In Chinese, chun jie, the word for the traditional lunar new year, means “spring festival.” Though it is still very much winter in northern and central China, the new year heralds the slow awakening of spring. Traditionally the holiday is celebrated by families with mountains of dumplings, and large arsenals of fireworks. Another tradition is ‘forcing’ tree peonies to bloom in time for the New Year. In China, tree peonies represent prosperity and achievement as well as tokens of love. A blooming tree peony not only injects some much needed color into the winter days, but is also a wish for good fortune in the new year.
Forcing tree peonies to bloom in the winter is done by potting up plants in the fall and gradually raising the temperatures in a greenhouse over the course of about two months. There is a very large market in China for forced tree peonies. Businesses display blooming peonies at their offices, and people give potted plants as gifts to friends and family. City governments and universities also put on large public exhibitions of forced tree peonies. A grower we know in China said that his nursery alone forces more than 10,000 plants for the holiday. He estimated that overall about 1,000,000 potted tree peonies are forced to bloom in time for sale during the Spring Festival.
At Cricket Hill Garden we have successfully forced tree peonies in the past and are happy to announce that we will be doing so again next year for the 2015 CT Flower and Garden show.