Articles about Peony gardens
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Friday, June 21, 2019

2019 American Peony Society Convention Reiman Gardens Conservatory & Butterfly House

Reiman Gardens Conservatory

After things had settled down with the 2019 American Peony Society Convention Reiman Gardens Peony Flower Exhibition a bit, I finally got to check out Reiman Gardens, and boy am I glad I did! Those blue couches in the middle of the conservatory that look like a dream? Yes, I lounged there a bit and took in the sights and sounds all around me. I was met with well grown and carefully groomed plants everywhere I looked. While I relaxed on the dreamy sofa, I took in the playful sounds of the waterfall and let the tropical foliage take me away to an imaginary (yet very real!) retreat. I must say I was quite surprised by the hidden gems around every corner in this conservatory. It was not in the least what I expected, yet very much more than I expected - what a treat! It was amazing yet very relaxing and peaceful all at once.

Reiman Gardens Tropical Waterfall

Reiman Gardens Conservatory Planters

There were brightly colored blooming bulbs in pretty much every pot in sight - tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, alliums, and vases overflowing with bunches of blooms. There were palm trees of all kinds, urns filled with blooming orchids, and small water fountains everywhere! The delights for the senses surrounded you - sights, smells, sounds. Reiman gardens had even decorated the conservatory and their entire garden actually with a theme. The current theme is "Toys and Games". Apparently they change the theme every year. So this year there were dice planters, big dice between the cacti in the conservatory and the ferns at the front desk, playing cards tucked into planters, and a a giant dice sculpture outdoors. I'm not sure that I've seen another garden do a them quite like this, and it definitely added an extra fun element that popped up all around the display gardens.

Reiman Gardens Conservatory

Reiman Gardens Hallway

The Reiman Gardens Butterfly House was another treat after I'd finished exploring the Hughes Conservatory. I took the opportunity to rest on a few of the benches they had scattered throughout the butterfly house (and take some nice butterfly shots while I was there). There were actually a lot of butterflies in the house the day I went, and they all seemed to be quite active. I guess I went at the right time of day, perhaps. There were butterflies of orange, yellow, brown, white, and blue. They were fluttering about chasing each other, resting on a leaves, sipping nectar from flowers, and learning to fly. There's just something about tiny little creatures with large, colorful wings that really spark my imagination and carry me away to a world of whimsy.

Reiman Gardens Butterfly House Butterflies

Paper Kite Butterfly
Reiman Gardens Butterfly House

Reiman Gardens Butterfly House

Yellow, Black, & Blue Butterfly
Reiman Gardens Butterfly House

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

2019 American Peony Society Convention Reiman Gardens Peony Flower Exhibition

2019 APS Convention Flower Exhibition
Reiman Gardens Garden Room

I must say I really enjoyed the natural feeling of the 2019 American Peony Society Exhibition room this year, which was in the Garden Room of Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa. There was so much wood in the room, but not too much, that it gave it a soft feeling. The space also had lots of windows, mirrors, and natural lighting, perfect for showing off all of those gorgeous peony blooms. Even with the natural lighting, the room was still cool enough to keep the peony blossoms fresh for the competition and exhibition. So we had the best of both worlds.

Itoh and Herbaceous Hybrid Peonies
2019 APS Convention Flower Exhibition

There was just something about having those natural wood beams around the room, that just made the peonies pop! I just couldn't stop taking pictures of the peonies against the wood. The rich, light brown color just made the perfect companion to the brightly colored peonies. The show was actually really well attended. There were many, many members of the public, plus a busload of peony enthusiasts from the Heartland Peony Society that came to visit on Sunday. It was nice to see the excitement of everyone - new and seasoned peony enthusiasts alike, and many new people decided to become APS members as well. All in all it was quite a successful show for the APS and for peonies!

Peony Collection Entries
2019 APS Convention Flower Exhibition

Peony Collection Entry
2019 APS Convention Flower Exhibition

Sunday, June 16, 2019

2019 American Peony Society Convention Reiman Gardens Peony Flower Bouquets

Reiman Gardens Peony Bouquets

I'm not sure who put together all of the beautiful vases of peonies at the Reiman Gardens front desk for the 2019 American Peony Society Convention, but they were gorgeous! I only wish I had this many colors and varieties of peonies to pick at once to brighten up a vase! No where else on earth will you find as many peony varieties from all different bloom seasons - early season, mid season, and late season all gathered together and on display than you will at a peony flower exhibition. If you are lucky enough to be able to visit a peony show, then you are in for a unique experience! Prepare to be dazzled and delighted!!

Reiman Gardens Front Desk Covered with Peonies

There wasn't an inch of space left on the welcome desk at Reiman Gardens on the days of the flower exhibition. Glorious bouquets of dark maroon, pale peach, bright pink, cherry red, and sunny yellow greeted APS Members and Reiman garden visitors alike. If you came just to visit the garden that weekend, you happened upon a real treat! The bouquets upon bouquets of peonies at the front gave away that something was going on. I'd like to say I have an easy favorite of all of the bouquets on the front desk, but there were so many of them I really loved, my mind can't settle on just one! If you didn't get to see these lovely flowers at the show, I hope you get a chance to enjoy them now! :-)

Reiman Gardens Peony Bouquets

Reiman Gardens Peony Bouquets

Reiman Gardens Front Desk Peony Bouquets

Monday, June 3, 2019

2019 American Peony Society Convention Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden Tour

It was a rainy day for the public garden tour of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. I guess it was better to have the hot sunny day for the personal garden tours than the rain. Save the rain for the public garden tour since you could in theory always visit it again later. There were a few APS members with umbrellas for the sun the day before, but many more members with umbrellas on this rainy day, plus ponchos and waterproof jackets to keep the rain at bay. The rain was steady, but at least it wasn't a downpour. Luckily, it was more of a light rain.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden Entrance

Tree Peony 'Phoenix White' (Paeonia ostii)
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

We were able to find a few peonies in bloom at the Greater Des Moines Botanical garden. We found a nice size specimen of Tree Peony 'Phoenix White' (Paeonii ostii). However it was quite drenched, and someone even nicknamed it the "soggy princess". The delicate white petals of this tree peony were definitely soaked and slumped. Since spring was behind there in Iowa, only a few early blooming varieties were open. We did also find a nice little plant of Peony 'Pink Tea Cup' which seemed to be standing up to the rain quite well. The bright pink petals called to you from across the garden even in the rain.

Peony 'Pink Tea Cup'
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Bonsai Garden
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

There was also a fancy bonsai garden flanking the entrance to their conservatory. I had a nice time checking out those miniature trees. The oldest specimen in their collection was a Ginkgo biloba tree that was over 150 years old! That is quite an amazing feat. I've always wanted to grow a bonsai tree, but I don't think I have the daily dedication to do it since I've killed a few already. Maybe I just need a Ginkgo biloba! Ha ha! The conservatory of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden was a very nice surprise and a welcomed respite from the rain drops outside.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden Conservatory

Succulents in the Conservatory
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Inside the conservatory were various colorful succulents, blooming tropicals, and nice size specimens of several varieties of palms. It was fun to explore, with some pop of color or exotic bloom right around the next corner. There was also a 2nd level around the edge of one side of the conservatory, which gave a nice view of the plant menagerie below. This garden also had a lovely gift shop, where I was able to purchase a couple of treasures for my children. There was also a pretty cool living plant wall at the front entrance/exit filled with a variety of tropical houseplants. Sitting next to it just made me feel alive (must have been all that extra oxygen! LOL

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden Conservatory

APS Members & Living Plant Wall
Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Sunday, June 2, 2019

2019 American Peony Society Convention Garden Tours

I couldn't believe the change in temperatures from one day to the next. It was forecasted to be 88 degrees the day of the home garden tours in Iowa, but I'm pretty sure it made it to 90 degrees (or at least felt like it!). However we really need the warm temperatures to get the peonies and other flowers to open. Most of the gardens we toured had lots of "green" since the spring season was about a month behind. There were a few very early herbaceous peonies open and a couple tree peonies open, but most of the peonies in the gardens were in bud.

Cornbred Barbeque Lunch at Prairie Moon Winery

Prairie Moon Winery Lunch

The barbeque lunch we had at the local Prairie Moon Winery was very tasty. It was catered in from a food truck company that was opening their own restaurant there in Iowa called Cornbred Barbeque. There were ribs, pulled pork barbeque, macaroni and cheese, cucumber and tomato salad, jalapeño cornbread, and your choice of beverage from the winery bar. I thought the coolest things were the wooden forks and the plates made from fallen palm leaves! How creative and eco-friendly!

Girton House & Garden

Peony 'Nosegay' and Red Fernleaf Peony in Girton Garden

There were plenty of snacks at every garden. The homemade pies and cakes at the Girton garden were very delicious. I had to try the carrot cake since it didn't have raisins in it (just how I like it), and it was very delish! Everyone was vying for the shady spots since the Girton garden was mostly a full sun garden, and we were all melting. However they did have a nice assortment of teas and lemonades with ice to try to keep us cool! My favorite peony in bloom here was the double lavender P. Rockii, which reminded me of the lavender P. Rockii seedling in my own garden.

Shady Spot in the Girton Garden

Lavender P. Rockii at Girton Garden

The sun continued to be relentless even at the Jurik garden, but thankfully there was much more shade with many mature trees surrounding the house shading an extensive hosta collection. The fruit cups garnished with mint were a hit, as were the assortment of homemade cookies! People were able to find a few early blooming peonies open here too, as well as a few tree peonies. The APS ALM Committee was able to use the Jurik garden as a great training ground for their new judges during the 2019 American Peony Society Convention ALM Judges Training as well! All in all it was a great day! :-)

Tom & Kris Jurik House & Garden

Jurik Garden Extensive Hosta Collection

Thursday, April 11, 2019

2019 Questions - Gardens with Lots of White Peonies

I received this question from Linda in Zone 7b:

"I’m a watercolor artist living in Charlotte. My absolute favorite subject is peonies, especially white ones. I’m looking for an area near me that grows a lot (LOT) of peonies that might let me come to take photos to paint. Any leads you can provide will be greatly appreciated. I’ve attached photos of two of my paintings to give you an idea of my work.

"Thank you and have a great weekend."

White Single Peonies Art by Linda Fossum

I'm not sure of a local place where they will have lots of white peonies blooming. Duke Gardens in Durham may be a good option. They do actually have quite a lot of herbaceous peonies growing there. I'm not sure how many are white vs. pink or red, though. Also I know the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh has a white garden with a very large white tree peony in it. There may be some white herbaceous peonies growing there too. The Biltmore House has lots of nice gardens, and I do remember seeing many peonies there, but I did not see them in bloom (just in bud). So I'm not sure what colors they have, and they may be a bit closer for you too. It might be a good idea to call ahead to the garden to ask about their peonies, potential bloom times, and whether artists are allowed. Now would be the time to go for tree peonies. Herbaceous peonies will be blooming in a couple weeks.

Good luck!

Double White Peony Art by Linda Fossum

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

2019 Peonies at Duke Gardens Spring Plant Sale

I've never been to Duke Garden's Spring Plant Sale before until now. I just went this past weekend to see what it was all about. The sale is an annual event for the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the Duke University campus, and it is a fundraiser to help fund their summer intern program. I couldn't believe how many people were there, and how early they got up to get the best plants. The earlybird really did get the worm at this plant sale. The plant sale was from 8:00 am-12:00 noon. I arrived at 8:30 am, and I struggled to find a parking spot. I got lucky because one of the earlybirds was already finished their shopping and leaving!

"Deer Resistant" Peony Plants
Duke Gardens Spring Plant Sale

Of course I wanted to see what peonies they had for sale there. I did see several people with peonies in their wagons, herbaceous peonies with big fat buds, and a several intersectional peonies as well. I kept asking the people with intersectional peonies in their wagons where they got them from, most couldn't remember, but the ones who did pointed me to a place that didn't have any left to purchase. So those intersectional peonies really did go fast! The only peonies I found that were still left for sale at 8:30 am were a few herbaceous peonies with a "Deer Resistant" sign on them. (The sign was so cute, I just couldn't resist snapping a photo of it!)

Duke Gardens Spring Plant Sale

There were so many people there and so many plant vendors as well. Many of the plants had been propagated and potted up by the Duke Gardens staff from their own gardens. There were also specialty vendors selling everything from camellias in bloom, redbuds in bloom, peonies in bud, hellebores in bloom, ferns, hostas, annuals, and veggies. There was pretty much something for everyone. They even had a carnivorous plant tent! The local Master Gardeners were also there with their own booth giving out growing advice and selling plants they'd propagated.

Duke Gardens Spring Plant Sale

The line to check out was quite long (almost 30 minutes), but I still had a great time, and I would definitely go again in the future. However I would need to go much earlier to find a parking spot before 8:00 am to see everything that's being offered at the sale. I didn't buy any peonies, but I did find a couple of things. I purchased 2 ferns and a double hellebore. The whole even was like a feeding frenzy for plant lovers. All of the people at the sale were like goldfish that had just been fed. The amount of excitement in the air was palpable. It was nice to be near that many other plant enthusiasts and feel their energy and happiness.

Peonies and Blue Pottery
Duke Gardens Spring Plant Sale

Redbud, Camellia, and Intersectional Peony
Duke Gardens Spring Plant Sale

Sunday, August 19, 2018

2018 Southern Peony Visits China National Flower Garden 中国国花园

Me in a Field of Red Peonies at China National Flower Garden

Gate of the China National Flower Garden 中国国花园

Of all the gardens we visited, the China National Flower Garden was definitely the most expansive and the most well cared for. It was probably around 4 miles round trip from one end to the other, and we walked the whole thing. I guess that's why they had motorized carts at the front of the garden that you could ride for 10 yuan. This garden had only a few structures - a Chinese gazebo, and a long wooden bridge over a sea of peonies, a small outdoor amphitheater, and a few bathrooms along the way. This garden focused mostly on nature and plants. It was a very long oval or rectangular garden with two very wide hardscape paths made of cement or stone or block lining each long edge of the garden, with medium sized paths winding in and out and around of the middle.

China National Flower Garden Map

Chinese Peony Art in the Garden

As we entered the garden, these Chinese peony art panels were set up along the walkway. I loved the eye-catching yellow scroll work on the top and bottom edges, and they had planted some brightly colored blooming annuals around each art installation as well. Each art panel had cut outs in it to incorporate the backdrop - the natural surroundings of the beautifully landscaped garden - into the art. All of the tree peonies in this garden had completely finished blooming which was a little sad, since there were miles and miles of them. However the garden was still a lovely place to visit with each section beautifully landscaped. There were lots of trees of all types, even lots of palm trees, which helped convince me that the climate here in Luoyang is even warmer than my own.

Peony and Palm Trees

Anemone Peony Flower

They also had the largest herbaceous peony display in the center of the garden, which appeared to be in full bloom (lucky for us). There were lots of varieties and colors of herbaceous peonies, however they were all red, dark pink, light pink, or white (mixed or somewhere in between). Absent from this garden and all gardens we visited were coral herbaceous peonies, yellow herbaceous peonies, and peach herbaceous peonies. It appears that US hybridizing of herbaceous peonies has far exceeded the Chinese color range. Also absent from their garden were intersectional peonies. I did not see even one intersectional peony anywhere, and they should have been in bloom at just this time. I guess they just haven't caught on here yet. We also found this peony garden photographer waiting to capture your photograph surrounded by all of the gorgeous blooming peonies!

Peony Garden Photographer

Field of Red Herbaceous Peonies

Isabella in a Field of Red Peonies

Peonies with Rock

I also found this pretty pink peony blooming amongst the architectural looking grass with a nice rock backdrop, just like art waiting to be photographed. It was just too perfect looking to pass up photographing! Then when I saw this wave of hot pink peonies contrasting with the taller white grass, it felt like I was just looking at nature's art studio. Surrounded by glorious masses of peonies blooming everywhere, I really felt like I was in peony heaven. What a compliment to the landscape designers of this beautiful Chinese peony garden. I really felt like I was taking mental notes (and photographs) to help me incorporate at least some of their uses of peonies into my own garden.

Hot Pink Peonies with White Grass

Peonies with Small Flowering Plant

Landscaped Peony Beds

Peonies with Rock

Gazebo and Peonies on Hill

When we came upon this gazebo, it was just breathtaking. A small place to sit and rest in the center of a garden filled with herbaceous peonies. The gazebo was sitting atop a small hill. The sidewalk leading up to the summit was lined with eye-popping pink peonies, creating a wave of pink going up the hillside. All around this gazebo were just masses of peonies in all different colors in every direction. There were pinks, hot pinks, multi colored peonies of white & yellow, pink & yellow, double reds, and double whites. There was eye candy everywhere you looked, and everything just. smelled. so. good. I just wished I could stay.

Red Herbaceous Peony

White Peonies with Yellow Center

White Herbaceous Peony with Yellow Center

Masses of Peonies

Another thing that struck me as odd was how many peonies I saw growing in the shade. They weren't just growing leaves in the shade. They were growing flowers, and lots of them! How in the world did they do it? Many of the trees here were also very mature (towering), and not just one tree, lots of trees! Perhaps the key was the watering system they had set up in the garden. Maybe peonies (even herbaceous peonies) are able to tolerate shade as long as they have an adequate water supply. Perhaps the largest danger of competition from trees is not the access to sun, but the access to water? The tree roots just consume so much water. If you can keep the peonies and the tree well watered, that's the key?

Peonies Growing in Shade

Peonies Growing in Shade

Peony Watering System

They seemed to have a watering system set up for the entire garden, even the tree peonies, which seemed odd to me since I've always been told the fastest way to kill a tree peony is to over-water it. Now I feel like perhaps I have been under-watering my tree peonies, and I need to go home and water them! The soil that they grew their peonies in seemed to be like wet mud. From what I could tell, they seemed to water the garden often enough to always keep the soil moist. The soil was not black or red or white, but appeared to be mostly an even brown color, with perhaps the slightest hint of red. It seemed like a mix of all soil types - clay, humus, and sand. The texture of the soil was very thick, much like the red clay soil of my own growing area, however not as red.

Wet Dirt for Growing Peonies

Wet, Irrigated, Clay-Like Soil

Hot Pink Full Peonies

Sea of Pink Peonies

Peony Walkway Stone

Rose Garden Statues

They did also have some roses in this garden, but I didn't spend much time photographing them (because, of course, peonies are much more lovely). They even had peonies planted in their rose gardens. (That tells you exactly how much they love peonies in China.) We did see this nice art installation in the rose garden. There were 7 columns of varying heights, each one painted with a different color rose. The column itself was painted with a giant rose, and there was also a small square cube on the column that had a smaller work of art with each rose color. Past the rose garden I spotted this awesome pagoda. It had so much detail all over it. It featured a different painting under each eave, so many multi colored patterns, and Chinese characters painted in gold.

Me with the Garden Pagoda

Palm Trees and Peonies

Gorgeous Hot Pink Herbaceous Peonies

Hot Pink Peony Flowers

Peonies with Garden Rock with Chinese Inscription

After leaving the pagoda, we walked along inside it's pavilion until we came to a bridge. The bridge was a very long walkway over a sea of peonies. There were both tree and herbaceous peonies under this bridge. The tree peonies had finished blooming, but the herbaceous peonies were in their prime. On this long bridge walkway we saw a rock with an inscription in Chinese. Also along this bridge, we came upon this one herbaceous peony in this sea of herbaceous peonies. It was huge, with probably 50 or more stems, and 75-100 blooms on the plant, but the number of stems or blooms was not the most amazing thing about this peony. It was the height. This had to be the tallest herbaceous peony I had ever seen in my life! I just had to jump off the foot bridge to go stand beside of it and take a picture. It was up to my chin, and I am 5'7. So this peony had to be 5 feet tall or more! Wow! Just - WOW!

Me Standing with the Tallest
Herbaceous Peony I've Ever Seen!

Me Smelling the Tallest
Herbaceous Peony I've Ever Seen!

Isabella Standing with the Tallest
Herbaceous Peony I've Ever Seen!

The tree peony blooms had all been removed right away in this garden. There was no hybridizing happening here, from what I could tell. I suppose they want to make sure the peony plants save all of their energy for growing a larger bush and making blooms for next year. The only tree peony plants I found in bloom in this garden that were planted in the soil, were about 3-4 yellow tree peonies that probably sent up a late bloom. Most of their tree peonies were grown in the open sun. However I was quite surprised to see quite a few of their tree peonies and herbaceous peonies were grown under a bit of tree cover, mostly from very petite trees. However occasionally some were grown under much larger trees as well. The majority of the peonies grown in the sun were also protected here from large metal structures with greenhouse type glass at the top, which the garden workers were in the process of taking down, since all of the tree peonies were finished blooming here.

Yellow Tree Peonies Under Greenhouse Like Cover

Yellow Tree Peony Blossom

This garden also contained a giant netted butterfly house with a small koi fish pond and waterfall inside. There was also a bird garden with outdoor structures built to house, feed, and water some special green and yellow birds. These large round shaped wire structures were made of a metal wire similar to chicken wire, but with squares instead of hexagons. They were kind of like odd garden art - houses for birds built in different globe shapes with climbing roses growing on the sides of the cages. There was also a small Inscription Museum, which contained some old Chinese books and artifacts containing Chinese characters.

Yuanlai in Butterfly Garden Koi Pond with Waterfall

Bird Garden Sculptures with Climbing Roses

This garden also contained vendors set up under square tents all in a line, selling toys, peony scarves, hats, umbrellas, peony cakes, peony tea, peony seeds, peony paintings, peony fans, peony t-shirts and peony cheongsams. Everything peony you could think of. I did not buy any peony art work on this trip to Luoyang, since I just wasn't fond of the art style here. It was a unique art style, expansive paintings with wide brush strokes, almost making the paintings seem like they were shaded. It was quite the contrast to the smaller scale, more delicate paintings of Souzhou, which were more detailed, with fine lines and beautiful intricacy. I did find a few peony scarves, a peony UV umbrella, a peony bracelet to take home with me. We also stopped for a few treats on our way out of the garden - a large chocolate shell covered croissant-like bun filled with red bean paste and a grapefruit tea - both very delicious! Yum!

Garden Vendors Selling Peony Merchandise

Chinese Pastries for Sale in the Garden