I hate to be asked to choose a favorite flower but if someone held a gun to my head and demanded an answer, I could supply one. Roses would be my favorite and coming in second place - the peony. I love the big blowsy double types but the one pictured here is a single called "Scarlet O'Hara". I've had it for about 10 years and it always blooms faithfully. The vivid red blossoms quickly fade to pink after only a few days. This peony blooms earlier than my other peony plants, which are doubles.
Most gardeners know that peonies grow best in northern climates because they need a strong winter chill to make them happy. There are quite a few varieties though that do fine here. "Festive Maxima" and "Sarah Bernhardt" are two that come to mind.
I was visiting my mother yesterday and I noticed that the peonies I had planted there years ago were covered in buds and much happier than the ones in our garden. This is probably because hers are unhampered by neighboring plants and have full sun. That is the key to a healthy peony - plant it in a large, well-prepared hole with good rich ammendments with the "eyes" (they are easy to spot) at soil level or just an inch or so under the ground. Give it plenty of room and sun and forget about them! They don't like to be pampered or moved. And lots of people ask me about the ants that love to visit the buds. They don't harm the plants at all!