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'

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