Saturday, January 26, 2008

Peonies Have Personality

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Already almost 11:30 AM here on the hill but I'm knocking things off today's list one at a time and it looks like I'll be back to my favorite sport, income tax preparation, right after lunch. It's a quiet morning here with few ice fisherman heading for the pond and little traffic since the town plow took 2 inches of fluff off the road at about 5:30. Gail and Alex are geting ready to head for Burlington so Karl the wonder dog and I should have some "wonderful" silence in an hour or so.

With three feet of snow on the ground, more in the woods, freezing rain coming Tuesday and more snow from the west by Thursday night, it's probably difficult for some to think about peonies. I know I am not alone in thinking peony thoughts because another customer wrote yesterday asking if we had three more Top Brass to finish along his stone wall garden in Lyndonville.

We grow peonies and Gail and I continue to have two-person peony wars. I want to move all our peonies to our new site and she doesn't want to see a plant growing there that we don't have available for ready sale. Ever see Danny Divito's 1989 movie TheWar of the Roses with Kathleen Turner? I hope this peony thing does not get that far along!

Peonies have long been a favorite with me. I can't recall why. I remember them as a kid at the old Townsend Farm down the hill from where we lived in Woodstock. I also recall half a dozen varieties that customers gave to my father when he was a house painter. I know as a kid I also tried to figure out the absurd ant-peony relationship which continues today as an exercise in misinformation. Just the same I don't remember where exactly my love for these flowers began.

Spring in Vermont is a ways away but being able to see peonies push through the ground and jump skyward will be a welcome sight. These are Vermont hardy plants which need consideration when they are planted. I've written about them many times before and planting information is readily available on the web if you have forgotten my words. The American Peony Society just did their website over and it's a great place to start looking for information. The

site officers some international links and includes some members who operate retail and wholesale with many doing mail order too. Rick Rogers of Brothers Herbs and Peonies in Sherwood, Oregon has some special peonies for sale, with tree peonies being his favorite. With Alan Rogers (wrote Peonies, by Timber Press 1995, 1996, 1998) his father, you can understand where the genetics of understanding good peonies derived.

Don Hollingsworth grows more-than-great peonies! He has a website and a newsletter catalog with peonies you might not find easily. Reaths Nursery located in Vulcan, Michigan comes to mind too but there are others if you ask around. Here in Vermont we had the luxury of being able to visit one of the world's (that's right!) largest peony collections. Countryman Peonies located in Roxbury, Vermont just south of Northfield was the collection of Bill Countryman. He passed away three summers ago this coming peony season and his family continued the business as of last year. I didn't get a chance to visit so I can't say what the plans are for this summer. They do not have a website.

Over the years Gail buys 2-3-4 new varieties about every year. These are supposed to be a gift to me until she decides they are "hers" or perhaps they should be sold to someone she can't say "no" to. I wanted to move the entire collection to the new location so visitors could see what is out there. Our little peony nursery here at the house is down in the lower field and to get there you have to go through the hosta garden. When they are in bloom it's not the handiest place to get to so many visitors never get to see them. Anyway, The War of the Peonies continues but with peonies such as Peppermint or Crusader (pictured immediately below) you can see why I enjoy them. These flowers have great personality and despite 4 or 5 weeks of bloom, they almost bring tears when the final petals drop on the last one.

If you have a minute today, start with the American Peony Society site and go from there. Our Vermont Flower Farm site has a page about peonies too. With a little bit of reading and a few pictures, you might be hooked like me!

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the trout must have stopped biting as the early morning fishermen are exiting.

Winter gardening wishes,

George Africa
The Peony Warrior

Vermont Gardens Another Blog


joey said...

Cleaver post, George. I'm hooked on Peonies and proud to admit it! My only regret is that they seem to attract heavy rain storms ...
so sad to see their battered faces :( after waiting so long for them to appear. My husband and I resemble you and your wife in the garden ... lots of dissension but I usually win ... and he starts in with his edger ...

Piondröm said...

Hi George!
Here in Sweden the peonys is great plant to have in the garden.
We are a married couple who is almost possessed in them, we have aroun 100 different sort and dont whant to stop there.
In Sweden are the choice not so big so we bye our peonys from ather countries like Germany,Canada and USA.
We have bouth same of our peonys from Hollingswourth.
The big problem for us in Sweden is that it is very expensive whith tax and other costs when we bye from ather countries whos not members of the EU.
I dropt by on you nersery and loked at our peonys, it was manny that we dont have...;(.
It was real fun to find yor blog and I´l be back and see if you have some new contribution about peonys, and maby some tips for us for a new one to bye.
Best regards Ken

George Africa said...

Hello Ken and Carina from Sweden;

Thanks for finding our blogs. Peonies are a wonderful flower. There is a flower farm in Vermont that specializes in peonies and does some amazing dried flower work for weddings and special events. I'll have to find the URL and post it for you.

If you get a minute, send me your personal e-mail address.

George Africa