The Times West Virginian

My Garden

May 23, 2012

Spring’s showstoppers

FAIRMONT —  

Piney.
Penny.
Pe-OH-ny.
PE-uh-ny.
Call them what you want, but for Connie Ahrens, peonies — spring’s original old-timey showstoppers — evoke memories of her grandfather Dan Steiniger.
“There was this big peony at his house, and I could not pass it without sticking my face in it when I was a kid. I just had to inhale that amazing fragrance,” she said.
“He was the original organic gardener, way before it was popular. He had amazing flowers. I’d come home for lunch, and my grandma (Hazel Steiniger) would have cut flowers and wrapped them in waxed paper for my teacher.”
Even when she moved to Washington, D.C., she kept flowers in her life, whether it was buying $1 bouquets at a little flower shop or strolling through the city’s flower gardens.
When she lived in Maryland, try as she might, her flowers just didn’t make it because of the clay soil, “despite the hundreds of pounds of compost and manure and peat,” she said.
She’d managed to grow a peony — “a puny little peony,” she said laughingly — “no bigger than if you put your thumb and finger together. We thought that was as good as it gets.”
Then she moved to Fairmont, and her flower-craving soul was happy.
“The soil in my yard has never really been disturbed, and it grows everything beautifully.”
She cartered that puny peony to Fairmont years ago. Now, that peony has grown “up to my armpits and has hundreds of blooms,” she said with a laugh.
“I swear you can watch them grow inches taller from day to day,” she said. “That really is triumph over adversity!”
The trick is planting the peony, she said. The eye at the top of the root must be no more than 2 inches below the surface of the soil.

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My Garden
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  • connie.jpg Spring’s showstoppers

     

    Call them what you want, but for Connie Ahrens, peonies — spring’s original old-timey showstoppers — evoke memories of her grandfather Dan Steiniger.
    “There was this big peony at his house, and I could not pass it without sticking my face in it when I was a kid. I just had to inhale that amazing fragrance,” she said."

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