The Lovely Peony

“Bowl of Beauty” (Hoogendorn, 1949) peony has been growing and blooming at the Missouri Botanical Garden for several years. Pink outer petals surround a creamy, fluffy center.

Master Gardener Scoop – April 11, 2018

By Leora McTall,
Master Gardener

For a short time during a National Iris Convention in Salem, Ore., the lovely peony took center stage.
The Adelman family invited some 500 iris convention goers to their peony farm for lunch. Since we had visited the farm the day before, (upon advice of Adelman’s neighbor, nationally known iris hybridizer, Keith Keppel), we were anxious to spend more time at this fabulous family-owned peony farm.
As the bus approached the farm, fields of color appeared – thousands of blooming peonies. They lined the driveway, surrounded the house and were the focal point in the immaculate, perfectly designed display garden.
Many other flowers, including neighbor Keppel’s iris introductions grew in this garden.
Inside a huge shed visitors were handed a retail catalog for “shopping”. The perimeter of the shed was lined with shelves containing jars with a single, freshly cut, named peony, arranged alphabetically. What fun and how handy to view each lovely creation “in person” and then look up the growing habit and price of a specific plant in the catalog.
Since peony blooms are prone to flop, the catalog tells if a specific flower needs support or not. Also listed are bloom times – early, mid or late, awards received, fragrance, hybridizer and year.
Peonies are easy to grow, long lived (some are 100 years old) and have few disease or insect problems.
Then there’s the ant myth: Peonies need ants, because they “open” the flowers.
Wrong. Ants are attracted to the nectar secreted by the flower. Neither do ants eat the flower.
Types of peonies:
• Herbaceous (Bush): Die to ground in winter.
a) Lactiflora – Most common species, native to China. Produce side buds.
b) Hybrids – Cross between two or more species. Only 1 bud per stem
• Itoh (Intersectional): Japanese hybridizer, Toichi Itoh, crossed tree peonies and Herbaceous peonies resulting in Intersectional peonies, which have many bright new colors. Intersectional leaves and flowers resemble Tree Peonies, but growth habit is Herbaceous. Since this is a difficult cross, and is fairly new as the plant world goes (1960’s), they are more pricey. Die to ground in winter.
• Tree Peony: Woody stems that stay intact in winter, bloom earlier, are 20”-8 ft. tall, and have larger flowers than the Herbaceous peony. Own-root Tree Peonies are more reliable to bloom true than grafted plants. Some growers sell grafted plants because it’s a quicker way to market them.
The Intersectional yellow, lemon-scented, semi double “Bartzella” peony is now growing here in Irvington, after being observed in full bloom at Adelman’s.
Since it’s fun to be the “first” among gardeners (be it tomatoes or yellow peonies) I was surprised to learn that Ann and Ernie had “Bartzella” in their garden for several years (it was hybridized in 1986).
Also, Cindy is proud of her yellow “Garden Treasure” which is a lot like “Bartzella”.
And yes, there is an American Peony Society. It’s fun (and so informational) to belong to a like-minded group, all lovers of the lovely peony!

Save the Date

May 26, 2018

8:00 – 12:00

Washington County Master Gardener Plant Swap

Nashville Library

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