Well maybe they were different peonies that I bought, I was told by the nursery where I bought mine from that they won't flower if I plant them too deep.
TRUE. Paeonies are quite particular about their depth of planting. Many things are. A general rule is you should plant at the same depth as it is already in the pot. Paeonies are fussier than most. Iris are another good example.
A heavy thick layer of topsoil may indeed impact some of your young shoots. Another general rule is you mix the soil in with the existing soil. When topping with soil or mulch or manure, particularly manure, a general rule is you do not let the stuff touch the plant stems for fear of retaining heat around them and causing burning. Very black soil might be quite acidic.
Rules are general because they don't always apply in every situation but for plants I'm not sure of I follow those rules. Good luck. Soon you will be suppling us with paeonie pics? Maybe not so soon, supposed to snow here today.