After a WEEK straight of rain, May 1st to May 8th, the skies finally cleared on May 9th. With warm sunny days in the forecast, we anticipate many tree peonies to come into bloom this weekend (5/14) with peak bloom probably occurring next weekend (5/21). Aside from peonies, we have lots of other beautiful and interesting plants either in bloom or on the verge this week. Enjoy!
It’s been a frenetic spring for the crew at Cricket Hill Garden. On top of all of our usual work, this year we are also clearing three acres. This additional space will provide us with more growing space as we expand our nursery.
Just as one can never “step twice into the same river,” so to do we gardeners know that no two seasons are exactly alike. So far 2016 has provided us at Cricket Hill Garden with unprecedented challenges relating to our wildly fluctuating spring temperatures. Some of our tree peonies and fruit trees have not fared well after a very warm fall, a generally mild winter punctuated by brief periods of bitter cold and a spring which as seen a highs in the 70s and lows in the teens.
Tree peonies and many of the fruit trees are perfectly hardy to the -10 F we saw over Valentine’s Day weekend if they are fully dormant. This year, because of the warm fall and winter, many buds on early blooming tree peonies and fruit trees (particularly members of the genus Prunus such as peach, cherry, apricot and plum) were not totally dormant when the extreme cold struck and were thus much more vulnerable. The later blooming tree peonies, including the Chinese rockii, Japanese and hybrids were fully dormant when the severe winter cold struck and appear unaffected.
The plants most badly injured by our low of 17 F last week were the earliest blooming, and thus most far advanced, tree and herbaceous peonies. These were not uniformly injured; we saw the most damage in our nursery beds on recently propagated plants. For even the most badly injured cultivars, established specimens in our display garden came though without too much damage. The bottom line is the wild weather this spring once again demonstrates that peonies are tough plants which will continue to add beauty to a world with wild weather and changing climates.
As our tree peonies begin to wake up for the spring at Cricket Hill Garden, we are seeing more flower and leaf bud damage than usual. The damage is most acute on the earliest blooming varieties of Chinese tree peonies. This freeze damage was caused by the few days of very low temperatures (-10° F) we experienced over the Valentines Day weekend. Fully dormant tree peony buds are hardy to temperatures below this low. Last fall’s extraordinarily warm weather caused the buds on many of the early blooming tree peonies to break dormancy in December and thus be vulnerable to freeze damage. Lucky, the vast majority of our tree peonies remained dormant throughout the winter and appear the be leafing out normally now. We do not expect this spring’s peony bloom to be any less spectacular than those in years passed, proving once again that tree peonies are a hardy, resilient plant which bloom beautifully year after year even in an age of unpredictable weather.
If there is any damage to this year’s tree peony buds, it should be quite apparent by now. Damaged buds will be brown a shriveled, while viable buds will be reddish pink.
Later blooming tree peonies, such as Japanese cultivars and the Lutea hybrids still have very little growth apparent. Because these did not break dormancy in the winter, we do not anticipate that these suffered any damage.
This early blooming variety of Chinese tree peony seems to have suffered severe dieback to the top growth. Very few buds on the woody stems look like they survived the winter. Tree peonies are resilient and already this plant is sending up new growth from the roots. It may be a few years before it next blooms.
It’s been a beautiful autumn thus far in northwestern Connecticut, with warm sunny days punctuated by just enough rain to moisten the soil in time for fall planting.
We at Cricket Hill Garden will be taking our beautiful plants and delicious mushrooms on the road this summer, traveling to farmers’ markets all over Connecticut. Below you will find a our summer 2015 farmers’ market schedule. We hope to see you at one of more of these fabulous markets.
For years we have grown herbaceous peonies from seed. We have a large collection of cultivars from a number of different species of herbaceous peonies, so our open-pollinated seeds have yielded some beautiful new plants. Have a look at some of our favorites from the test garden below.