Fern-leaf peonies, with their feathery foliage and deep red flowers, are among the rarest peonies. The reason why there’s a patch of them growing at the Lititz Historical Foundation’s museum can be found in its common name: Moravian peony.
The peony was brought to Lititz by Moravian settlers from Germany, says Karen Genevish, board secretary and the museum’s main gardener. LNP archives tell the legend of the flower. Moravian settlers kept it a closely guarded secret. Gardeners shared plants as long as they went to Moravian homes. Because the red blooms were prized, some made their way into non-Moravian gardens.
The Moravian peonies in the museum gardens’ herb garden bloom in the first weeks of May, Genevish says. That's weeks earlier than traditional peonies. The red flowers last a week or two. The plants don’t require much maintenance. Genevish will soon remove seed pods to allow the plant to send energy back to the roots. In the fall, she’ll cut back the plant’s foliage.
While there is legend behind this plant, the provenance of the museum’s peonies is clear. They were donated by Herma Losensky, Genevish says. Losensky was a member of Lititz Moravian Church and a charter member of the Lititz Historical Society.