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It’s been hot, hot, hot and dry, dry, dry here in northwestern Connecticut. Despite the lack of rain, this being New England, it’s still very humid. While we are wilting in this weather, the plants, particularly the vegetables, love it–so long as we can manage to give them lots of supplemental irrigation. It’s time like this, that we feel fortunate to grow peonies as our main crop. As anyone who grows these plants knows, they are heat and drought resistant. Here’s a look at what we’ve been up at the nursery the last few weeks.

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In July, the garden is a buzzing all-you-can-eat buffet for the butterflies and bees.

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Our veggie garden is looking great this year. Mulching for weed control and watering are key to success, but so are healthy soils nourished with compost and amended with Azomite.

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Oceans of kale!

One of our favorite figs, is the classic French variety 'Violette De Bordeaux.' It has a rich, sweet flavor, with strawberry flesh.

One of our favorite figs, is the classic French variety ‘Violette De Bordeaux.’ It has a rich, sweet flavor, with strawberry flesh.

Aronia berries are almost ripe!

Aronia berries are almost ripe!

'Portugal' quince staring to size up. These will be ready for harvest in about six weeks.

‘Portugal’ quince staring to size up. These will be ready for harvest in about six weeks.

Kasha hard at work harvesting shiitake mushrooms in 90 degree heat.

Kasha hard at work harvesting shiitake mushrooms in 90 degree heat.

We got a visit from a rarely seen guest today, a luna moth caterpillar.

We got a visit from a rarely seen guest today, a luna moth caterpillar.

We hope to introduce our organically grown fruit and berry plants to some new gardeners with our display at New Morning Market in Woodbury, CT.

We hope to introduce our organically grown fruit and berry plants to some new gardeners with our display at New Morning Market in Woodbury, CT.

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Ethan, a star member of our nursery crew, off to the new field for a ‘harrowing’ experience.

This new 1/4 field will be planted this fall. With our intensive planting plan, we can fit 5,000 tree peony grafts in this area. The soil is quite acidic, so we have amended with lime to raise the pH. If you thinking of adding some peonies to your garden this fall (hopefully on a smaller scale than we are) see our page on preparing new ground for fall peony planting.

This new field will be planted this fall. With our intensive planting plan, we can fit 5,000 tree peony grafts in this area. The soil is quite acidic, so we have amended with lime to raise the pH. If you thinking of adding some peonies to your garden this fall (hopefully on a smaller scale than we are) see our page on preparing new ground for fall peony planting.

Jacked-up 3 wheeled tractor...fourth wheel, full of calcium carbonate in the bed of the truck... just don't ask

Just in case this post makes it seem like everything is just free and easy in the summer at Peony Heaven, consider: jacked-up 3 wheeled tractor in the middle of the woods…fourth wheel full of calcium carbonate (weighing about 400 lbs.) in the bed of the truck… just don’t ask

A view of our newly cleared 4 acre growing area.

A view of our newly cleared 4 acre growing area.

At the end of the day, we're still searching for our pot of gold....

Some where over the rainbow…July 25, 2016

A quick look at what we and the garden have been up to the last few weeks at Cricket Hill.

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Getting a new nursery area ready for all planting. Note the rock piles….

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A view of our newly cleared 4 acre plot. We can sure fit a lot of tree peonies in here.

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‘Viking’ aronia berries starting to show some color.

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‘Prolific’ pawpaw grafted in 2012.

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Our kitchen garden.

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First peony seeds of the season are ripe, from the species Paeonia anomala

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Tree peony seeds are still six weeks away from being ripe.

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Garlic is pulled and set out to dry.

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Some of our figs. These can be shipped now, during the summer.

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Haschberg’ European elderberry starting to size up.

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‘Adams,’ a selection our the native American elderberry is not far behind.

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The last of the ‘Titania’ black currants

 

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A view of our display orchard. We planted this is 2013 and it’s really starting to fill in.

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‘Chapin’ pears are looking good. This is a seedling of ‘Seckel’ and is very similar. 

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Our ‘Norris’ seedless che fruit seem to be maturing. We’re very much looking forward to these ripening later this summer. This tree is 3 years old.

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A view of one of our tree peony graft beds, in a few months these little babies will be headed off the gardens all across the US.

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Flowers on a cultivar of Chinese date or jujube (红枣). It was grafted last year and looks like it will bear a crop this year. This jujube is living up to its reputation for being precocious and the old Chinese farmers’ expression 桃三杏四梨五年,枣树当年就卖钱 (It takes three years for peaches, four for apricots and five for pears, but with jujubes you make money the first year)

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We’re happy to see another brood of blue birds in the box. One family used this box earlier in the spring.

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Just for fun, we are steeping fruits and herbs to make homemade cassis and elderflower liqueurs, as well as the first ever batch of absinthe.

 

 

The peony bloom continues at Cricket Hill Garden. As we enter week 5, all tree peonies but one have finished blooming, while the late season herbaceous peonies and a few cultivars of the hybrid intersectional or ‘Itoh’ peonies are still looking very good. Overall, this has been a good spring for blooms, though the very hot weather we had two weeks ago sped up the latter half of the season. Compared with last year, we are about a week ahead in terms of bloom timing. By next week, the first week of summer, most peony petals will have fallen, leaving us the memories of spring flowers and the anticipation of a new summer’s bounty. In the past few years here at Cricket Hill, we have expanded our focus to include growing many new berry bushes and edible fruits, so there is something to look forward to all through the growing season.

Themis

‘Themis,’ a late season tree peony hybridized by Nassos Daphnis.

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Twinkling of the Golden Light‘ still shines.

richesand honor

Riches and Honor,’ a Chinese variety of herbaceous peony with perfectly formed double blossoms on a compact shrub with strong stems.

sword dance

Though the primary blossoms have passed on many cultivars, some like ‘Sword Dance’ have secondary side buds which are now blooming.

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Garden Lace‘ is a cultivar hybridized by the great peony breeder and nurseryman Don Hollingsworth. This variety holds up well in the sun and rain. The blossoms persist for over ten days.

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‘Best of Velvet Blossoms’ is a Chinese variety which we need to build up stock on before we can offer it for sale.

garden trasure

Garden Treasure‘ a long blooming,  intersectional or ‘Itoh’ peony. Plants produce many buds and has a prolonged bloom as flowers take turns opening.

batzella

Bartzella‘  is another intersectional peony, a show stopper,  with 8-9″ flowers.

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After the blooms on your peonies are past, please deadhead the spent blooms. Cut the dead flower back to to first good leaf, usually trimming about 6-8 inches of stem. The patient and adventurous gardener may want to try growing peonies from seed, in which case you leave some seed pods to fully develop. See our article here on growing peonies from seed.

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We’re about more than just peonies at Cricket Hill Garden. Summer brings the bounty of fruits and berries from our collection of landscape edibles. Right now our elderberries are in full bloom.

 

 

The early June rain, which is so vital to all growing plants, is putting a bit of a damper on the finale to the peony bloom season at Cricket Hill Garden. We need the rain, but are sorry to see it hit the blooms. The garden umbrellas do help prolong the bloom; we could use many more.

Right now we are seeing the lactiflora type herbaceous peonies. This species originally comes from China, but has been widely cultivated in Europe and North America since the 19th century. Lactiflora herbaceous peonies are what many gardeners think of as peonies. They tend to grow to about 3′ x 3′, have single to large double flowers and a sweet or clove like fragrance. Many of these varieties also have weak stems and are better suited to grow as cut flowers than landscape plants. We do have several varieties with strong stems that stand up well without support. This is an excellent characteristic which we always make note of in individual variety descriptions.

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Coral Sunset‘ hybrid which gets its tall statue from its lactiflora parentage. 

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Coral Sunset‘ makes a stunning cut flower.

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Minnie Shaylor‘ a classic variety registered in 1919.

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This is a new seedling which we will be naming this year.

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Our new seedling has strong stems and holds up well in the rain.

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Golden Purple Sunset‘ a Chinese variety with a complex flower.

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Golden Purple Sunset‘ has stout stems and is not bowed over by the monsoon-like ‘peony rains’ we have had this year.

le cygne

Le Cygne‘ is an old variety from France, excellent as a cut flower, very fragrant, classic full double form, but it needs stem support in the garden.

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Lotus and Moss‘ showing its different flower forms.

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Twinkling of the Golden Light,’ an excellent Chinese variety. 

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‘Dragon’s Nest’

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‘Dragon’s Nest’ in the nursery. 

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I have more beautiful photos to share, but I’m going to take a cue from Miles the cat and take a rest.

 

 

 

We’ve been zipping around the nursery this week like the honey bees we are so happy to see. Our window of time for documenting the bloom is always short; by the ephemeral nature of the flowers, taking care garden guests and customers, as well as the omnipresent (barely) controlled chaos of running a small business. Fortunately the weather has cooperated, cooling from the hot and muggy mess of last week. We anticipate a fantastic finale to the 2016 peony season with good weather for viewing the herbaceous and intersectional peonies. Here’s a look at what’s been blooming in the nursery this past week. Enjoy!

The late season tree peonies… A few cultivars of Chinese rockiis held on into late last week. The majority of tree peonies now blooming are the hybrids. The first generation of these hybrids were crosses between cultivated Chinese and Japanese tree peonies with their wild ancestor, Paeonia lutea. They come in a range of mesmerizing colors, from bright yellow, to glowing apricot and peach, and soft silver. While the flowers are not as large as the traditional Chinese and Japanese varieties, these hybrids have a style all their own.

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‘Happy Days’ (Saunders, 1948)

black panther

‘Black Panther’ (Saunders, 1948)

vesuvian

‘Vesuvian’ (Saunders, 1948)

kronos

‘Kronos’  (Daphnis, 1978)

silver sails

‘Silver Sails’

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‘Alice Harding’ A beautiful flower, but it hangs badly with weak stems. Not a plant we are currently propagating.

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One might ask: a peony so ugly we had to cover the blooms with paper bags?….no, no…For the last few years, we have been doing some intentional hybrid crosses of our own. Our goal is to create larger hybrid tree peonies which hold their flowers more upright. We hope to achieve this by using some of our outstanding varieties of Chinese rockii tree peonies as the pollen parent.

Intersectional hybrids (crosses between tree and herbaceous peonies) also started to bloom this week.

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‘Court Jester’

dragon claw

‘Dragon Claw’

And now for the early to mid- season herbaceous peonies

scarlet ohara

‘Scarlet O’Hara’ 

 

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Seedlings of P. lactiflora herbaceous peony. We collect the seeds from these plants and grow out the plants to use as our rootstock for grafting tree peonies. 

Just to prove that we grow more than peonies at Cricket Hill Garden, here’s a look at whats happening in orchard.

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Mulberries are already forming. These will be ripe later this month.

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Looks like there was good pollination on our pawpaws this year. 

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European elderberries (S. nigra) are in bloom.

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Two natives to East Asia; the che and the ladybug reunited on a hillside in Thomaston, CT. 

 

 

 

 

This past week has been spectacular for our peak tree peony bloom, with cool days and little rain. The blooms of the Chinese central plains (zhong yuan), purple flare rockii (ziban) and Japanese tree peonies all overlapped this year in a stunning show.

flawless white jade

‘Flawless White Jade.’ wu xia bai yu 無瑕白玉

Grand balck flower

‘Grand Black Flower’ hei hua kui 黑花葵

bdp

Big Deep Purpleda zong zi 大棕紫

Beauty Yu Ji

‘Beauty Yu Ji in a Red Dress’ yu ji hong zhuang 虞姬紅裝

yellow w/ big leaves

‘Yellow with Big Leaves’ da ye huang 大葉黃

Red of Hemp Leaves

‘Red of Hemp Leaves’ ma ye hong 麻葉紅

Rival Beauties Bathing

Rival Beauties Bathing in the Springsxian chi zheng chun 咸池爭春

peach blossom spring

‘Peach Blossom Spring’ tao hua chun 桃花春

glory of sun and moon

‘Glory of the Sun and Moon’ ri yue tong hui 日月同輝

du juan ti xue

‘Cookoo’s Tears’ du juan ti xue 杜鵑啼血

xue shan jin ding

‘Snowy Mountain Golden Summit’ xue shan jin ding 雪山金頂

Qing Hai Hu Yin Bo

‘Silver Waves on Lake Qing Hai’ qing hai hu yin bo 青海湖銀波

nobal woman

Nobalwomangui fu ren 貴婦人

white jade lion

‘White Jade Lion’ Hakuojishi 白玉獅子

fireworks

‘Fireworks’ hanabi 花火

black dragon brocase

Black Dragon BrocadeKokuryu-nishiki 黑竜錦

white goose of shimane

‘White Goose of Shimane’ Shimane Hakugan 島根白鴨

the sun

‘The Sun’ taiyo 太陽

naniwana brocade

‘Naniwa Brocade’ naniwa nishiki 浪花錦

muramatsu cherry

‘Muramatsu Cherry’ muramatsu zakura 村松櫻

shimane fuji

‘Shimane Wisteria’ shimano fuji 島の藤

maregetsu

‘First Crow’ muregarasu 群鳥

lion of yatsu

‘Lion of Yatsu’ yatsukajishi 八束獅子

Kamata brocade

‘Kamata Brocade’ kamata nishiki 鎌田錦

jol

Joy of Longevityshimane chojuraku 島根長壽樂

ann marie

‘Ann Marie’ the first hybrid tree peony to open. Many more of these late blooming tree peonies to come.

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‘Peony Heaven Luminous Pink’ a seedling we are going to register this year.

post modern phoenix white

Our wrinkled crinckeld post-Modern Phoenix White

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One of our favorite seedlings. We grafted it for the first time last year and hope to offer it for sale next year. 

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Our Chinese tree peonies are coming into peak bloom at Cricket Hill Garden. The bulk of this collection consists of Central Plains (zhongyuan) cultivars from the famous peony growing center of Luoyang and Heze in central China, as well of rockii type (ziban) tree peonies from Gansu province in northwestern China. The seesawing winter temperatures, which went from a very warm December and January, to a frigid February, caused much damage to some of the early blooming zhongyuan cultivars. Some have no flowers at all this year, while others have smaller or distorted flowers. The rockii tree peonies are slightly later blooming and were not effected by the winter. Neither were the Japanese tree peonies. All in all, 2016 is shaping up to be a fine peony bloom, with mild weather and thus far little ‘peony rain.’ Once again, in the garden as in rest of life, we see the benefit of diversity.

anomala

Paeonia anomala, a species of herbaceous peony from a range between northern European Russia and Northern Mongolia, and south to the Tien Shan Mountains. We love it for its fine foliage and tall habit. Plants reach 2.5′ on strong stems. Will grow in full sun or part shade. 

black dragon brocade

Black Dragon Brocade‘黑竜錦 Kokuryu Nishiki

Centerpiece of Fruit

‘Centerpiece of Fruit’ 盤中取果 Pan Zhong Qu Guo

champion blk jade

‘Champion Black Jade’ 冠世墨玉 Guan Shi Mo Yu. Very slow growing, with only a few flowers every year. Still quite spectacular. 

Ealy Bird

‘Early Bird’ (Saunders, 1950) A hybrid between P. veitchii and P. tenufolia

era of purple

Era of Purple‘ 今紫 Imamurasaki An early blooming Japanese cultivar. 

fragrant jade

‘Fragrant Jade’ 香玉 Xiang Yu

Blue Chrysanthemum

‘Blue Chrysanthemum’ 藍菊花 Lan Ju Hua An early blooming rockii type Chinese tree peony.

Green Dragon in a Chinese Ink Stone

‘Green Dragon Lying on a Chinese Ink Stone’ 青龍臥墨池 Qing Long Wo Mo Chi

Hanasobi

‘Journey of Flowers’ 花遊 Hanasobi

Heavne scented wet with dew

‘Heaven Scented Wet with Dew’ 天香湛露 Tian Xiang Zhan Lu. This is a classical variety bloomed exceptionally well this year. We plan to propagate it this fall and have young plants available in a few years. 

Lotus Like

Lotus Like‘ 似荷蓮 Si He Lian 

necklace of pp

‘Necklace with Precious Pearls’ 瓔珞寶珠 Ying Luo Bao Zhu

yuban's white

‘Yu Ban’s White’ 玉班白 Yu Ban Bai

red seedling

A new seedling of ours. Large red flowers are borne on a tall growing and robust plant. Its one to watch!

Top Quality ink

‘Top Quality Ink’

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Purple Jade Orchid‘ 玉蘭紫 Yu Lan Zi Many more rockii type tree peonies still to come. 

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Our woodland display garden. 

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The east garden with a stunning glass sculpture by Mundy Hepburn

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Lots of buds still to come!

 

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