Archive for May, 2012

Do you have a chimera peony in your garden, at tree peony which also blooms as a herbaceous peony? In fact, this is not some rare mutation, but a rather common circumstance in which the the tree peony’s herbaceous peony understock, or rootstock has sprouted.

A ‘Souvenir du Maxime Cornu’ tree peony in our garden on which the grafted herbaceous understock has sprouted and blooming. In this case the herbaceous understock is blooming simultaneously with the tree peony.

Tree peonies are most commonly reproduced by grafting. Briefly, this is a method of propagation in which a tree peony scion, or cutting, is fused to the root of herbaceous peony. This acts as a ‘battery’ to power the tree peony in its first few years of growth. I detailed this process in a post last year.

An unhealed tree peony graft, with the tree peony scion held to the herbaceous peony understock with a rubber band.

Ideally, by the time tree peonies leave the nursery, they will have grown their own roots. This is achieved by planting young tree peonies deeply to entourage the grafted scion to sprout its own roots. At Cricket Hill Garden, we strive to only send out grafted tree peonies which have also sprouted some of their own roots and also mark the correct planting depth on each tree peony we ship. Many of our tree peonies are propagated by division and are on their own root. Unfortunately, many retail garden centers and non-specialist nurseries do not plant young grafted tree peonies deeply enough, nor do they give customers proper instructions for planting.

This  tree peony is beginning to send out its own roots. The bulbous portion of the root is that of the herbaceous undertstock. For this plant to thrive, it needs to be planted very deeply so that the tree peony continues to spout its own roots.

This is a young grafted tree peony which has been planted correctly in the nursery and has established more its “own roots.” The tree peony roots are the more slender, lighter color ones located above the darker herbaceous understock. We like to mark the depth to plant, as all tree peonies are individiual. On this tree peony,  you are planting to a depth up the stem, right below the first branching. This is typical of the grafted tree peonies that we grow and sell at Cricket Hill Garden.

If a tree peony is planted too shallowly, the plant is unable to form its own roots. This can lead to both sprouted understock as well as overall plant weakness.

This tree peony was planted too shallowly, in this case below the graft union. In this case it will be impossible for the tree peony to ever form its own roots. In an instance like this, more soil should be mounded up around the plant.

Herbaceous understock sprouting next to the tree peony in the early spring.

If left unattended, sprouted herbaceous peony understock on a tree peony will gradually sap the strength from the tree peony, to the point where it will eventually be overcome and killed out by the herbaceous peony. To avoid this the herbaceous rootstock must either be cut away below the soil line in spring or separated from the tree peony at the root in the fall. The tree peony is more rare and valuable and therefore is the plant to save. The simplest thing to do is cut back the herbaceous peony foliage BELOW the soil line and then mound up 6” of soil around the base of the tree peony. This can be done at anytime, and will discourage the herbaceous peony from re-sprouting as well as encourage the tree peony to form its own roots.

If you do want to save the herbaceous peony and plant it out in another part of your garden, wait until the fall to do this. In a few months, when it’s time to dig and divide peonies I will do a follow up post which will illustrate dividing a herbaceous understock from a tree peony.

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It been a rainy week at Cricket Hill Garden, excellent weather for transplanting our veggie seedlings, but not optimal for viewing the peonies. Early this week we were between bloom cycles, with the last of the Japanese and American tree peonies just finishing and the herbaceous lactiflora hybrids and intersectional peonies just beginning. While the tree peony was 2-3 weeks early this year, the herbaceous peonies seem like they will open right on schedule for Memorial Day. Coming up from the ground, herbaceous and intersectional peonies are less likely to bloom early.

The last of the Japanese tree peonies are now finishing, bringing to an end almost three weeks of continuous tree peony blossoms.

‘Black Dragon Brocade’ 黑竜錦 Kokuryu-nishiki Japanese tree peony

‘Joy of Longevity (of Shimane)’ 島根長寿樂 Shimane Chojuraku Japanese tree peony

‘Yellow Crown’ 黄冠 Oukan is a new addition to our collection which bloomed for the fist time this year. It is relatively recent hybrid, with very large and ruffly upward facing flowers.

This week saw our small collection of American hybrid tree peonies come into full bloom. Tree peonies first arrived in the United States in the 19th century, many brought back by seaman who had been to China on trading ships. Later in the early 20th century, Japanese tree peonies were also imported into this country. It was not until later in the 20th century that a distinctive cultivar group would emerge in the United States. Two men were primarily responsible for the initial work in the field, A.P. Saunders and Nassos Daphnis. For several decades Saunders worked to cross his collection of Japanese tree peonies with species P. lutea and P. delavayi peonies collected in the wild of south west China. Daphnis continued Saunders work and together their hybrid plants have added new and subtle shades to the peony palette unknown in either Japanese or Chinese peonies.

High Noon is perhaps the most widely propagated of Prof. Saunders’ P. lutea tree peony hybrids. It is vigorous grower and very reliable bloomer.

‘Age of Gold’ exhibits one of the less desirable characteristics of many of the lutea hybrids; downward facing or nodding flowers, a trait inherited from the species P. lutea peony.

Mystery is a subtle beauty which only becomes more complex as the blossom ages.

‘Vesuvian’ is one of the rare doubles that Saunders deemed worthy of propagation.

‘Leda’ is one of our favorite Daphnis hybrid tree peonies.

Themis,’ like the vast majority of Daphnis tree peonies, is named after figures from Greek mythology, in this case a Titianess who was the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom.

This week the early intersectional peonies are beginning to open and will really pop once the sun comes out.

‘Julia Rose’

‘Morning Lilac’

Maroon Dragon Claw

This intersectional hybrid was bred by Frank Simone. He deemed this plant and its pink cousin shown below to be without much merit or commercial future. After many years of evaluation and positive customer feedback, we have decided that there is a place for these strange peonies in the garden and are pleased to be able to offer them for sale.

Pink Dragon Claw

We are still need a bit of clear weather for the lactiflora herbaceous peonies to pop, in the mean time, some our own earlier blooming Peony Heaven hybrids blossomed very well for us this year. These plants are hybrids which have quite a bit of the early blooming P. macrophylla  and P. mlokosewitschii in their genetic heritage, characterized by large leaves, yellow coloring and vigorous growth.

‘Empress Wu’s Yellow’

Peony Heaven Peach

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In the past week, our Chinese Paeonia rockii hybrids have come into full bloom. This cultivar group of tree peonies originates from China’s northwest Gansu Province. This is the native area to one of the several wild species of tree peonies. In Chinese this species is know as ziban mudan 紫斑牡丹 or “purple flare” tree peonies. Botanically this species is classified as P. rockii, after the botanical explorer Joseph Rock who “discovered” this plant in the early 1920s. Since their introduction to European and American gardens 90 years ago, these plants have been treasured by gardeners. For much of this time, the only plant available to gardeners was “Rock’s Peony.” These were propagated from the original seed grown stock sent to botanical gardens by Joseph Rock. Despite the rather recent introduction of these plants to western gardens, the area around the cities of Lanzhou and Linxia in Gansu  have been centers of breeding and cultivation for centuries and hundreds of beautiful cultivars have been selected out by growers.

Snow LotusXue Lian 雪莲 is the cultivar of the wild species P. rockii

Since we first imported rockii tree peonies over ten years ago we have been enchanted by their many endearing characteristics. Briefly, the plants are near uniformly vigorous and easy to flower. All are tall growing and will tolerate more shade than other tree peonies. The flowers are large, and oh so fragrant. Blossom color and shape range is quite diverse, though all are marked by the dark crimson or maroon flares at the base of the petals.

 ‘Blue Golden Lotus’ Lan Jin He 藍金荷

Cup of Shining NightYe Guang Bei 夜光杯

Blue Jade in Three ColorsLan Yu San Cai 藍玉三彩

Black TornadoHei Xuan Feng 黑旋風

‘Blue Chrysanthemum’ Lan Ju Hua 藍菊花

‘White Chrysanthemum’ Bai Ju Hua 白菊花

‘Red Lotus’ Hong Lian 紅蓮

Boundless Bright SkyQing Kong Wan Li 晴空萬里

Phoenix HairpinChai Tou Feng 釵頭風

Daoist Pills in a Jade StoveYu Lu Lian Dan 玉爐練丹

Lavender Lotus

Over the last 40 years, Chen Dezhong of the Peony Peace Garden outside of Lanzhou city has developed some truly outstanding cultivars. Will McLewin of Phedar Nursery in England has done peony aficionados a great service by helping Mr. Chen to compile a comprehensive, well-illustrated catalog of the amazing results of the Peace Garden’s tree peony breeding program. With the aid of their book, Peony rockii and Gansu Mudan, we have been able to identify many heretofore-unknown varieties in our collection. Some were mislabeled when they arrived; others had tags get lost over the course of a decade.

Kasha, burning the midnight oil. It is somewhat maddening trying to discern the slight differences between varieties, there are so many that could easily be described as “white with a dark center.” After much hard work, we were able to identify the following varieties:

 ‘Black Haired Girl’ 黑髮女郎

’Glory of the Sun and Moon’ Ri Yue Tong Hui 日月同輝

‘Astronaut’ Tai Kong Ren 太空人

We have also been planting out seeds from some of our favorite rockii tree peonies for the last several years and saw some very interesting new plants bloom for the first time this season. Below are some of the Cricket Hill Garden rockii test plants which we hope to propagate and offer for sale in the future.

In case its still not apparent, this time of year we here at Cricket Hill live and breathe peonies. In a few months, we will also be drinking them!

Following a simple recipe for flower wine, we set up a gallon of tree peony petal wine as an experiment. Should be intoxicating!

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It was a busy week for us at Cricket Hill Garden this last week. The Chinese tree peonies are in full bloom and we have been so happy to see so many old friends as well as meet new peony enthusiasts. Last Saturday evening, we hosted a fundraiser at the garden for the Thomaston Public Library, the weather was perfect and the wine plentiful. Its a great pleasure for us to share Peony Heaven for such a good cause and to have such a good time doing it!

The peak period to see the Chinese tree peonies will continue through this weekend, so please stop by if you are in the area. We will have jazz in the garden this Saturday and will be open Mother’s Day. See our complete Peony Festival calendar for details.

Some views from the garden this past week…

The banner says it all.

Hosta and peonies are a beautiful combination.

Tree peonies in our sales area.

Some scenes from the library fundraiser…

The 2nd annual fundraiser for the Thomaston Public Library at Cricket Hill Garden was held on May 5th. If you didn’t make it this year, put it on your calendar now for next year.

Raffle for wine, peonies and peony prints!

Wine, cheese and peonies!

And just in case you get the wrong impression, its not all wine and delicious hors d’oeuvres at Cricket Hill…

A view of our production field.

We are very excited by some new Peony Heaven test plants. These are selected from the many tree peonies we have grown from seed over the past decade. We judge these to be unique and worthy of future propagation. Suggestions for names are welcome!

For the last two years we have been mesmerized by the large, bright coral blossoms of this plant.

Some more Chinese tree peony portraits…

Big Deep Purple

Big Leaf Purple

Lotus Like

Lotus the Shines in the Sun

Luoyang Red

Red Cliffs

Silver and Red Intertwined

White Screen Reflects a Blue Jewel

Jade Plate White

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Over the last week, the Chinese tree peonies belonging to the Central Plains cultivar group have come into full bloom at Cricket Hill Garden. These peonies mainly originate from the two largest areas of tree peony cultivation in China; around the cities of Luoyang in Henan province and Heze in Shandong province. Included in this cultivar group are many classical tree peonies, some blooming at Peony Heaven this week are clones of plants admired by gardens and poets in the Song Dynasty more than 1000 years ago. Enjoy!

Ancient Red Zhong Sheng Hong 種生紅

Rival Beauties Bathing in the Springs Xian Chi Zheng Chun 咸池爭春

Big Deep Purple Da Zong Zi 大棕紫

Brightly Colored Butterfly Cai Die 彩蝶

Champion Black Jade Guan Shi Mo Yu 冠世墨玉

Champion Fragrance Guan Qun Fang 冠群芳

Purple Golden Lotus Zi Jin He 紫金荷

Great Winged Butterfly Da Ye Hu Die 大葉蝴蝶

Like a Color Painting Shi Cai Hui 佀彩繪

Lu’s Family Red Lv Hong 呂紅

Red God of Long Life Shou Xing Hong 壽星紅

Rival Beauties Dou Yan 鬦艷

White Screen Reflects a Blue Jewel Bai Bi Lan Duan 白壁藍瑖

Yao’s Yellow Yao Huang 姚黃

Phoenix Pink Feng Dan Fen 鳳丹粉

Phoenix Purple Feng Dan Zi 鳳丹紫

Red of Dianjiang County Dian Jiang Hong 垫江紅 This is a new cultivar we are growing this year. It is from Southwest China and is said to be particularly well suited for container growing because of its shallow root system.

Great Peace Red Tai Ping Hong 太平紅 This is another tree peony from the Southwest cultivar group which is traditionally grown in containers.

The wild herbaceous species Paeonia japonica is also in bloom this week.

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