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.

happy days

‘Happy Days’ (Saunders, 1948)

black panther

‘Black Panther’ (Saunders, 1948)


‘Vesuvian’ (Saunders, 1948)


‘Kronos’  (Daphnis, 1978)

silver sails

‘Silver Sails’


‘Alice Harding’ A beautiful flower, but it hangs badly with weak stems. Not a plant we are currently propagating.


One might ask: a peony so ugly we had to cover the blooms with paper bags?….no, no…For the last few years, we have been doing some intentional hybrid crosses of our own. Our goal is to create larger hybrid tree peonies which hold their flowers more upright. We hope to achieve this by using some of our outstanding varieties of Chinese rockii tree peonies as the pollen parent.

Intersectional hybrids (crosses between tree and herbaceous peonies) also started to bloom this week.


‘Court Jester’

dragon claw

‘Dragon Claw’

And now for the early to mid- season herbaceous peonies

scarlet ohara

‘Scarlet O’Hara’ 



Seedlings of P. lactiflora herbaceous peony. We collect the seeds from these plants and grow out the plants to use as our rootstock for grafting tree peonies. 

Just to prove that we grow more than peonies at Cricket Hill Garden, here’s a look at whats happening in orchard.


Mulberries are already forming. These will be ripe later this month.


Looks like there was good pollination on our pawpaws this year. 


European elderberries (S. nigra) are in bloom.

ladybiug on zhe

Two natives to East Asia; the che and the ladybug reunited on a hillside in Thomaston, CT. 





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.

flawless white jade

‘Flawless White Jade.’ wu xia bai yu 無瑕白玉

Grand balck flower

‘Grand Black Flower’ hei hua kui 黑花葵


Big Deep Purpleda zong zi 大棕紫

Beauty Yu Ji

‘Beauty Yu Ji in a Red Dress’ yu ji hong zhuang 虞姬紅裝

yellow w/ big leaves

‘Yellow with Big Leaves’ da ye huang 大葉黃

Red of Hemp Leaves

‘Red of Hemp Leaves’ ma ye hong 麻葉紅

Rival Beauties Bathing

Rival Beauties Bathing in the Springsxian chi zheng chun 咸池爭春

peach blossom spring

‘Peach Blossom Spring’ tao hua chun 桃花春

glory of sun and moon

‘Glory of the Sun and Moon’ ri yue tong hui 日月同輝

du juan ti xue

‘Cookoo’s Tears’ du juan ti xue 杜鵑啼血

xue shan jin ding

‘Snowy Mountain Golden Summit’ xue shan jin ding 雪山金頂

Qing Hai Hu Yin Bo

‘Silver Waves on Lake Qing Hai’ qing hai hu yin bo 青海湖銀波

nobal woman

Nobalwomangui fu ren 貴婦人

white jade lion

‘White Jade Lion’ Hakuojishi 白玉獅子


‘Fireworks’ hanabi 花火

black dragon brocase

Black Dragon BrocadeKokuryu-nishiki 黑竜錦

white goose of shimane

‘White Goose of Shimane’ Shimane Hakugan 島根白鴨

the sun

‘The Sun’ taiyo 太陽

naniwana brocade

‘Naniwa Brocade’ naniwa nishiki 浪花錦

muramatsu cherry

‘Muramatsu Cherry’ muramatsu zakura 村松櫻

shimane fuji

‘Shimane Wisteria’ shimano fuji 島の藤


‘First Crow’ muregarasu 群鳥

lion of yatsu

‘Lion of Yatsu’ yatsukajishi 八束獅子

Kamata brocade

‘Kamata Brocade’ kamata nishiki 鎌田錦


Joy of Longevityshimane chojuraku 島根長壽樂

ann marie

‘Ann Marie’ the first hybrid tree peony to open. Many more of these late blooming tree peonies to come.

peony heaven luminous pk

‘Peony Heaven Luminous Pink’ a seedling we are going to register this year.

post modern phoenix white

Our wrinkled crinckeld post-Modern Phoenix White


One of our favorite seedlings. We grafted it for the first time last year and hope to offer it for sale next year. 









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.


Paeonia anomala, a species of herbaceous peony from a range between northern European Russia and Northern Mongolia, and south to the Tien Shan Mountains. We love it for its fine foliage and tall habit. Plants reach 2.5′ on strong stems. Will grow in full sun or part shade. 

black dragon brocade

Black Dragon Brocade‘黑竜錦 Kokuryu Nishiki

Centerpiece of Fruit

‘Centerpiece of Fruit’ 盤中取果 Pan Zhong Qu Guo

champion blk jade

‘Champion Black Jade’ 冠世墨玉 Guan Shi Mo Yu. Very slow growing, with only a few flowers every year. Still quite spectacular. 

Ealy Bird

‘Early Bird’ (Saunders, 1950) A hybrid between P. veitchii and P. tenufolia

era of purple

Era of Purple‘ 今紫 Imamurasaki An early blooming Japanese cultivar. 

fragrant jade

‘Fragrant Jade’ 香玉 Xiang Yu

Blue Chrysanthemum

‘Blue Chrysanthemum’ 藍菊花 Lan Ju Hua An early blooming rockii type Chinese tree peony.

Green Dragon in a Chinese Ink Stone

‘Green Dragon Lying on a Chinese Ink Stone’ 青龍臥墨池 Qing Long Wo Mo Chi


‘Journey of Flowers’ 花遊 Hanasobi

Heavne scented wet with dew

‘Heaven Scented Wet with Dew’ 天香湛露 Tian Xiang Zhan Lu. This is a classical variety bloomed exceptionally well this year. We plan to propagate it this fall and have young plants available in a few years. 

Lotus Like

Lotus Like‘ 似荷蓮 Si He Lian 

necklace of pp

‘Necklace with Precious Pearls’ 瓔珞寶珠 Ying Luo Bao Zhu

yuban's white

‘Yu Ban’s White’ 玉班白 Yu Ban Bai

red seedling

A new seedling of ours. Large red flowers are borne on a tall growing and robust plant. Its one to watch!

Top Quality ink

‘Top Quality Ink’


Purple Jade Orchid‘ 玉蘭紫 Yu Lan Zi Many more rockii type tree peonies still to come. 


Our woodland display garden. 


The east garden with a stunning glass sculpture by Mundy Hepburn

herbaceous buds

Lots of buds still to come!


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!

phoenix purple

Many of our early blooming tree peonies suffered winter damage and are not going to bloom this year. This specimen of ‘Phoenix Purple’ was unscathed.

'Blue Sapphire' is another early blooming Chinese tree peony. Some plants suffered extensive winter damage while others were fine. Even our small nursery has many micro climates.

‘Blue Sapphire’ is another early blooming Chinese tree peony. Some plants suffered extensive winter damage while others were fine. Even our small nursery has many micro climates.

'Ling Flower Wet with Dew' is at 'mashmallow' stage of bud, should open tomorrow.

‘Ling Flower Wet with Dew’ is at ‘marshmallow’ stage of bud, and will open soon.

Paeonia japonica, a woodland species native to China and Japan opened today.

Paeonia japonica, a woodland species native to China and Japan opened May 10th.

'Capital Red' continues to slowly unffurl its magnificent blossoms. These take over two weeks to open fully.

‘Capital Red’ continues to slowly unfurl its magnificent blossoms. These take over two weeks to open fully.

So many peony blossoms still to come. The majority of buds are still hard as marbles.

So many peony blossoms still to come. The majority of buds are still hard as marbles.

Pawpaws blossoms are begging to open.

Pawpaws blossoms are beginning to open. These strange purple flowers are pollinated by beetles and flies.

Quince buds are 'showing pink' and should be open in a few days.

Quince buds are ‘showing pink’ and should be open in a few days.

Aronias are is full bloom.

Aronias are is full bloom.

Continuing with members of the Rosacea family, apples are also in full bloom.

Continuing with members of the Rosaceae family, apples are also in full bloom.

Black currant bloom is just finishing up. Bushes loom to be loaded this year.

Black currant bloom is just finishing up. Bushes loom to be loaded this year.

Blueberries are in full bloom.

Blueberries are in full bloom.


The invasive garlic mustard is in bloom. This thug first showed up at the nursery and surrounding woods about five years ago. Every spring we devoted a day to yanking it all up before it goes to seed. Our years of diligent labor seem have finally paid off, we found comparatively little this year.

With all the dandelions now in bloom, a quick walk around our display garden is all the proof an organic certifiery would need to prove that we don't use herbacicdes.

With all the dandelions now in bloom, a quick walk around our display garden is all the proof an organic certifier would need to prove that we don’t use herbicides.

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.


View from the tractor of the new area. The clearing is set in a larger area of mixed hardwood second and third growth woodlands.  About 60-70  years ago this was a pasture for the farm that occupied this land in the early 20th century. The large timber trees are sent to a saw mill, and the smaller diameter pieces down to 4” will be used to grow shiitake mushrooms. The clearing will give us the sun and space to grow more fruit trees and peonies.


Meanwhile, in a less chaotic area of the nursery, first peony of the season opened on 4/25. It’s Paeonia meirei, a rare wild species from Yunnan province, in southwest China. 

hosui blossom.jpg

‘Hosui’ Asian pear is also in full bloom.

seedlings in the woods.jpg

We came across this cluster of herbaceous peony seedlings deep in the woods! I guess it goes to figure that even the squirrels are peony fanatics around here. 

winter kill prunings.jpg

We are still pruning away winter damage. The worst effected of our tree peonies are some of the Central Plains, or Zhongyuan cultivar group from central China. This is the most damage we have ever seen in our quarter century of growing these cultivars. While none of the damage is fatal, there will be many fewer flowers this spring on some of our old favorite tree peonies. 

more winter kill good buds bad buds.jpg

More winter damage, with new growth coming from lower buds which held onto their dormancy in our warm fall and early winter and were thus unaffected by the Valentine’s Day freeze of -10 F.

bud abortion.jpg

Some damaged buds are still making a valiant attempt to flower, without any petal formation. More fully formed flower buds can be seen below the aborted blossom.

troiut lillys.jpg

Some of the beds in our display garden are a carpet of trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) this time of year.

mulched prop bed.jpg

Weed control is one our biggest problems at the nursery. We are committed to organics and have never used chemical herbicides.  It takes a lot more time and energy to apply mulch on our production beds than it would to spray, but  we also live where we work and believe that everyone is healthier without a dose of glyphosate.


For our tree peony graft beds, we hope that the combination of landscape fabric and a coir fiber mulch disk will greatly reduce the time we will spend hunched over this summer yanking weeds.

golden wheel stems.jpg

The distinctive chartreuse stems of ‘Golden Wheel’ stand tall in the 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.


Plump buds on ‘White Screen Reflects a Blue Jewel‘ lookin’ good a week after a hard freeze! 


Tree peonies which had damaged buds going into to last week’s freeze are looking pretty sorry. Luckily we only see a few cultivars badly effected like this.


Some early blooming hybrid herbaceous peonies had buds freeze.


Early to leaf out and bloom hybrid herbaceous peonies which were divided last fall were the worst effected of any peonies in our nursery.



Some 1 yr. tree peony grafts also suffered some damage. On very young plants like this we always pinch off the flower buds. This year a mercurial Mother Nature saved us the trouble!


All in all, the peonies in our nursery are looking great as we hopefully move into warmer and more stable weather. We looking forward to a great season!


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.