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shiitake care sheet

Its cold and grey outside, so we seek a bit of spring in this selection of peony related haiku. Most of these poems date from the Edo period (1603-1868). Many of the masters of the haiku such as Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson and Kobayashi Isaa used peonies as a muse and metaphor. As in Chinese poetry, this selection of haikus illustrates the way in which peonies are linked with female beauty and sensuality in traditional Japanese literary culture.

If you garden is looking brown and dreary like ours, we hope that you will enjoy these haikus. They help to remind us that in only a few short months the sleeping beauties that are the peonies will awake and our gardens will once again be aglow!

A bee staggers out     of the peony. Basho

a bee
staggers out
of the peony
~Basho

a rice bowl  filled to the brim  one peony ~ Buson

a rice bowl
filled to the brim
one peony
~ Buson

what peonies!  one poem per flower  will not do ~ Ryumin

what peonies!
one poem per flower
will not do
~ Ryumin

the feeling of  being drunk with tea thanks to peony ~ Chisoku

the feeling of
being drunk with tea
thanks to peony
~ Chisoku

the peony flower:   it's a woman with plenty of meat on her bones ~ hakuo

the peony flower:
it’s a woman with plenty
of meat on her bones
~ Hakuo

the applause   of one and all shower the peony ~ Issa

the applause
of one and all shower
the peony
~ Issa

for peony blossom viewing  a pale kimono is good and chinese tea   ~ Torin

for peony blossom viewing
a pale kimono is good
and chinese tea
~ Torin

half a mind to dress up and bow down to the peony ~ Shiki

half a mind
to dress up and bow down
to the peony
~ Shiki

though mine I hesitate to pluck the peonies ~ Baishitsu

though mine
I hesitate to pluck
the peonies
~ Baishitsu

that peony!  I want to dash cold water on her face ~ Kaken

that peony!
I want to dash cold water
on her face
~ Kaken

If you crave more peony related poetry, see our previous posts on peonies in Japanese, Chinese and English language poetry.

In the midst of our 5th week of Cricket Hill Garden’s 2014 peony bloom, we finally have a moment to post some photos of the herbaceous and intersectional or ‘Itoh’ peonies. We should still have flowers in the garden for another week, proving that in our climate planting different types of peonies does indeed provide six full weeks of gorgeous blossoms. We hope you enjoy the following late season bloom recap.

'Golden Purple Sunset' Chinese herbaceous peony. This variety, with its smaller flowers and strong stems does not require staking, making it an excellent choice for landscape plantings.

Golden Purple Sunset‘ 紫霞间金 Chinese herbaceous peony. This variety, with its smaller flowers and strong stems does not require staking, making it an excellent choice for landscape plantings.

'Twinkling of the Golden Light' is another Chinese herbaceous peony which holds its flowers well without staking.

Twinkling of the Golden Light‘ 金光闪烁 is another Chinese herbaceous peony which holds its flowers well without staking.

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Sword Dance‘ is another anemone form herbaceous peony which has strong stems.

'Golden Wheel' is a rare Chinese herbaceous peony which is a true pure yellow without a hint of red.

Golden Wheel‘ 黄金轮 is a rare Chinese herbaceous peony which is a true pure yellow without a hint of red.

'Purple Phoenix Feather' is an incredibly fragrant Chinese herbaceous peony.

Purple Phoenix Feather‘ 紫风羽 is an incredibly fragrant Chinese herbaceous peony.

'Yang Gui Fei Steps Out of the Bath' is a Chinese herbaceous peony named after an famous and infamous courtesan of the Tang dynasty. To this day, Yang is remembered as being or 'pale and plump', a fitting description for this luscious flower.

Yang Gui Fei Steps Out of the Bath‘ 贵妃出浴 is a Chinese herbaceous peony named after an famous and infamous courtesan of the Tang dynasty. To this day, Yang is remembered as being 白白胖胖 or ‘pale and plump’, a fitting description for this luscious flower.

'Batzella' intersectional or 'Itoh' peony. This is perhaps our favorite yellow peony of any type.

Bartzella‘ intersectional or ‘Itoh’ peony. This is perhaps our favorite yellow peony of any type.

In addition to being an excellent landscape plant, Bartzella's 8-9'' blossoms also make for a unsurpassed cut flowers.

In addition to being an excellent landscape plant, Bartzella’s 8-9” blossoms also make for a unsurpassed cut flowers.

Now is the time to deadhead peonies which have finished blooming if you do not wish to save any seed. Deadheading allows the plant to concentrate its energy on creating next year's flower buds. See our video on how to deadhead your peonies.

Now is the time to deadhead peonies which have finished blooming if you do not wish to save any seed. Deadheading allows the plant to concentrate its energy on creating next year’s flower buds. See our video on how to deadhead your peonies.

This year we tried a number of intentional crosses. Hopefully we have some exciting new hybrid peonies to show you in 5 or 6 years...

This year we tried a number of intentional crosses. The paper bags prevented the bees from bringing additional pollen to the stigma’s of this hand pollinated blossom. Hopefully we have some exciting new hybrid peonies to show you in 5 or 6 years…

The Chinese tree peonies bloomed about ten days later this year than usual. Needless to say, once they began they were even more breathtaking than we remembered. Our Japanese and Lutea hybrid tree peonies are still in bloom, with some still very tightly budded. There are still weeks of peonies to come this spring so we will be posting more as the blossoms open.

butterfly

Great Winged Butterfly 大葉蝴蝶

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We consider this tree peony to be one of our most promising seedlings. We grafted it for the first time last fall and hope to offer it for sale in a year or two.

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When working in the garden, we frequently get lost in the flowers….

early herb

Early season herbaceous peonies bloom with the later Chinese tree peonies.

great peace red

Great Peace Red 太平紅

kam ruby

A beautiful Cricket Hill Garden seedling tree peony. We call this one “Kamran’s Ruby”.

red of djc

Red of Dianjiang County 墊江紅

robes of the court

Robes of the Imperial Court 朝衣

sculptures

Mundy Hepburn’s garden glass survived a very hard winter and looks beautiful in the garden this spring.

smiling in the thicket

Smiling in the Thicket 叢中笑

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Snow White Princess 白雪公主

view

Our new garden umbrellas did a marvelous job of protecting the delicate blossoms.

On a recent trip to am unnamed box store for some spring renovation supplies, we were surprised to see intersectional peonies offered along with the standard spring selection of dahlia tubers and gladiolas bulbs. It was only a few years ago that intersectional peonies, hybrids between tree and herbaceous peonies, were so rare that they could only be found at specialty nurseries such as ourselves. Today, thanks to increased importation of Dutch grown intersectional peonies, they are found more frequently at less specialized nurseries and garden centers. However, as many of you know, not all peonies are equal.

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Don’t be fooled by the snazzy packing of ‘their’ peony. What’s the horticultural  equivalent of ‘lipstick on a pig?’

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You don’t need much gardening experience to see the stark difference in the quality of these two plants. Not only is our ‘Cora Louise‘ much bigger, it is also so much fresher and healthier. This is a what a dormant peony should look like.

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We try our best to educate our customers and any interested gardener on how to successfully grow peonies. Our youtube channel has videos on planting as well as care of peonies.  If you have further questions you can always call us at (860) 283 1042 or email us at kasha@treepeony.com. We are dedicated to helping you grow beautiful peonies!

The banner says it all.

The banner says it all.

We invite you to Cricket Hill Garden’s 26th anniversary peony festival this spring. Despite the long winter and late thaw, we are confident that it will be our most spectacular season to date at Peony Heaven. Some of the tree peonies in our display garden are reaching an impressive size. If you are in the area of northwestern Connecticut, please come and say hello, stroll the garden, bring a picnic to eat by the pond, and most of all enjoy the peonies. As always, the garden is open to the public and there is no admission fee.

Tree peonies in our sales area.

We will have a fine selection of potted peonies for sale at the nursery this spring.

We are happy to accommodate garden clubs and other groups. There is no fee for this, but we do ask that you make an appointment for a large group in advance. Give us a call at 860 283 1042 or email kasha@treepeony.com to make arrangements. Our garden and nursery is located in the picturesque hills of Litchfield county. There are good restaurants, other beautiful gardens and endless hiking trails in the area. Have a look here for a little peak at what our leafy corner of Connecticut has to offer.

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The area around the Litchfield green offers antiques, art galleries and good restaurants.

Cricket Hill Garden Nursery Hours Spring 2015

The nursery will open for plant sales the week of April 15th, given that our snow is melted by then!

The peonies will not be in bloom until May, but we will have an interesting selection of potted peonies and fruit trees.

In April, we are open Wednesday through Saturday for early plant sales. Open 10-5.

  • May 1st to June 21st- Display Garden &  Nursery Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm

  • After June 21st, by appointment only

2015 Peony Festival Schedule

In selecting peonies to add to your garden, its important to know when they will bloom.

April through early May

The anticipation builds...

The anticipation builds…

May 15th to late May

Early Chinese tree peonies and hybrid herbaceous peonies.

Early Chinese tree peonies and hybrid herbaceous peonies.

May 10th Mothers Day: We celebrate mothers with the with specials on selected potted peonies. Peonies are budded, but this year it is too cold for peonies to open for Mother’s Day. May 25th Memorial Day: Specials on selected potted peonies at the nursery. This will be a great weekend to see the peonies this year. We anticipate tree peonies will peak around this time.

Early June Blooms

Tree peonies blooming at Cricket Hill Garden. Here we ahve interplanted hosta, and allowed some digitalis to self-seed.

Peak bloom period at Peony Heaven. Chinese, Japanese and hybrid tree peonies all blooming. Mid-season herbaceous and early interesectional peonies also in flower.

 

June 10th to 21st

Late season P. lactiflora herbaceous and intersectional (Itoh) hybrid peonies.

Late season P. lactiflora herbaceous and intersectional (Itoh) hybrid peonies.

These projections are our best guess based on the current forecasts for the coming weather. It has been colder than average and the blooms are slow to develop this year. We will update our information as the season progresses. Feel free to email us at kasha@treepeony.com or call (860) 283 1042 for up-to-date peony bloom information.

Among the three types of peonies- tree, herbaceous and intersectional, there are a variety of growth habits. Along with sun requirements, the mature form of a given variety is an important consideration when planning to add a peony to your garden.

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Tree peony form are classified as upright, spreading and semi-spreading.

Tree peonies, like other woody perennials, are comprised of a thicket of stems which emerge out of the ground from the root system.  Tree peony growth habits are categorized according to the angle at which the branches grow relative to the ground.

Upright form tree peonies

Upright form tree peony blooming in Beijing, China. Note how the yearly growth has been removed so the majestic woody structure of the plant is clearly visible.

Upright form tree peony Sichuan Peach Blossom, blooming in Beijing, China. Note how the lower leaf  growth has been removed so the majestic woody structure of the plant is clearly visible.

Upright form tree peonies tend to be vigorous varieties with comparatively long annual growth. Stems and branches grow upwards, at a narrow angle to the ground. The example shown here ( Sichuan Peach Blossom) is about 6 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide, and has been pruned of lower leaves and small branches to allow an uncluttered, open form of the shrub.

Tree peonies with this growth habit include: most cultivars in the Chinese rockii and Japanese groups, some Central Plains Chinese and hybrid tree peonies.  Final mature height will vary between 4.5 to 7 ft., depending on the cultivar. In our plant descriptions, we do include the mature height of our cultivars.

Landscape uses: Tree peonies with upright growth habits make excellent display plants. Do not be intimidated by the height, keep in mind that tree peonies are slow growing plants which take 10-15 years to reach their mature size. Vigorous cultivars can also be kept smaller with yearly pruning. Grow in USDA zones 4-9, with at least 5-6 hours of sunlight.

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The Sun 太阳 Taiyo Japanese tree peony

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Phoenix White 风丹白 Feng Dan Bai Chinese tree peony

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High Noon hybrid American tree peony

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Luoyang Red 洛阳红 Luo Yang Hong Chinese tree peony. This plant would be well served with a pruning to remove some of the interior, crowded growth.

Spreading form tree peonies

Color of Eternity wan shi sheng se Chinese tree peony.

Color of Eternity 万世生色 Wan Shi Sheng Se is a good example of a spreading form tree peony.

The branches of the spreading form tree peonies expand out diagonally to the ground, so that the plant width is much greater than the height. This type seems slower growing than upright habit tree peonies.  At maturity, tree peonies with spreading growth habit measure between 2.5-3 ft. tall and 3-5 ft. wide.

Tree peonies with this growth habit include:  Some Central Plains cultivar group of Chinese tree peonies (includes many of the historic Chinese varieties), some hybrid tree peonies.

Landscape placement: Mixed perennial border or foundation planting. Also very attractive planted on a raised terrace which allows for easy viewing of downward facing flowers. Ideal for smaller gardens. Grow in USDA zones 4-9, with at least 5-6 hours of sunlight.

Necklace with Precious Pearls

Necklace with Precious Pearls 璎珞宝珠 Ying Luo Bao Zhu Chinese tree peony

Zhao's Pink

Zhao’s Pink 赵粉 Zhao Fen Chinese tree peony

Peach Blossom Complexion

Peach Blossom Complexion 粉面桃花 Fen Mian Tao Hua Chinese tree peony

Semi-spreading form tree peonies

Gold Sand

Gold Sand in a Black Ocean 黑海撒金 Hei Hai Sa Jin is a Chinese tree peony with a semi-spreading form.

The semi-spreading growth habit is characterized as being an intermediate between the upright and the spreading types.  Typically dimensions at maturity are between 3-4 ft. tall and 3-5 ft. wide.

Tree peonies with this growth habit include: All cultivar groups of tree peonies have some varieties which can be classified as having a semi-spreading growth habit. The majority of hybrid tree peonies are semi-spreading.

Landscape placement: Very versatile, can be used as either a focal specimen plant or as part of a more diverse garden setting in a mixed shrub and perennial border. Grows  in USDA zones 4-9,  requires 5-6 hours of sun to bloom well. Tree peonies will grow in full sun, but the flowers fade more quickly. Morning sun, afternoon shade is ideal.

Coral Terrace

Coral Terrace 珊瑚台 Shan Hu Tai Chinese tree peony

Big Deep Purple

Big Deep Purple 大棕紫 Da Zong Zi Chinese tree peony

Species Herbaceous Peonies

P. japonica remains a small plant even when mature. This photo was taken at the New York Botanical Garden.

P. japonica remains a small plant even at maturity. This photo was taken at the New York Botanical Garden.

There are approximately 25 species of herbaceous peonies which can be found in the wild over a wide swath of Eurasia, from the Mediterranean to Japan. They are lower growing plants, between 1 to 2.5 ft. tall.  Some species, like P. japonica, remain small plants which will not exceed more than 1.5 ft. wide.  Others, like P. macrophylla will become large clumps with time, up to 3 ft. wide.

Landscape use: Some species, like P. japonica are ideal for the shady margin between the deciduous forest and the garden. Other species require full sun. All add delicate color to the early spring garden. Be aware that many species peonies will have their foliage die back in the heat of summer.

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P. officinalis,  this central Asian species of herbaceous peony will reach 20 inches tall and form a large spreading clump when mature.

Lactiflora type Herbaceous Peonies

Variteies of P. lactiflora account for many of the best known herbaceous peonies.

Varieties of P. lactiflora account for many of the best known herbaceous peonies. This particular one is a Cricket Hill Garden seedling.

Cultivated varieties of P. lactiflora account for the vast majority of herbaceous peonies in commerce. This species, which is native to China, forms a tall, upright bush, generally 3.5 ft. tall and wide. Some are single form flowers, while others are fully double form.  Some cultivars are weak stemmed and require support, while others have markedly stronger stems. We have test grown more than 150 herbaceous peony cultivars in 25 years and have discarded many because their stems are too weak. We select out the better peonies to propagate and sell, those with vigor and good stems, fragrance, unique form and color.

Landscape uses: Devoted beds or borders.  A widely adaptable garden favorite for generations,  used in mixed perennial borders with at least six hours of sunlight, to a full day of sun. Will grow in USDA zones 3-8.  Some herbaceous peonies will grow and bloom in zone 9, but must be planted just below the soil surface.  Difficult to establish in zone 9 due to dryness and lack of winter dormancy.

Some cultivars of P. lactiflora herbacoeus peonies were selected for flower size alone.  Such varieties have a dendency to droop down. They make excellent cut flowers but are less desirable for landscape plantings.

Some cultivars of P. lactiflora herbaceous peonies were selected for flower size alone. Sarah Bernhardt has a tendency to droop down. They make excellent cut flowers but are less desirable for landscape plantings.

Hybrid Herbaceous Peonies

'Lois' Choice'

‘Lois’ Choice’ is a compact growing plant, reaching 2′ tall and about 3′ wide.

Hybrid herbaceous peonies are the result of crosses between different peony species. Sizes within this broad group are quite variable, between 2.5-4.5’ tall and 2.5-3.5’ wide. Many of these hybrids were first created in America, in the mid-t0-late 20th century.

Landscape uses: The wide range of flowering times and diverse plant habit make these widely adaptable landscape plants. Many of the new hybrids have been selected with an eye for stunning flowers as well as good stem strength. Used in mixed perennial borders with at least six hours of sunlight, to a full day of sun. Will grow in USDA zones 3-8.  Some herbaceous peonies will grow and bloom in zone 9, but must be planted just below the soil surface.  Difficult to establish in zone 9 due to dryness and lack of winter dormancy.

'Early Windflower'

‘Early Windflower’ has good height and spread, about 3′ tall and 4′ wide.

Intersectional or ‘itoh’ hybrid peonies

These are hybrids between tree and herbaceous peonies. Well formed bushes grow to 3-4 ft. tall and wide.

'Court Jester' intersectional peony

‘Court Jester’ intersectional peony

Landscape uses: Well suited for mixed perennial borders or foundation plantings. The plants require 6 hours or more of sunlight.  The foliage is attractive from early spring to the hard frost. The foliage will die back in late autumn and is cut down, to re-emerge in the spring. Clumps get larger over time. For USDA zones 4-9.

Lower growing intersectional peonies make good foundation plantings.

Lower growing intersectional peonies make good foundation plantings. The yellow flower in the foreground is Garden Treasure.

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