Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 Ali Express Chinese Tree Peonies $5.52 for 3!

Is it too good to be true? The Chinese text says, 3 stems shipping included, 5 years old big young trees at a special price, on sale, crazy deal! Three 5 year old tree peony plants for $5.52, shipping included? For $16.56, I'm in for three sets of 3. It does sound too good to be true, but I decided to try it anyway. If I'm out $16, okay, then at least I've investigated it for the rest of you. Also when ordering with Ali Express, the money is not released to the seller until you've confirmed receipt of the item. So I'm sure to get something. We'll just have to see what the condition of goods will be when they arrive. I've ordered Ali Express Chinese Tree Peony Seeds before, and they all came nicely packed and labeled. However I've never seen peony plants offered on Ali Express before. So now I am excited about the prospect of growing several different varieties of tree peonies. I'm also skeptical whether they'll be labeled correctly, but for $1.84 each who can complain? Even if the survival rate is only 20%, maybe I'll at least get two nice ones for less than $20. I'll keep you posted on how this pans out... :)

Ali Express Chinese Tree Peonies, 3 for $5.52

Monday, September 23, 2013

2013 American Peony Society Fall Auction

Well, the 2013 American Peony Society Fall Auction is almost upon us. I am personally donating 2 peonies to the auction, Peony 'Coral Charm', and Peony 'Scarlet O'Hara', both of which grow very well here in this southern climate. The APS Fall Auction is only open to American Peony Society members. So if you're not yet a member, now might be the time to join the APS! The American Peony Society has two auctions per year, the spring auction at the APS convention and the fall online auction. So if you're a member, but don't have the opportunity to join the APS at the annual convention, you can still participate in one of their auctions via the fall online auction. The official preview starts September 30th, but most of the auction plants are already up now. So check out the 2013 American Peony Society Fall Auction early for a sneak preview!

2013 American Peony Society Fall Auction

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2013 American Peony Society Bulletin Article - Longwood, Winterthur, and The Convention

As promised here is the article I wrote for the September 2013 issue of the American Peony Society bulletin...

"The 2013 American Peony Society Convention was in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania this year with the convention, competition, and auction being held at Longwood Gardens. Longwood Gardens was a magnificent place in size and grandeur with plenty of color in various garden rooms, rolling landscapes, fountains, and unending glass conservatories. An entire weekend would not be enough time to explore all they had to offer, had that much time been available to me. Although I visited for the weekend, the American Peony Society convention kept us all quite busy.

American Peony Society Welcome Bouquet
Displayed at Longwood Gardens Entrance

The peonies this year were quite a contrast to the peonies at last year’s convention. They were actually in bloom! There were several trial beds at Longwood Gardens that had been planted the previous fall containing Award of Landscape Merit peony plants that were donated by the APS. Amazingly many of those first year divisions were blooming, with sometimes more than one bloom per plant. It seemed like the trials were going quite well! Longwood Gardens also has several named varieties of herbaceous peonies planted interspersed within their perennial borders, and these mature peony plantings really stood out!

Lunch was served in the Longwood Gardens Founders Room. It was a beautiful dining room with an entire wall of windows offering a nice view of the greenery outside. The weather was warm, so lunch was a welcome respite from the heat of the day. The chilled water with citrus slices was my favorite way to cool down while waiting in line for lunch and chatting with and getting to know a fellow APS member from China. The food was outstanding. Everything was so fresh, and there was plenty to choose from – gourmet sandwiches, garden salad, pasta salad, and a selection of fresh sliced fruit, with cookies and brownies for dessert.

I attended the board meeting after lunch and took the remaining part of the afternoon to explore the gardens. Longwood Gardens’ official peony garden was a bit of a disappointment, containing only tree peonies, most of which had already finished blooming, and lots of irises – almost more irises than peonies! However after speaking with a member of the Longwood Gardens staff, I did find out they planned to renovate it in the future. In the evening after exploring the gardens there was a “Taste of Philly” picnic with Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and chips for dinner and snack cakes and Hershey (PA) chocolates for dessert.

American Peony Society Members Ready for the Flower Show

Saturday was a busy day with everyone bustling to get their peonies entered into the show and competition. Peony stems were sorted and clipped, entry tags were filled out, and vases were filled with water and flowers. Lots of peony growers were represented and volunteers from all over helped with running flower entries from the prep area in the kitchen and patio area out back to the exhibition tables and judging area inside the Longwood Gardens atrium. Finally it was time, and Dana Tretheway called for final entries. I participated as a judge for the first time this year, and it was quite exciting as well as a great learning experience.

American Peony Society Flower Show Judging

Eventually all of the ribbons had been placed, and all of the blue ribbon winners were collected for another round of judging. The most experienced judges were set to decide the best in show for several different categories, and then selected from these category winners, the APS Best in Show flower. Tree Peony ‘Boreas’ was awarded this top honor for 2013. After the judging was complete, the exhibition floor was opened to the public for viewing the vast number and variety of peony blossoms from all over the country.

American Peony Society Flower Show Competition Entry
Division 4, 401, Commercial Exhibit, Collection, 25-50 Cultivars

There were several seminars in the afternoon, and the banquet was held directly after in the stately Longwood Gardens ballroom. The ballroom was truly a sight to behold. Its grandeur matched only by the palatial fountains outside the atrium steps and the castlelike exterior of the conservatory itself. The room contained a large organ installed by Pierre du Pont, walls of pink satin and dark earthy wood paneling, and huge yet delicate crystal chandeliers that dimly lit the room for dining. Dana Tretheway held the APS general meeting, during which a new peony was dedicated to W.E.B. Du Bois, and the Bertrand H. Farr lifetime achievement award was bestowed upon Don Hollingsworth. Dinner was fit for royalty. There were beef medallions that melted in your mouth atop polenta with fresh seasonal veggies. There were three miniature strawberry desserts that all were unique and delectable in their own right.

Carol Adelman Presents the APS Bertrand H. Farr
Lifetime Achievement Award to Don Hollingsworth

After dinner the annual APS auction was held. This year Jim and Lore Sampson double teamed the auctioneer role, and did a great job! The auction list was very long, but everything was sold, with all proceeds benefiting the American Peony Society. There were several new and exclusive peony varieties that were bought for less than their retail value. So there were lots of deals to be had at this year’s auction.

The last day of the convention was spent at Winterthur. Although the house was not as grand as I’d expected, I was left wondering since we were only able to tour a portion of it. Apparently they rotate which sections and floors are open for touring to let sections of the collection ‘rest’. So the house was probably much larger than the impression I was left with after the tour. The Winterthur gardens were a marked contrast to those of Longwood. They were much more natural, laid back, and in some instances almost overgrown. It was as if many of the gardens remained just as they’d been left by their last owner, the landscape almost frozen and nature allowed to somewhat take back the formal areas. The did however have a much more mature plantings of tree and herbaceous peonies, which were nearing the end of the bloom season. The tree peonies were planted in a garden mostly shaded by tall trees, which could be viewed from a nearby peaceful, white, wooden gazebo. The herbaceous peony garden was slightly more formal laid out within and around a rounded stone pathway with a small garden bench along the edge to rest in.

All in all the 2013 American Peony Society Convention was a great success, and I look forward to the next one!"

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Chinese Tree Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade')

Chinese Tree Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade') on Ebay

Well I got my first green and growing Chinese tree peony variety this week, and yes, I bought it on Ebay. I know, I know. Ebay is not necessarily the best source for peonies. However I do consider it to be a step above Gilbert H. Wild, who sends lots of mislabled plants, and several steps above Dutch Bulbs or Spring Hill Nursery, which import dry stick like material they call tree peonies. Also to that end, tree peonies are quite expensive elsewhere, and to quote a seller of US grown tree peonies on Ebay,"shipping only for a dry stick from China is $29, and the chance of survival for those plants was 20% in my hand". I was even reading last night in my copy of the First Edition of the Manual of the American Peony Society, that in the 1800s the Chinese tree peony sellers would often cut the roots of the tree peonies or scald the seeds they sold to prevent them from growing. I wonder if that was to increase their future business or, as the author of the APS Manual article surmised, to keep their best varieties to themselves. Let's hope things have changed since the 1800s and sellers don't do that nowadays. I guess I'll find out in the spring when I check to see if any of my Suffruticosa Tree Peony Seeds from China sprout!
Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade')
in Shipping Bag
Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade')

Anyway I got this tree peony from an Ebay seller in New York, that grafts and grows tree peonies himself, and the plant looks very nice for the price. It looks nice even for a much higher sum. I've even paid more for one of those dry stick-like tree peonies from a generic garden catalog only to have it die shortly thereafter. This one looks very sturdy and has lots of nice roots on it. The seller said it should bloom this coming spring or the next. I'm hoping for the one coming up!

Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade') Stem Root Junction

Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade') in Planting Hole

As you can see I planted this tree peony several inches below the soil. I actually planted it at least an inch deeper than the original grower had it planted (which you can see by the moisture mark on the plant's stems). This is to encourage the tree peony to continue to develop roots of its own (which would sprout off of the portion of the tree peony stem that is underground). So the more of the stem that is underground, the more surface area capable of developing roots. I also watered this one before I mulched it. I usually mulch it before I water, but since I was putting so much water on it (hoping to keep it moist), I wanted to make sure the water didn't run out of the planting hole. If you'd like more tips on planting tree peonies, check out this guide on How to Plant a Tree Peony.

Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade') Planted

Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade') Watered

Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade') Mulched

Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013 New Tree Peony Moon Garden

I finally got all of the New Dirt for Tree Peony Garden raked out. Now I've also added a good layer of pulverized dolomitic limestone on top. This will help reduce the soil Ph in this garden since I've seen moss try to grow in this area. So now as the tree peonies come in for planting, I'll cultivate the soil, mix in the limestone and a handful of organic fertilizer, and make a nice planting hole for each tree peony. I got the first one planted on Wednesday. It is Chinese Tree Peony 'Xiang Yu' ('Fragrant Jade'), which is supposed to a vigorous growing, white double flowered tree peony from China. I am excited to see whether any of the tree peonies that are to be planted will bloom next or take some time to settle in and establish themselves before sending out a blossom.

New Dirt for New Tree Peony Garden

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2013 Fall Peony Planting Season

It's that time of year!!! The fall peony planting season has come! I got my first shipment of fall peonies today. It was from Hollingsworth Peony Nursery. It seems like it came about a month earlier than any of the other orders I've ever placed with them. I ordered a Peony 'Lafayette Escadrille' and a Peony 'Pehrson's Violet Frisbee' from them. I have been wanting 'Pehrson's Violet Frisbee' since 2007. That was the last time I remember Hollingsworth offering it, but it was sold out by the time I tried to order it. So when I saw them offering it again this year, I quickly ordered it. I have been wanting 'Lafayette Escadrille', an intersectional peony, since last year when I ordered it from Song Sparrow, but then I got a notice that they couldn't ship it since it was sold out. That was kind of disappointing, especially since Song Sparrow had offered it for $8.00 less than Hollingsworth did this year.

Fall Peony Planting Season!

When I received the box today, I opened it and let the roots soak for a hour or so while I dug the planting holes and mixed in some lime and organic fertilizer. Then I planted them as soon as I'd finished digging the holes and mixing in the additions. I'll be curious to see if either one of them sends up a bloom for me next spring or waits a couple of years to settle in. If you haven't gotten your 2013 peony orders in this year, there's still a little time. Soon you'll have to wait until 2014 to place an order. So get your 2013 peony order in while you still can!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 New Dirt for Tree Peony Garden

Another pile! Today I got a new pile of dirt delivered for my future tree peony garden. I don't really grow any tree peonies right now. I've planted a few seeds. I've ordered a couple of seedlings and divisions this year. Now I want to create a nice home for them and perhaps a few nice named varieties of tree peonies. I am converting my old peony moon garden, which used to hold several varieties of coral peonies, but I've since moved those to my New Coral Peony Sun Garden since this garden is a bit too shady for them. So I figured it might be a nice home for some tree peonies which supposedly like at least a bit of shade anyway. I did finish getting the soil raked out today. So now the bed is ready for some tree peonies to move in. I still have to move a couple more herbaceous peonies out of this garden, but other than that it's ready to go!

New Dirt for Tree Peony Garden

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

2013 Free Tree Trimmings for Peony Mulch

I am so excited! I'm excited by this giant pile of organic matter! I got a load of tree trimmings dumped in my back yard to use as mulch today, for FREE! I love free. Some of this mulch is headed for my peony beds and most likely some of this mulch will end up on the tree peony garden I'm planning in place of my old peony moon garden. That's the garden I've been moving peonies out of to create my New Coral Peony Sun Garden. If you could use a lot of mulch on lots of planting beds, taking a truckload off the hands of your local tree trimming company is a great way to do it. You help them dump one of their loads of mulched trimmings, and you get a load of fresh mulch at no charge. If you've never heard of this before, just call up one of your local tree service companies and ask them. Most of the time they'll be willing to deliver a truckload of mulch right to your door at no charge to you. Mulch is great for peonies here in our southern climate. The mulch helps prevent weeds and retain moisture - both of which will help keep your peonies happy! :-)

Tree Trimmings for Peony Mulch

Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 American Peony Society Gold Medal & ALM Photos

Yay! It's finally done! Yesterday I just completed a project I've been working on for a couple months now to get all of the American Peony Society award winning peony photos on their web site. If you've ever wondered if you had the correct APS Gold Medal award winning peony, or maybe you were just wondering what all of the award winning peonies looked like (so you could pick out your next acquisition!), then we finally have them all up in one place for your perusal! We are still missing 4 photos of Gold Medal peonies, but I hope to have those up later this year. We also have all of the APS Award of Landscape Merit (ALM) award winning peony photos on the web site now as well. The ALM peonies are specifically selected to perform well not only as a beautiful flower, but also as a landscape plant. These varieties have been evaluated based on garden performance and have been selected and awarded in more modern times (since 2009). Now you know! So go on over and check them out...! :-)

The American Peony Society Web Site