It’s Showtime

Peonies

Peonies have brightened June at Gilsland Farm for nearly 100 years.

By Virginia M. Wright
Every June, people flock to Gilsland Farm in Falmouth for the explosion of peonies in the formal garden next to Maine Audubon Society’s headquarters. A spectacular sea of plants blooms in seven well-tended, 100-foot-long beds, and their big, showy blossoms — pale pinks, bright reds, deep burgundies, peppermint swirls, soft whites, and lemon yellows — perfume the air.

The peonies are the legacy of David Moulton, a Portland lawyer and gentleman farmer who owned Gilsland Farm for 40 years during the first half of the 20th century. According to Maine Audubon property manager Bob Bittenbender, Moulton grew more than 200 Chinese peony cultivars over 7 acres of fields. Although Moulton was world renowned as a master peony grower, he was better known locally as the man who provided more than two decades of Portland High School seniors with red peony boutonnieres for their graduation gowns.

Although Moulton’s swaths of peonies are gone, scores of his plants still grow wild, sprinkled through the meadows and woods that have grown up around them. His prized rootstock (Moulton is said to have sold some roots for more than $250) was used to establish the formal garden about 30 years ago.

Maine Audubon’s peony garden will be at its peak mid-month, and naturally, that calls for a celebration: Maine Audubon will hold a Peony Bloom and Ice Cream Social from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 16.

Free to visit. Peony Bloom event $7 (free for Maine Audubon members). 20 Gilsland Farm Rd., Falmouth. 207-781-2330. maineaudubon.org

Photograph by Magdalena MM | Stocksy


 

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Virginia Wright

Virginia M. Wright is the senior editor at Down East.