Review: A Love Affair with Peonies

If you love Peonies you will certainly want to buy “A Love Affair with Peonies” by Alec White of Primrose Hall Peonies. This is Alec’s first book and through every page comes his love affair with these delightful plants, a passion which he admits he has held from a young age.

Alec is a Chelsea Gold Medal winning peony grower and this book is about his experiences of growing peonies. Entirely self-taught he admits that he has been on a journey of discovery as he pursues his passion. For the reader, following him on that journey is absorbing and entertaining and there are many aspects that will find resonance with all who love gardening.

As he points out in the Preface: “They may look delicate and fragile, and each plant may only flower for a few weeks each year, but they are incredibly robust and long-lived and require very little attention.” I think that anyone who has grown these wonderful plants will certainly agree that they are worth their weight in gold and by many standards easy to grow and look after.

(Above: Alec choosing a peony to plant)

The book is clearly structured and informative and the photography stunning with plates from a variety of photographers. If you like peonies be prepared to be introduced to lots of varieties you might be unfamiliar with and if you are new to growing peonies you will certainly be inspired and encouraged by the sheer variety you can grow.

Chapters include Peonies as Cut Flowers, Perfume of Peonies, Common Myths about Peonies, Growing and Caring for Peonies and Types of Peony.

(Above: Englefield House)

Alec says he was initially attracted to growing Peonies because of their sheer size and beauty. Alec’s journey is plotted in the early part of the book and we find how from an early age and inspired by his grandparents, he realised that horticulture was pretty demanding – while his friends were hanging around town at weekends, he was at the nursery watering and weeding! (pictured right: Spetchley).

I was totally impressed by the practical advice and Alec’s insight into his love of peonies, their care and cultivation. This is a book you will return to again and again, whether to appreciate the excellent quality of the images and illustrations, for entertaining insight or for the vast quantity of expert practical advice. It is written in an easy warm style and is certainly a book you will want to dip into while enjoying a coffee.

A Love Affair with Peonies” by Alec White is published by Graffeg, in hardback at £30.00. You can purchase via