Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Peonies in Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou China

Recently my husband and I took a trip to his home country of China. This was my first visit there, and naturally my interest in peonies extended to peonies in China as well. We took tours in several Chinese cities, and everywhere we went I looked for peonies. They weren't too hard to find! I found them in their palaces, gardens, temples, and botanical gardens! Even though it was late fall and most of the peonies were dormant, I still searched for their barren sticks, trying to gather any information about Chinese peony cultivation that I could. Over 95% of the peonies I found were tree peonies. There were very few herbaceous peonies to be found. The majority of the tree peonies I saw had already had their leaves removed from their stems. Also the dirt was mounded around the base of the tree peonies stems. I'm not sure if that was in preparation for winter or if they leave it this way all year round. There was no mulch on any of their tree peonies. They were all grown in soil that appeared to have been heavily and continuously cultivated. The soil was never flat or smooth. It was always uneven, like mounded globs of dirt and soil all around the peonies.

Dormant Peonies at the Imperial Palace in Beijing, China

The first place I encountered peonies in China was at the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. The Forbidden City served as the imperial palace in China for almost 500 years. The peonies there were grown in an outdoor garden, almost like a courtyard. They were growing in partial shade through the filtered sunlight nearly underneath a canopy of mature evergreen trees. These tree peonies had already been defoliated and were growing in an unmulched, cultivated bed surrounded by stone walkways and very low concrete and metal fences for protection.

Master of the Nets Garden in Suzhou, China

The next location I happened upon peonies during my trip to China was in the Master of the Nets Garden in Suzhou, China. The Master of the Nets Garden is one of the 9 classical gardens in Suzhou recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The peonies here were grown in a small cultivated bed next to the central pond of the garden. The bed also contained a mature pine tree that created some filtered shade for the peony plants. Underneath the peonies grew a type of evergreen grass-like perennial, similar to mondo grass. These tree peonies had also been defoliated and grew inside the bed surrounded by a low, curved bamboo fence that had been painted green.

Dormant Peonies at the Master of the Nets Garden in Suzhou, China

"Only in the sun of civilization can trees maintain evergreen."
Sign in the Peony Garden at the Master of the Nets Garden in Suzhou, China

Longhua Temple in Shanghai, China

The third place I encountered peonies in China was at the Longhua Temple in Shanghai, China. The Longhua Temple is a Buddhist temple in Shanghai where my husband and his relatives were visiting the Buddhas. I found the peony garden near the back of the temple complex. The peonies there were grown in globular cultivated soil surrounded by a decorative low concrete wall. The garden was surrounded on three sides by temple buildings and stone walkways. Four herbaceous trees were grown in the courtyard surrounding each of the four corners of the peony garden, creating a canopy of filtered shade over the peonies. This was the first peony garden I found that contained herbaceous peonies as well as tree peonies, though the tree peonies vastly outnumbered the herbaceous ones. This was also the first peonies garden I'd encountered where the tree peonies has not yet been defoliated. The herbaceous peonies also had not yet been cut back. A few of the peonies still has some green foliage, although their season was nearing the end since their growing climate is similar to my own.

Tree Peonies (P. suffruticosa) at the Longhua Temple in Shanghai, China

Peony Garden at the Longhua Temple in Shanghai, China

Peony Garden Sign at the Shanghai Botanical Garden in Shanghai, China
"The 3.24-hectare Peony Garden was established in 1980. As peonies prefer deep, fertile, well-drained soil with medium moisture and full sun to part shade, shrubs and trees such as winter sweet (Chimonanthus praecox), camellia, Tilia spp., and camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) were planted to create a suitable growth environment and a beautiful landscape. The garden specializes in tree peonies (the Flower King) and peonies (the Flower Prime-Minister). Approximately 10,000 tree peony plants, including 102 cultivars, are collected here. Most of the cultivars are from the China central plains (Zhongyuan) cultivar group, such as 'Luo Yang Hong' and 'Wu Long Peon Sheng.' Other cultivars are from Ningguo and Cixi, which belong to the China Southern Yangtse (Jiangnan) cultivar group. The precious Japanese cultivars 'Yachiyotsubaki' and 'Jitsugetsu-nishiki', the French cultivar 'Chromatella', and the American cultivar 'High Noon' are all included in the garden. In addition, approximately 35 peony cultivars, including 'Da Fu Gui', 'Zhao Yuan Feng', and 'Zi Feng Chao Yang' are grown here. So many gorgeous and antique peonies make the garden the best place in Shanghai for visitors to enjoy spectacular peonies in late April."

Dormant Peonies at the Shanghai Botanical Garden in Shanghai, China

The last place I encountered peonies was during a planned visit to the Shanghai Botanical Garden in Shanghai, China. Although I had been happy to see what peonies I'd seen in China thus far, when I finally arrived to the peony garden inside the Shanghai Botanical Garden, I sorely wished it were spring!!! There were more tree peonies in their peony garden than I had ever seen in my life! The sign at the entrance to their peony garden claimed "10,000 tree peony plants, including 102 cultivars." What a site this garden must be to behold in springtime!

Sculpture in the Peony Garden
at the Shanghai Botanical Garden in Shanghai, China

The peonies at the Shanghai Botanical Garden were grown in mounds of loose, cultivated soil, which appeared to have been recently top-dressed with compost. The garden was made up of beautiful meandering stone pathways between the huge peony beds. The beds were edged by mounds of gorgeous green grass like perennials that gracefully overhung the solid stone block walls which lined the walkways. The light in the garden ranged from full sun to partial shade created by large, mature herbaceous trees interspersed and surrounding the garden. The foliage had also been removed from all of their peonies, quite a large job for a team of gardeners, I'm sure! The peony garden contained a beautiful statue of a woman or goddess and a traditional Chinese building and garden wall. I will have to visit there again sometime in April! :-)

Dormant Peonies at the Shanghai Botanical Garden in Shanghai, China

Tree Peony Garden at the Shanghai Botanical Garden in Shanghai, China

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 American Peony Society Bulletin Article -
Public Gardens Peony Donation Project

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

"When I first joined the American Peony Society board, I was asked to become the Publicity Chair for the APS. Unsure of the duties and responsibilities for the role, it seems I assumed by default a role that no one else claimed. This year my goal has been to get peonies planted at a local arboretum here in Raleigh, NC. The project is going well, and in the back of my mind I was hoping to continue the program, finding a new arboretum or public garden in need of peonies each year. The APS president, Dana Tretheway commented to me that I was doing a great job as a Publicity Chair working on this project to get peonies installed at a public garden. I guess I never thought of it as a part of my Publicity Chair duties. I just wanted to spread the love of peonies everywhere, but I guess that does kind of fit.

When I first approached Mark Weathington of the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC, he seemed a bit reluctant and not quite as enthusiastic as I’d hoped about the prospects of so many new and free (to him) peonies. After several email exchanges I was able to set up an in person meeting with him to discuss the possibility of a peony donation on behalf of the American Peony Society. Since I am a board member local to his garden, I was willing to donate several varieties myself, and wanted to ensure the project would be a success.

The JC Raulston Arboretum

When I met Mark in person at the JC Raulston Arboretum, we got along fabulously, and after our discussion he seemed much more excited about the prospects of a large peony donation to his garden. The mission of his Arboretum is to educate the public on varieties of plants that perform well in the garden that they may have not have seen or been introduced to before. I thought that was perfect and informed him of the American Peony Society’s Award of Landscape Merit program which selects peonies “chosen for superior ornamental value, overall appearance in the landscape and throughout the growing season, and reliable performance across North America”.

Mark was quite excited to hear about this APS award and didn’t realize we had such a program. I also talked with him about our Gold Medal selections, and we discussed how and where these peonies might fit into his landscape. There are several different garden sections or rooms at the JC Raulston Arboretum, and Mark seemed to be interested in trying to fit peonies in all of them. He inquired about Itoh intersectional peonies since he’d heard how these were the latest and greatest peonies. However he did not have any in his collection. There is an Asian Valley garden that he was interested in adding some Asian tree peony cultivars and a rock garden that he wanted to add rock garden peonies too. For someone who didn’t have very many types of peonies currently represented at his garden, he sure was interested in all the different type of peonies.

After walking the garden together, I believe we only found 5 different types of peonies in the garden. After our meeting I asked Mark how many peonies he could plant if the APS board members were able to donate peonies for him. He said he could plant 40 or 50! Wow, that was great news! So off I went to solicit donations for the JC Raulston Arboretum. With the collaborative effort and good will of several APS members and a local plant nursery, we were able to donate over 40 peony varieties to him including APS Award of Landscape Merit selections, APS Gold Medal selections, Itoh Intersectional varieties, and several herbaceous peonies that would grow exceptionally well in North Carolina.

I’d like to thank the following donors for all of their help with this year’s Public Gardens Peony Donation Project: Adelman Peony Gardens, Adriana Feng, Homewood Nursery, Hollingsworth Peonies, Klehm’s Song Sparrow, and Jim & Lore Sampson of Rarity Gardens. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the peonies in bloom, and sharing those blooms with everyone! I’m also looking forward to the next Public Garden Peony Donation Project! :-)"

Since the publication of this article, the JC Raulston Arboretum has received an additional donation from Cricket Hill Garden. So on behalf of myself and the American Peony Society, I'd also like to add our thanks and appreciation to Cricket Hill Garden as well!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2013 Questions - Forcing Dormancy in Warm Climate

I received this question from Chris in Zone 10:
"I live in the city of San Francisco and grow peonies in containers on our sunny south facing patio. Have had a great deal of success with blooming. Many varieties have done well.... both herbaceous and tree. However, this year, the peonies won't go to sleep like they are supposed to. I cut down the leaves and stalks of the herbaceous and cut the leaves off all the tree peonies three weeks ago. Now, the red eyebuds are swelling and many are putting out new growth and leaves in late October. It is in the high 40s at night, but we won't get into the 30s in the City. My question is what to do. Should I let them grow? Or prune and force them into dormancy... if possible? This did not happen last year, and the peonies came out in mid January. Thanks for any advice you could share."
Tree Peony 'Dou Lu'
Peony 'Raspberry Sundae'

My concern would be that after you trim the foliage, more would start to grow provided the temps are the same or warmer.

In future years I would recommend leaving the foliage on a lot longer into the late fall/ early winter which should help prevent this premature leafing out. From your email it sounds like you cut back the foliage in early October which is much too early for your growing zone 10b. I am in growing zone 7b, and about half of my peonies that are planted in the ground here at this time of year (early November) still have their foliage. So next year I would recommend waiting until at least the beginning of December or even late December to cut back the foliage in your growing zone. I know the foliage will probably start to look quite ratty, but if it can die back naturally it is best to let it attempt to do so. Also the fall season is when the plant is absorbing the nutrients in the leaves back into its roots. So the longer you can leave the foliage on the peony during this time, the better.

As for this year's early leaf out, I cannot say what will be the best for the plant in the long run. However if the leafing out is not too much, you may attempt to trim the foliage to force the plant into dormancy, but if you select this method I would recommend some other aids in helping to force this dormancy. Do you have a dark, cool place in your home, perhaps a garage or basement? If so you may want to move the potted peonies to a location such as this to limit the temperature and light the plants receive. Also I've heard of other growers in CA putting ice on top of their peonies to simulate a winter chill. This may be another option for you. However I'm not sure how long you would need to maintain an ice covering. So this may be something you'd want to research.

If the leafing out has already developed into a large growth, you may just want to leave the plants as is this year (as long as there is no danger of frost). If for some reason you do get some freezing weather, you'd want to bring the pots in overnight only. Sometimes it is best to let Mother Nature do her own thing. I have ordered some peonies from vendors in cooler areas then mine, and had the peonies leaf out in late fall. I usually just leave them as is. Since I do have frost here in the winter, any shoots that have leafed out will die back when we get a cold frost. This does seem to set the plant back a little in terms of growth and development, but they do always seem to survive. They may just take a little longer to get established. Since you don't usually have any danger of frost, the foliage may grow fine for you.

Good luck with your potted peonies this winter. Please keep me posted on what you decide to do with them and how they fare in the spring! :-)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 State Fair Flower Show Ribbons, No Peonies

I was excited to enter the NC State Fair Flower Show this year. I hadn't entered since 2010, my first year. I won 3 3rd place ribbons that year. I researched suggestions for keeping flowers from wilting and groomed all of my specimens. So I was hoping for a better outcome this year as far as ribbons, and I must say I wasn't disappointed. I took home 3 1st place ribbons and 1 2nd place ribbon. Nice! It makes me want to do it again. The only bad thing is I can't show any peonies since it is the totally wrong season. So now with a little more flower show experience under my belt, it makes me want to enter the American Peony Society flower show at the 2014 APS Convention. Too bad I will miss the convention next year. Maybe 2015 will be the first year I can enter the peony competition! :)

NC State Fair 1st Place Blue and 2nd Place Red Ribbons

Thursday, October 31, 2013

2013 Cheap Versus Expensive Tree Peonies

I guess time and again, when it comes to peonies, just about like everything else, you get what you pay for. I was pleased when I received my first official tree peony order from Tree Peony Garden, a peony grower in the US who focuses mainly on tree peonies. Not only were these tree peonies much more expensive, they were much, much larger and fresher than the cheaper Tree Peonies from China I purchased through Ali Express. The tree peonies I ordered from Tree Peony Garden are 'High Noon', 'Kamatafuji', and 'Li Yuan Chun 李园春'. Peony 'High Noon' is an American tree peony cultivar and an APS Gold Medal Winner in 1989, while Peony 'Kamatafuji' is a Japanese tree peony cultivar, and 'Li Yuan Chun 李园春' is a Chinese tree peony cultivar. While I ordered 2 year old tree peony plants for all three of these cultivars, it looks like they sent me a much larger and older specimen of the center one in the photo (Peony 'Li Yuan Chun 李园春'). Perhaps they ran out of 2 year old tree peonies in this variety. It was so huge I was tempted to split it in half, with three large branches and lots of roots! However I decided to let it grow as it, hoping to get a nice blossom from it in the spring. :-) I am looking forward to growing all three of these tree peonies which represent different cultures and regions of important tree peony growers and climates from different parts of the world.

Tree Peony Roots from Tree Peony Garden

Sunday, October 20, 2013

2013 Song Sparrow Fall Peony Sale - Buy 2 Get One Free

They are at it again! I don't know of any other peony farm who reliably discounts their peonies in the fall (and who also sends large, correctly labeled plants) besides Klehm's Song Sparrow. Last year they ran a similar Fall Sale. I am on the email lists for several other major growers, and Song Sparrow definitely is the best at offering fall discounts. Their prices are not cheap, but they are not exorbitant either, and their current sale makes their offerings all the more attractive! I received the sale email on Friday, October 18th and the sale runs through November 3rd. They are currently offering Receive three Peonies for the price of two. So if you haven't yet gotten your fall 2013 peony order in, head on over to see if the varieties you're interested are still in stock. With this sale, I'm sure the hottest and award winning varieties will be selling out quick! :-)

Song Sparrow Fall Peony Sale - Buy 2 Get One Free

Friday, October 18, 2013

2013 APS Peony Donation to JC Raulston Arboretum

I finally had a chance to dig up peonies in my yard for donation this past weekend. This box of peonies went for a ride to my local arboretum. Through a joint project I've been working on with the American Peony Society and the JC Raulston Arboretum, I was able to gather over 40 peonies for donation to a local public garden. I personally donated 9 of the peony varieties myself. I guess you could say I had a slight incentive in being able to drop them off instead of having to pay the shipping costs to send them through the mail. The peony varieties I donated were: 'Angel Cheeks', 'Bowl of Cream', 'Chalice', 'Coral Charm', 'Do Tell', 'Festiva Maxima', 'Honor', 'Mother's Choice', and 'Seashell'.

Peony Donation for the JC Raulston Arboretum

There were several other donors to the project who I am very thankful for that helped make this project a great success: Adelman Peony Gardens, Hollingsworth Peonies, Rarity Gardens, Song Sparrow, and a local garden nursery, Homewood Nursery. I also wrote an APS Bulletin article about this project, which I will publish here when the bulletin comes out. I'll also be keeping a close eye on the peonies at the arboretum, and I'll definitely posts updates on their progress. I was so happy to work on this Public Gardens Peony Donation Project, and I can't wait to find the next public garden or arboretum in need of a large peony donation! If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment or contact me. :-)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013 Planting Chinese Tree Peonies

Chinese Tree Peonies Soaking in Water

After soaking the Chinese Tree Peonies from Ali Express, some of them started to look promising. As you can see below on the tree peonies with long stems and short roots, after soaking them in water I started to notice some white or light colored nodules on the sides of the tree peony stems. These may turn into growth nodules, from which roots or stems may be generated in the spring. Also I figured out which tree peonies these are supposed to be. The one tree peony with a short stem and long roots is supposed to be the blue tree peony I ordered. The other 5 tree peonies with long stems and short roots were 2 yellow/orange tree peonies and the other 3 were the ones that were supposed to be the Ali Express Chinese Tree Peonies $5.52 for 3!. I had ordered 3 sets of 3 of these peonies. So I should have gotten 9 of those tree peonies, but they only sent 3. So I opened a dispute with Ali Express for that particular order.

Blue Chinese Tree Peony with Short Stem and Long Root

Chinese Tree Peony with Long Stem and Short Root

Chinese Tree Peony with Long Stem and Short Root

After soaking the Chinese Tree Peonies in a bucket of water for a couple of days, I finally got them all planted Wednesday morning. I planted the tree peony with the short stem and the long root pretty much even with the soil. The other tree peonies with the long stems and shorter roots, I planted about 4-5 inches below the soil, which left about 2 inches of the stem above ground. The majority of the tree peony stems were planted below ground, in hopes they would generate their own roots, just in case the tree peony stems are grafted to herbaceous peony root stock. Now I am feeling a little more hopeful that these Chinese tree peonies will grow in the spring! I'll let you know... :-)

Planted Chinese Tree Peonies from Ali Express

Saturday, October 12, 2013

2013 Dormant or Dead? Chinese Tree Peonies

Well, I received some of the Chinese tree peonies I ordered this week. I'm not sure which plants they are or which vendor they came from. None of the plants are labeled, and they all came with their roots wrapped in plastic wrap. I actually placed 7 different orders with 7 different vendors. I figured this way I was hoping to find at least a good vendor or two. I received 2 boxes from China in the mail this week, and I did in fact receive tree peony roots. One box came with a 10 inch root in it, and most of the top stem had been trimmed away, leaving only about 1/2 inch of stem. The other box came with 5 tree peonies in it with longer 6-7 inch stems, but shorter roots that had been trimmed to 3-4 inches. I'm curious to see if any of these will grow. This was not a very expensive experiment, but definitely a curious one. I plant to soak these roots all day today, and probably plant them out tomorrow. I am really curious to see if the tree peonies with longer stems or the tree peonies with longer roots are able to survive. I will definitely keep you posted on whether any of these tree peonies actually sprout in the spring!

Chinese Tree Peonies with Long Stems and Short Roots

Chinese Tree Peony with Short Stem and Long Root

Monday, October 7, 2013

2013 Sharing Peony Roots at the Fall Plant Swap

I went to the fall Carolina Plant Swap this weekend. I brought 3 peony divisions with me this year to trade. These were nice, large divisions of a medium pink colored herbaceous peony with nice foliage. Hopefully they will each produce flowers next year in their new homes! I made these divisions from an herbaceous peony that was previously growing in my peony moon garden (which I recently cleared out to make room for my New Tree Peony Moon Garden). Since I love peonies so much, I can't help but want to try to encourage all gardeners to grow peonies. Once they find out how nice they are (and easy to grow), I'm sure they'll be hooked too! Let's hope I can donate even more to next year's plant swap! :-)

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

Friday, August 30, 2013

2013 New Fall Growth on Purple English Tree Peony

When watering my garden earlier this week, I noticed some new fall growth on one of the Purple Tree Peony Seedlings From Ebay UK. All of the existing foliage had already died back. This was probably due to the stress of shipment during the summer and the adjustment to a new climate. Anyway it's still alive! That's good news. I just hope these guys come back in the spring! One of them has two new leaves on it, and the other one doesn't have any active growth. Let's hope that one has just gone dormant for the year. It's nice to have something happening in the garden with peonies at this time of year. All the rest of my peonies are pretty inactive since things are winding down for peonies about now. The next thing will be the colorful fall foliage, which I'm looking forward to!

Purple Tree Peony Seedlings from UK

New Growth on Purple Tree Peony Seedling

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

2013 Crispy Coral Sun Peony Garden

Deja vu! I feel like I've seen this before. All of my transplanted coral peonies in my New Coral Peony Sun Garden are now crispy. Only 1 of the 6 plants I transplanted had already gone dormant. Now the rest of them (the other 5) are brown too. I hope they've just gone dormant for the year. Coral peonies usually go dormant a bit earlier than the other peony colors. It is almost time for coral peonies to go dormant here anyway. So hopefully these will be okay. I'll keep watering them and hope for the best. Last year I transplanted some existing and newly planted intersectional peonies. Despite the Intersectional Peony Garden Dead Foliage, all of the existing intersectional peonies survived just fine even though they had turned crispy and brown as well. However only 2 of the 4 newly planted intersectional Peonies on Ebay actually came back this year. At first I thought only 1 of them was alive, but another one of them came up about a month later. That's a lesson for buying cheap intersectional peonies on Ebay. They may or may not survive. I hope these coral peonies will survive. All of these transplanted coral peonies are existing peonies - none of them are newly planted this year or last. So hopefully they will all make it. I will give you a report in the spring! :-)

Crispy Coral Peony Sun Garden