New Jersey Monthly | May 2010
New Jersey Monthly | May 2010

New Jersey Monthly | Strolling the Evanescent PEONY PATH — Lauren Payne

The anticipation is an annual ritual; the event itself is short-lived, maybe two weeks tops. Regardless, interior designer Janet Simon—along with her family, friends, and countless neighbors—anxiously awaits the blooming of thousands of pink, burgundy, and white peonies along a 300-foot path at her Morris County home, Hidden Pond Farm.

“Sometime around Memorial Day the phone begins to ring,” says Simon. “Everyone wants to know what’s happening—have they bloomed yet?” And while they’re only in peak condition from the end of May through the first week of June—shorter still if it’s an especially hot or wet spring—“everyone comes over, everyone partakes,” says Simon.

The Peony Path, as the Simons call it, originally was planted some 50 years ago by previous homeowners. When the Simons bought the grand property in the winter of 1991, they had no idea the peonies lay dormant along a stone walkway running between the main house and its outer buildings. “Imagine our surprise when they all bloomed that first spring,” says Simon. Such an incredible gift, she adds, deserved special attention, so the Simons re-laid the path, adding more length and more flowers. “We became obsessed with it,” she says.

Today, the Peony Path is the inspiration for equally inspiring parties and fundraising activities. For many years, the Simons donated hundreds of cut peonies to the Susan G. Komen Foundation survivors’ luncheon. This year Simon, the daughter-in-law of Carol Simon, namesake of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital, is hosting an event for the hospital’s Women’s Health Council. Additionally, she will host a party for families in the area who have adopted through the Gladney Center, a Fort Worth, Texas, adoption service. Informally, she invites family and friends to come over with a bucket and scissors to help themselves to the prolific blooms.

“Everybody just loves the peonies,” Simon adds. “When they bloom, it’s like a holiday.”