Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2011 Gold Medal Peony Performance

I've been growing a "Gold Medal" peony garden for a few years now. The peonies that I grow in this garden are American Peony Society Gold Medal Recipients. So this year I decided to do an evaluation of the varieties that I grow. I don't grow all of the Gold Medal varieties (there are over 50 of them, of which I grow 30). So I'll just evaluate some of the varieties I do have. According the APS web site, the criteria for awarding the Gold Medal is, "The criteria for recent years was written to emphasize qualities important to most of the peony growing public, which included availability, dependable performance, the absence of the need for mechanical support, good plant habit and good foliage throughout the growing season and reasonably priced in relation to its variety and originator."
Sturdiest (Not Needing Support) - Peony 'Bartzella'

Best Foliage - Peony 'Old Faithful'

I think in my climate (and of the APS Gold Medal peonies that I grow), Peony 'Bartzella' and Peony 'Old Faithful' take the cake. Both of their blooms are gorgeous, plus they stay great looking well into late summer. Peony 'Bartzella' is an intersectional peony and has lovely giant yellow blooms. Peony 'Old Faithful' is of a much smaller stature, but grows beautifully and has red blooms of a color that is hard to find.

Floppiest (Needs Support) - Peony 'Myra MacRae'

Peony 'Myra MacRae' is one of the floppiest peonies I have ever grown. If you want this one to grow without lying on the ground, you'll definitely need supports. Peony 'Salmon Dream' and Peony 'Many Happy Returns' both have foliage that disappears. However I think the blooms on Peony 'Salmon Dream' make up for its foliage, and early dieback is expected as with most peonies with a coral color. However Peony 'Many Happy Returns' really disappoints. Its flowers are nice, but the foliage is always diseased and dies back way too early for a peony of this color. This is a recently honored APS Gold Medal winner (2007) which really mystifies me, considering one of the qualifications for the APS Gold Medal is "good plant habit and good foliage throughout the growing season", which this flower does not seem to possess, at least in my southern climate...
Worst Foliage (Dieback)
Peony 'Salmon Dream'
Worst Foliage (Dieback, Disease)
Peony 'Many Happy Returns'

Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 The Peony & the Praying Mantis

The Peony & the Praying Mantis. It sounds like the title of a book. Hmm... Anyway I was working on collecting more data for 2011 in my peony garden today, and I was thrilled to see a praying mantis on one of my long spent peony blooms. The spent bloom and the praying mantis were the exact same color, dark brown, so the mantis blended in with the bloom stem quite nicely. He definitely kept me entertained for bit in what otherwise can be at times a somewhat dull task. I was privileged to witness these praying mantis acrobatics so I just had to share... :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2011 Peony Experiments - Intersectional Blooms

I think I read somewhere that intersectional peonies would not bloom on old wood, and that the old stems must be cut down every year in order to get blooms. Somehow this did not ring true to me, and I wanted to find out for myself. So for the last 2 years I have left some of the old wood on my intersectional peony 'Bartzella'. The first year I didn't get any blooms on the old wood, but this year I did. Considering that intersectional peonies are merely a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies, and tree peonies bloom on woody stems, it makes sense that intersectional peonies could bloom on their woody stems as well. Perhaps the climate the intersectional peony is growing in will make a difference. I could see how the woody stems of the intersectional peony may not be as cold hardy as the woody stems of the traditional tree peonies. However for my zone 7 southern climate, intersectional peonies can definitely bloom on their woody stems from the previous year.
Peony 'Bartzella'

Peony 'Bartzella'