Answer: Sounds like it could be a wild peony (Paeonia californica or Paeonia mascula). Wild Peony commonly blooms from January to April. Its flowers have petals the color of red-wine, but there is another species that flowers in white. The flowers are about an inch and a half long, and have a heavy-looking, downward-cupped shape. The peony relies on winter rains to spring back from its dormant state that it adopts in summer. Often a clump of hollow stems emerges from the roots but it also may grow more individually. Its flowers grow on singular stalks and have 5 or 6 petals, and as they mature develop prominent seed pods at their center. The flowers never open completely, maintaining a cupped shape.
The seeds from a wild peony were probably dropped by birds or carried by the wind into your garden. You can cultivate the plant if you like it, or you can treat it as a weed. I think I'd grow it, just because it's a volunteer and because it's unusual.
Best wishes with your garden!
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