Thursday, June 25, 2009


Today's guest is Mary Jane Maffini, author of the Charlotte Adams (organizer) mystery series.

Peony Perhaps it was the climate, but I never so much as spotted a peony when I was growing up in Nova Scotia. The first time I saw them, I was a young teacher and a tiny girl in first grade brought me a bunch of delightful deep pink beauties for my desk in June. I was struck, no, make that besotted, and possibly even bewitched, bothered, and bewildered. Of course it was years before I had a garden of my own but when I did, whammo, in went peonies. New ones, heritage varieties, pale pink, white, deep fuchsia, you get the picture. They need to be planted just so, not too deep, not too shallow. They need sun; they need ants. Whatever it takes, I said, I'll do it. I had to have them.

No petal peony And how did my darlings repay me? Well, let me tell you. Peonies usually bloom in early June in Zone 4 which is where my Ottawa peonies are. They allegedly continue flowering for several weeks. For years I had jobs that required me to be at conferences for a week every June, although never the same week. For nearly a month I would watch the buds grow, flourish and bulge. Then just as I would be heading out the door to fly off to the Canadian Library Association conference, or the Special Libraries Association gathering, or the Canadian Booksellers Association educational sessions and trade show, I could almost hear the sproinging sound of petals bursting open. Perhaps there would be a tantalizing glimpse of a half-opened bloom. Then my taxi would zoom down the street and I'd be gone. I'd return to find millions of white, pale pink and deep fuschia petals lying inches deep on the ground and the spent plants gasping and ready to pack it up until the next year.

But now I work at home, allegedly writing. My conferences are in May except for Bloody Words one weekend in early June. My peony problem should be well in the past. But no. Not so fast. This year I headed out to Book Expo America secure in the knowledge that the peonies were not ready. Bloody Words followed the next week and they were just gearing up. I rubbed my hands in glee. This was going to be the best crop ever! Hundreds of buds all looking vigorous. And I was home, happily writing in my little office with plenty of time to enjoy them, taking a cup of coffee in the morning, and promenading by proudly.

The little scamps must have been playing games with my head. As I finally left for a family road trip in the third week of June, long after the peonies should have flowered, the blooms were getting ready to pop. One had unfurled in a provocative, even seductive manner. Maybe they can hold off until I get home, I thought, seeing as they are already well past their normal blooming pattern. Anything is possible.

Three days after I left, I called my husband who was watching the fort, which includes my tiny garden. "Please check the peonies," I said.

"The what?"

"Peonies," I repeated, jaw clenched.

Long pause. "Are they the ones with the big beautiful flowers?"


"They're blooming, all right. There are hundreds of them. They're gorgeous."


I'll be home a week from today and once again will get to see a zillion petals on the ground. Why do they do it? And how do they know?

"Take a photo please," I sniffed, "and email it to me. At least I can get to see them that way."

"But you have the digital camera with you," he pointed out.

True. Too true.

I think it's all part of the great peony plot. These flowers are not to be trusted.

White peony Am I peevish? No kidding. I may be defeated, but it's not too late to plan for next year. This time, trust me, peonies, this means war.

And what's bugging YOU today?

Messy Desk When not staring morosely at her peonies, Mary Jane Maffini writes the Charlotte Adams mysteries, the Camilla MacPhee series and the Fiona Silk adventures. Visit Mary Jane's Web site. her at . Her latest book is Death Loves a Messy Desk. Check out her latest book trailer here.