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.
A quick look at what we and the garden have been up to the last few weeks at Cricket Hill.
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.
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.
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.
Intersectional hybrids (crosses between tree and herbaceous peonies) also started to bloom this week.
And now for the early to mid- season herbaceous peonies
Just to prove that we grow more than peonies at Cricket Hill Garden, here’s a look at whats happening in orchard.
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.
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.