled on the end to give a fuller look. The pink shading goes from deeper on the bottom and interior of the petals, to lighter at the tips, making it a very attractive peony flower

Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' and campanula glomerata
Paeonia lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' and campanula glomerata

The soft pink colour of the ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ flower is easy to combine in a border with many garden plants, especially ones that are blue, pink or purple.

Sarah Bernhardt peony and bellflower
Sarah Bernhardt peony and bellflower

I have some purple Campanula glomerata (clustered bellflower) planted next to the peony that coordinate well and bloom at the same time. On the other side are some Campanula ‘Summertime Blues’ (bellflowers) with a steely blue colour. In front are some shorter Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Grenadin Pink’ (pink carnations) that are in bud now. At the front edge of the bed are some annual  light blue Lobelia that make a flowering border all season.

Sarah Bernhardt peony flowers
Sarah Bernhardt peony flowers

The scent alone is a great reason for growing a ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony. The wonderful fragrance is worth visiting this section of the garden everyday while they are in bloom. These rate at the top of my list of favourite scented plants, along with lilac, mockorange, carnations and lily of the valley.

Sarah Bernhardt peony flower in vase
Sarah Bernhardt peony flower in vase

The flowers make beautiful arrangements in a vase, or even on their own. Above is a flower I picked to display in the small glass vase. I took the picture just before I brought it inside. The scent is wonderful indoors, so I put this one on my dining table to enjoy.

Peonies are reliable perennials, faithfully returning every year. They always make me smile with their predictable cycle of behaviour: ants scurrying over the buds, big pompoms opening, scent perfuming the air, stems bending under the weight of the beauty, rain bending them more, and then after a few weeks petals slowly dropping to carpet the ground. They are a very endearing perennial, foibles and all.

There are more ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony photos and information in this previous article.

23 thoughts on “Sarah Bernhardt Peony”

  1. Sarah Bernhardt is such a classic beauty!! She looks fabulous with your blue glomerata. It’s wonderful that you get so many blooms in part shade, peonies are amazing. Always said to be sun loving, but do well in a variety of conditions. How old is this lovely lady? And yes, where there are peonies, there are ants!

    1. Rebecca, I planted this peony 7 years ago, and it was small then. I really like the pink peony with the clustered bellflower, and that’s the only reason I keep the C. glomerata around, as this bellflower spread too much. I’ve removed the clustered bellflower from all other areas.

    1. Laura, it would be difficult to put any more petals into the flower. An insect could get lost trying to wander out of that maze. :) I find that the soft colour looks good with blues and purples.

  2. It is very beautiful. Rain is always a problem with Peonies but like you I think they are worth supporting in some way. Such a disappointment when they are flattened.

    1. Easy Gardener, I like the one piece support that is a large ring, since it is sturdy, and goes in very quickly with no fiddling. Then you get to enjoy the flowers for longer.

      Sheryl, I love the powderpuff flowers, and have to visit it often when it’s in bloom.

  3. I enjoyed this post very much. I whole-heartedly agree with your comment about the peonies being ‘faithful’. They just come each year like old friends.

    I have a Sarah Bernherdt as well. Yours looks stunning beside that blue campanula!

    Cheers.

    1. The Garden Ms. S, the fragrance is one of my favourites, and you can smell it for about 2 metres (6 ft) around the plant. A bouquet of 5 or 6 can perfume your dining room.

    1. Joanne, I like the bluish purple and pink colours together. I was rearranging a different garden bed today with blue, pink and white colours, which is another combination I like.

  4. I agree with you, Sarah Bernhardt is a most beautiful peony. It also belongs to my favourite peonies (I am a big fan of this flower!). Since last Saturday even more…I found out that it is even growing (and now blooming) in a garden at an altitude of 1400m (above sea level). Next year, when I start my little mountain garden at our cabin, I’ll certainly will plant it too.

    1. Barbara, it is a very hardy plant, and good to hear that it is hardy at high altitudes too. It will be fun to plant a garden at your mountain cabin. I imagine you will have to choose low maintenance plants if you are not there all the time.

  5. Hi my name in Mitch I am getting Married August 6th ( Close to a week away) and I just got a call from my florist telling me that the Peonies that she had told us she would be able to get for us and we have planned on having that she can no longer get them. I was wondering if you may have any I could get I would need them here either august 5th or 6th so they would be ready for the wedding, this is a very special day for me and my future wife and I just want to ensure that she has everything she asked for. If you could help me out that would be great now I’m not sure what type I need but I know they were pink maybe (Sarah Bernhardt peonies ) but I’m sure you know what peony I would need I hope you will be able to help me out with this I am willing to do what it takes to get the flowers to me I know this is short notice but let me know that needs to be done and I will get it done. Hope to hear from you soon thanks so much

    Thanks

    1. Mitch, unfortunately all of my peonies have finished blooming now. They have a beautiful, but brief, flowering time. Good luck with your wedding, and congratulations.

  6. What a wonderful resource your website is! I needed info about proper woodland plants I could start growing in my backyard forest. No other site was as helpful as yours. Now I have to get busy locating some of these beautiful shade-loving plants. Your photos are also excellent, particularly of the plant combinations. Really inspiring. Thank you so much.

    Jan

    1. Jan, thank you, I love the subtle woodland plants that are adapted for life under the trees. Even after the flowers have gone, many of them look great when they have interesting foliage, and can look good with their neighbours.

  7. I have two patches of pink peonys. One in the front yard and side yard. I cut some for the house often as they don’t last too long. I also share some with my neighbors. When it rains or the wind blows it can ruin them so I want to enjoy them as often as I can in the house. Mine are in the sun all the time but do so good. I have taken many pictures of close ups and use them on cards etc.

    1. Florence, The peonies do get more blooms in the sun, so your location sounds great. I love their extravagant blossoms, with lots of petals. They are fun to cut for bouquets, since they make such a nice display, and the scent is so enjoyable when it fills a room. As you say, you might as well cut them before the rain and wind get them.

  8. I was at my local garden centre which is very big but I was unable to find Peonia Japanica. I put in a large shade garden last fall and I thought it would look nice there. Other than Peony obobata, which other peonies will grow in the shade?

    1. Sue, although they don’t get as many flowers, I do grow the Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ in part shade. I haven’t experimented with many other peonies in this shady garden yet, to see which ones will do the best.

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