Showing Their Peony Pride

Showing Their Peony Pride

A Bangor couple leans into a bold, fragrant spring bloomer.

peony bushes in front of adirondack chairs and gazebo


From the May 2023 issue of Down East magazine

Roger Lycette grew up on a farm in Amity, so when he retired from his job as a field engineer for IBM, in 1998, it felt natural to take up gardening. He started planting traditional New England perennials around the 1930 Bangor home he shares with his wife, Sally — but he avoided peonies, Lycette says, “because they seemed pricey.” Then a friend took him on a garden tour hosted by the Peony Society of Maine. “Boy, oh boy, I was hooked right away — they’re gorgeous! And once you know that they can live for 100 years, well then, they’re a bargain.”

Some 300 peonies now bloom in fragrant waves on the Lycettes’ one-acre property, from late April to early July. The Lycettes are also active members of the Peony Society, which, in addition to hosting tours, donates plants to the gardens of museums, nursing homes, and schools. And they frequently give plants and root cuttings to neighbors. “People from all around here own peonies from our garden,” Roger says. “That makes us happy,” Sally adds.

“Peonies are simply the prettiest flower,” says Roger Lycette, who, with hundreds of peonies to his name, is admittedly biased. “They have great fragrances, come in every color except blue, have lots of different blossom shapes, and make a nice short shrub.”

A bluestone path leads from their front door, through an arbor draped with Seven Sisters red roses and into a sunny side yard. A bank of Crinkled White peonies, whose crepe-paper-like blossoms surround tufts of golden stamens, dazzles beside spiky purple foxgloves. Coral Sunset varieties blaze in front of Limelight hydrangeas, purple lupines, pink small-leaf rhododendrons, and a creamy star magnolia. And the feathery foliage of magenta Fern Leaf peonies finds an echo in the needles of a Dawn Redwood.

pink peony

Behind the house, canvas lounge chairs on the lawn (the Lycettes call it their “outdoor living room”) offer a view of anemone-shaped peonies, including burgundy Ada Niva and Pink Cameo bordering a swath of carmine astilbes, white spireas, and pink-and-white Strawberry Vanilla hydrangeas. Beyond, a variegated dogwood tree arches gracefully near an octagonal white gazebo encircled by six different peony varieties, including white-and-yellow Polar Star, cerise-and-snowy Gay Paree and Bowl of Beauty, and salmon Dr. Alexander Fleming.

“We have fun,” Roger says. “I guess you could say that our motto is, ‘If you have a bare spot in the garden, put a peony there.’”