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Garden and Nursery Update early May 2017

May 08, 2017

Here’s what’s been keep us busy recently at Cricket Hill Garden.

Our sales area is stocked with a great selection of tree and herbaceous peonies this year.

A true testament to the hardiness of herbaceous peonies- rouges popping up from discarded roots in the compost pile. Who would suspect that such delicate beauty could also be so rugged?

One of our tree peony production areas.

1st year tree peony grafts standing tall.

Many 1st year grafted tree peonies will set flower buds. We pick these off early in the spring before they can develop so these young plants concentrate on vegetative growth. With a few thousand to disbud, we can be excused for missing one.

‘Early Bird,’ an early blooming hybrid herbaceous peony, bred by the eminent Prof. Saunders.

Herbaceous peony seedlings, these will be used as our rootstock for grafting tree peonies this fall.

Last week we all got really stoned. This the smaller of two rock piles created from plowing up a small fraction (1/4 acre) of our new 3.5 acre production field.

Baby fruit trees going into nursery beds.

Breba (1st crop) figs really starting to grow with the warming weather.

 

View of the east garden. This will be bursting with blossoms in a week.

Beware of botrytis. Cool, wet weather is make the perfect environment for this destructive fungus to spread. We use Actinovate, to protect against this fungus in the spring.

Pawpaw blossoms opening. Our fingers are crossed for good pollination this year!

Blossoms of ‘Nero’ aronia berry.

The buds of ‘Roselette,’ an early blooming herbaceous peony looking plump.

Downy buds of the quince trees.

Mulberries starting to form!

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Early and Mid Season Peony Blooms 2017

May 18, 2017

With the last few days of warm weather, many of the early and mid-season tree peonies have popped open here at Cricket Hill Garden, along with some of the early blooming herbaceous peonies. The flowers are a bit smaller and less vibrant this year than we typically see. We attribute this to stress induced by last year’s drought as well as the uneven temperatures (alternate periods of warm and cold) this winter. Despite all of this, these plants are still putting on quite a show, filling the garden with their sweet perfume.

‘Apple Gorgeous’

‘Purple Tower Inlayed with Gold’

‘Luoyang Red’

‘Ling Flower Wet with Dew’

‘Murad of Hershey Bar’

‘Multi-Colored Butterfly’

A self-sown seedling

‘Peony Heaven Blue Lotus’

                White Crane Lying in the Snow

White Screen Reflects a Blue Jewel

Lotus Like

Gold Sand in a Black Ocean

Cinnamon Pink

Early Scout

Unknown fern leaf hybrid

P. officinalis

Aronias in full bloom

As are the pawpaws!

Fingers crossed for good fruit set this year on the pawpaws.

We love finishing a long hot day in the field with an evening stroll in the orchard, where the quince are in bloom.

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Peak Tree Peony Bloom 2017

May 24, 2017

The last several days have been glorious for the peak of the tree peonies here at Cricket Hill Garden. After three sweltering days last week, the weather cooled to a much more seasonable (and peony blossom friendly) range of 60-75° F.

Though the Chinese and Japanese tree peonies are beginning to shed their petals, the season for hybrid tree peonies (yellows, dark red-blacks and silvery apricots) are just beginning as are the herbaceous peonies. Here’s a look at some garden highlights from the last week:

‘White Swallow Tail Flecked with Gold’ Chinese rockii tree peony

‘The Crane’

‘Silver Waves on a Blue Ocean’ Chinese rockii tree peony. This is a new one for us.

‘Red Fairy’

Our mature shrub of ‘Red Fairy.’ It was planted in 2000 and is now over 7′ tall!

‘Penguins on Ice’

‘Noblewoman’ 

‘Jade Crown Blue Belt’

‘Glorious Journey’

‘Twin Beauties of Peace’

‘Multi-Colored Butterfly’

‘Hubei Blue’

‘Beauty Yu Ji in a Red Dress’

‘Phoenix White’

Some of our Japanese tree peonies.

More Japanese tree peonies.

‘Black Dragon Brocade’

‘Shimane Wisteria’

‘L’Esperance’

‘Golden Crown.’ We consider this to be one of the best yellow tree peonies.

‘Firelight.’ This is a rarely seen Saunder’s hybrid herbaceous peony.

Another early blooming Saunder’s hybrid ‘Roselette.’ This one was blooming last week and is already gone by.

Medlars are blooming!

Fruit forming on the ‘Norris’ che tree.

 

 

 


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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

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July 2016 Update

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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

coral sunset

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.

golden purple sunset

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.

lotus and moss

Lotus and Moss‘ showing its different flower forms.

twinkling of the GL

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.

 

 

 

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