A rain-soaked Sarah Bernhardt blossom gets a new place to shine as a floater in a lily pool.

Ever wonder how some plants get their names? The romantically fragrant, pink peony Sarah Bernhardt was named more than 100 years ago and remains a garden favorite. The beloved French actress, known as Madame Sarah (born in Paris 1844-1923), is still considered the most famous actress of the 19th century. The peony that bears her name was introduced in 1906. Among the first actors of her time to take movie acting seriously, Sarah Bernhardt played the role of Queen Elizabeth in her most famous film in 1912. She also appeared in plays and productions throughout Europe, North and South America and Australia.

French breeders are responsible for many of the peony varieties introduced in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when Sarah Bernhardt was at the peak of her career. The world’s leading peony hybridizer and most famous was Frenchman Victor Lemoine. Lemoine also bred many other ornamental plants that we still enjoy today. He was the first foreigner to receive the Victorian Medal of Horticulture of the Royal Horticultural Society, and received the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s George R. White Medal of Honor. A nearly complete listing of his horticultural accomplishments was published in Horticulture magazine in December 1911.

For more about peonies, read the article Peony Care.

Ann Whitman

Ann Whitman gardens in northern Vermont.