Monday, May 2, 2016

Brooks Gardens

This weekend was my annual pilgrimage for peonies and plants. 

My peony pal Anita met us at 9:30am and we all piled into the car and headed off to Adelman's for 10% off potted peony plants.

We had previously discussed our over/unders and made bets who would buy the most plants or spend the most money. I think I won this year, with the most spent and the most peonies bought (5). Although I might have tied with Alan, because he bought an iris and a peony at Brooks.

The cart in the front was mine!
This year we all opted for some larger potted Itoh and/or tree peonies. Alan and Anita are running out of room, so selecting one really special Itoh or tree peony this year was what they were after. 

I did finally remember to buy a big bag of peony fertilizer!  I had it written on the back of my hand and all over my catalog, so if I forgot again, I would have kicked myself.

After Adleman's we popped around the corner to Brooks Gardens. They are a relatively new peony farm (15 years) and an iris garden. They are only open May-June for retail, but you can also mail order bare roots for fall planting anytime.

You can see their little sign from the road, then turn off the freeway, down a gravel road and after a few twists and turns, you arrive at the grassy parking lot and sales area. 

The peony sales area is small, but has a wide selection of herbaceous and Itoh peonies for sale. Their prices are competitive and sometimes we find an unusual peony variety, so we always like to look. 

A bonus of stopping here is being able to wander through their growing fields, but even better is their iris garden area. It's a little chaotic, but there are many bearded iris here of all shapes and sizes. There are not many name tags, so it's hard to know what anything is, but there are so many pretty iris, so it doesn't really matter. It's a great place to wander.

Fields of Siberian Iris

I did see one iris that caught my eye out in the growing field. I snapped a picture and was lucky enough to show it to the owner?, and he knew exactly where it was and that it was for sale potted for $7. Score!
'Jungle Shadows' - My $7 Iris


The bees were crazy happy with this peony!

One of the many growing display areas


Friday, March 25, 2016

Peonies on the Scene

My first peony bloom of the season just opened. It's a lovely little pink Paeonia mascula.

Paeonia mascula
I posted a picture online and I was surprised how much disbelief there was that I could possibly have a peony blooming so soon in Portland, Oregon. The pics in this post are all from this week.

Paeonia mascula is always the first peony to bloom for me - always in March.

The purpose of this post is show how different peonies can be, at least in my garden. There are a lot of factors influencing peony growth and bloom time.

I admit that I have a few more peonies than the usual Portland gardener might have, so there is a lot happening peony-wise in the garden right now. 

At The Lents Farmer, the woody tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa), begin leafing out in February and generally bloom the end of April/early May.

I often find their desire for early arrival to be frightening, as I worry that cold weather, frost or snow will get them. With their origins in China, cold weather doesn't seem to phase them. It's still a nail biter for me when Portland weather shifts around drastically in spring.

Paeonia mascula with Paeonia suffruticosa 'Shima Nishiki 岛锦'  (sorry blurry) in bud

Above: Herbaceous Paeonia lactiflora 'Bowl of Beauty' on the left with
tall Paeonia ostii 'Feng Dan Bai 鳳丹白' and Paeonia 'Bai Xue Ta 白雪塔' in front

Herbaceous Paeonia lactiflora 'Double Red' (left) and Tree Paeonia 'Seidai 聖代' (right)
Tree Paeonia 'Kamata Fuji' with
Herbaceous Paeonia lactiflora 'Westerner' bottom right corner
Paeonia suffruticosa 'Lu Xiang Qiu 綠香球' buds are popping

Herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora), begin emerging in February. Their red shoots start pushing up the mulch and they start popping out of the ground.

There is a huge disparity among their growth rates. I have some varieties that are now 15" tall with buds clearly visible and some that are barely out of the ground. I assume these differences are varietal and also a little bit location.

Some peonies emerge with little buds hidden in the center, and others wait until later when the weather is warmer to produce buds. So, there are early, mid and late blooming herbaceous peonies. I always think of the herbaceous peonies as about a month behind the tree peonies for bloom time.

7 different Herbaceous Peonies in the middle of the strip.
From left to right, 'Raspberry Charm', 'Coral Charm',  'Rivida', "Prairie Moon'

Several of the Herbaceous varieties have gorgeous burgundy stems unfurling. 

Paeonia lactiflora 'Solange'
Arctostaphylos 'White Lanterns' with
Paeonia lactiflora 'Dancing Butterflies' (粉玉奴) behind on left
Itoh, or Intersectional Peonies, are a cross between Tree and Herbaceous. I only have two Itoh, one of which I just bought in 2016. They seem to act like a Herbaceous so far.   

Paeonia x Itoh 'Callie's Memory' (Itoh Hybrid Peony)
Species Paeonia delaveyi

My spring peony care essentials: 

  • Hit plants with a little fertilizer. 10-20-20
  • Stake (or re-stake) the peonies that need support. 
  • Remove dead stems from peonies. 
  • Help uncover herbaceous peonies
  • Keep my rambunctious Assistant, Yvette, from breaking all of them.