22 September 2016

Have you ever seen wild Peonies?

This spring and summer I was obsessed with peonies, we have a large collection of species peonies in the garden that provide an incredible show every year. I started this season being obsessed with my trilliums but a humongous silver maple came crashing down in a freak 5 minute storm covering a large part of my trillium collection so that put a stop to that.

 I will not be able to get that maple out of there till the ground is frozen; it would do too much damage to the plants, so in order to preserve my sanity (I needed a new obsession) the peonies got the attention that they deserve. 

Paeonia suffruticosa ssp rockii 

Paeonia suffruticosa ssp rockii

Paeonia suffruticosa ssp rockii 

Paeonia lactiflora
Here at Arrowhead we had always had an obsession with propagating plants by any means possible, that is actually how we became a nursery, we simply had too many plants and needed to sell some to make room for more and we needed money to buy more seed to make more plants. Growing from seed was the first obsession and like so many other gardeners we became seedaholics. We were so lucky that back 15-20 years ago there was so many people collecting seed in the wild and sending out seedlists every year, giving us the opportunity to grow plants from all over the world that would otherwise not be possible.

One such seed collector was Joseph Halda from Czechoslovakia, he traveled all over Europe and Asia collecting alpines and many genera that had not been available for many, many years as wild species. One such was the genus Paeonia. 

Paeonia aff caucasica

Paeonia aff caucasica

Paeonia caucasica
Paeonia lactiflora 
Paeonia lactiflora

Paeonia lactiflora
In cultivation and hybridized for hundreds of years and growing in every garden around the world. But have you ever seen wild Peonies?
Paeonia veitchii 
Paeonia suffruticosa ssp rockii 
Paeonia lactiflora
Paeonia veitchii
Paeonia lactiflora
We purchased every collection of wild Peony seed that Halda and others ever offered and being hoarders we hung on to all of them, not wanting to part with any of them.

Paeonia caucasica
Paeonia peregrina
Paeonia caucasica
Paeonia caucasica
But about 6 or 7 years ago I had enough of caring for all those pots year after year and I made Bob put them in the ground or sell them, he had a choice and he decided to have them planted on two of our conifer berms that were planted only a few years ago so the trees were still quite small and needed something to cheer them up. 

So about 200 Peonies were planted and I quickly forgot about them for most of the year but every May and June I go back there and take some pictures. The first few years were not so impressive, the conifers were small and the peonies were small but they did produce some flowers every year and they were a good opportunity for a photo shoot.  

Then one year, I think it was 2012 I go back there in May and the Peonies had outgrown the conifers and stole the show, it was now a Peony berm and no longer a conifer berm.

Over the following years it just got better and better and by spring of 2016 the conifers had finally caught up with the Peonies. What a spectacular display!

This year I collected seed of some of the nicest plants, best colors, and rarest species, and I would like to offer them for sale. 

At this point they are not pure wild type but first generations in cultivation but since most species have their own bloom time they will be true to type with a few surprises.

I also dug and divided several plants and will offer divisions for sale this fall but there is of course limited numbers and you should act quickly if there is a particular one you really want.

Check out all the above and more, on our website!


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Thirty two species of wild peonies are native from the Mediterranean region to eastern Asia, with two species endemic to western North America. The wild peony species are mostly herbaceous perennials, but some Chinese species are woody shrubs, mistakenly but perhaps permanently called 'tree peonies' in English. All are beautiful. contact us

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