Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Some Random Tame Peonies- Paeonia lactiflora or hybrids thereof

In no particular order, here are a few of the seedlings of Paeonia lactiflora (some may be hybrids) which flowered for me for the first time this year. Seeds were from a broad spectrum of seed parents, bee-pollinated (back in the days before the honey-bee hive got killed by a bad winter). Most have self-supporting stems but a few, especially the large doubles, are weak-stemmed and are better with staking (easier to miss with the lawnmower, at least). Most are sweetly fragrant and most have sidebuds which extend the duration of the bloom period.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Wild Origins of the Garden Peony- Paeonia lactiflora

The plant which most gardeners know as the Peony has been in cultivation for millenia, initially in ancient China and from there moving into the west. While in cultivation the usual practice of selective breeding has resulted in the selection of forms and colours which are less usual in the original wild populations or even mutations which would be unlikely to reproduce or survive in the wild. More recently, the thrust of breeders has been towards hybrids, often between Paeonia lactiflora and another species but also between two non-lactiflora species or between hybrids.

Despite the popularity of the bred forms, it has more recently become possible once again to grow P lactiflora from seeds collected in the wilds of Mongolia and Northern China. The two flowers posted today are of two different seed collections from the wild by the Czech botanist Josef Halda, and which I bought as very juvenile seedlings from another nursery. The interpretation I make from Halda's seedlists, that various separate wild populations have fairly stable and consistent flower colour. I will know more in a year or two as the rest of my wild lactiflora seedlings come to bloom (I have 3 from each of 4 collection sites)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Found in a seedbed- Arisaema ciliatum var. liubaiense

Another species of Cobra Lily, related to Jack-in-the-Pulpit. This bunch is from China, and according to its label was started from seed in 2003. Quick to flower -- compared to Peonies! and totally caught me by surprise when I noticed it yesterday (23 June). The spathe is really lovely, lime-green with brown, and a long whip-tail off its tip.

The lactiflora peonies are about to start opening up or just have, so of course it poured rain today.

The World Cup match schedule on tv has thinned out a bit so I should be able to get more regular in posting to this weblog...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Paeonia hybrid "Pink Hawaiian Coral"

This plant is a hybrid between Paeonia peregrina and P. lactiflora. Strong stems, great colour (fading to ivory), and some fragrance.


The absence of posts during the past few days is my fault this time; with a couple of decent sunny days it was difficult to balance some outdoor work, cycling, watching the World Cup football on tv against getting at the blog... expect more gaps this week, but after Friday the football schedule thins out a bit and I think I can get back to normal (whatever "normal" is around here!)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

From the forests of Siberia- Paeonia obovata

Flowers of this species just opened today in my "datum" partial shade bed but have been open for 2 days in the woodland bed (usually plants in the woodland bed open a few days after those in the datum bed). I don't have any of this species in the open field. Photos were taken in the woods, because high winds elsewhere was blowing the flowers around too much to capture.

Photos of the flowers of obovata usually show a more flat open flower in softer pink or in white, but my dozen or more plants are all uniform in having flowers that retain the globular shape (those in the photos are as open as they get) and also in their dusty light rose colouring. Probably an issue of geographic origin of the seed: mine were grown from seed collected wild in forests near Vladivostok in Siberia.

Opulent foliage, late emerging compared to other species, green from day one until hard winter frosts. Note the ridiculously thin (or even emaciated) stems. Thin, but tough. These are the only peony stems that remain standing here through all the weight of wet winter snows. They do sometimes fold to high winds during the growing season, but apart from lying down the folded stems continue to perform their job as a food conduit.

Outstanding display from seed pods when they open in late summer, reds and blacks in interesting shapes which really illuminate the woods.

Paeonia obovata is native to a wide swath of Asia, including Siberia, Manchuria, China and Japan; it grows in woodlands and scrub in the mountains.

This is the last of my species to flower except Paeonia lactiflora, the progenitor of the Garden Peonies. Other than obovata, there are still blooms on veitchii and peregrina, and some of the lactiflora hybrid peonies have started to open. Soon the "pure lactiflora" cultivars of garden peonies will start as well and will give me peony flowers until about the 9th of July, give or take a few days.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Japanese Cobra Lily- Arisaema sikokianum

Yes, a non-peony! This exotic Japanese relative of Jack-in-the-Pulpit has been blooming for about a month. The photo is from about a week ago, and a heavy rain yesterday has reduced the flowers to mush. I'm hoping some year (hopefully this one) to get some seed out of this bunch. The leaves associated with the flower are the 3 (to 5) lobed leafs in the front. The plants are actually still in a pot (why mess with what works?) surrounded by pots of rhodos on the right, and on the left by a non-potted wild flower, Blue Bead Lily (Clintonia borealis).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An interesting hybrid of Paeonia mlokosewitschii

Sometimes an accidental (i.e. bee-crossed) hybrid can be interesting although not necessarily spectacular. Paeonia mlokosewitschii is a species which hybridizes readily -- and rather obviously when the flower isn't yellow.

This particular plant (bloom started on 31 May) starts rather drab but becomes quite lovely after a few days. I call it "Summit Ugly Duckling" (per Hans Christian Anderson's tale about the ostracized "duckling" which matured into a swan, to the envy of the rest of the ducks. (Summit is my nursery identifier)). Usually it lasts more than 4 days but the continuous wet and a heavy rain turned the petals to mush by day 5 this year.
Oh, by the way, it's a little bit fragrant.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Just opened- Paeonia peregrina

The true red of Paeonia peregrina is a real eye-catcher in the garden and easy to grow although slower than some species to get established. The flower retains a bowl/globe shape. Foliage is green on emerging rather than the shades of red seen in most peonies. Distinctively lobed too. However I note that one of the two plants I photographed has a more pointed leaf, although both are from the same seed lot. Whether this is natural variation or a bit of hybridization I don't know; the seed was from a commercial source.

The plant with the twisted stem was caught in a nasty wind storm a month ago, during which the wind reflections changed direction several times. Normally the stems would be upright and on mature plants in the wild can reach to 3 ft tall.

This is the first year of flowering of this species here. I expect the flowers to be larger once the plants are a bit more mature.

This species is native to southeastern Europe, from Italy to Turkey, growing in ravines and open woodlands. Here it is happiest in sun, a bit less so in partial shade beds, and pretty unhappy in my woodland bed to date so far.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Whoa! a tree peony- Paeonia delavayi

Most of the tree peonies you're going to see in gardens are the large-flowered products of generations of hybridizing. But there are some strange ducks like me who like to grow the untouched wild types from which the modern hybrids have descended. In general, the species are likely to be smaller-flowered and with different foliage forms. And of course rather less colour variability.

Today's subject Paeonia delavayi, which started to flower here on 9 June this year, is native to the mountains of western China, where it grows in open forest to grasslands, at altitudes from about a mile and a half to 2 miles. Mature size in the wild, about 5.5 ft tall by 3 ft wide.

In looking up information about this species, I found that it was only supposed to be hardy to about USDA Zone 7, so I have written in several places that I never expected it to flower but was just growing it for the foliage, which is quite remarkable-- long leafs with narrow segments and great texture. Last year, one of the several that I have potted up surprised me with a flower, and this year two others have flowered for a total of 5 flowers this year.

The second photo is meant to show some of the different foliage forms of tree peonies. The quality isn't quite up to showing the detail I had wanted, but the narrowly-divided leaf in the foreground is delavayi. I'll try again later.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The hardiest- Paeonia anomala

Paeonia anomala is the widest-ranging species geographically, and probably the hardiest. It's natural range is through the Ural mountains of Russia from the Arctic Circle into Mongolia and northern China and into other parts of Siberia and it has naturalized in Finland. It grows in forest clearings and scrub. It is very closely related to P veitchii, and indeed some botanists consider veitchii to be a subspecies of P anomala. The main differences to the gardener are that anomala has only one flower per stem (usually), the flowers have more of a satiny texture, and veitchii is more nodding (ie flowers facing horizontalish rather than more skywards). Also anomala is probably more cold-hardy, depending on where in its range it originated.

I haven't seen the same sort of flower colour variability in my anomala as in my veitchii, but it is there. Foliage also varies widely in the narrowness of the leaf segment, sometimes being almost as narrow as on P tenuifolia although again I haven't seen this in my plants to date.

This year its first bloom was on 21 May here, but its bloom date relative to any other peonies is widely variable here depending on the winter. The colder and drier (snow rather than rain) the winter, the earlier it will emerge and flower; likewise after wet and or warmer winters it is reluctant to get growing. It also has the habit here of pushing its crown and new growth buds out above the soil line, seeking just a bit more frost please.

I find that this plant does quite nicely in my woodland bed and in the partial shade. It grows well enough in the open field but stays shorter than in the shadier spots. With its attractive foliage it makes a nice textural foil amongst Hostas, as one example.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I used to think this was an early species- Paeonia veitchii

First, sorry for the gap. The weblog server was down when I attempted to post during the past 2 days. But, one can expect the odd gap in the weeks to come as I try to fit in a bit of work between watching World Cup Football on tv... Of course, if it continues to rain here as much as it has the past 10 days I should have lots of indoor time to spend on the computer.
This was one of the first species of peony that I came to grow, from seed obtained through the seed exchange of the Devonian Botanical Garden near Edmonton Alberta. In my early ignorance of all the rest of the species, I used to think it was one of the earliest of peonies to bloom. Now of course we all know better, after writing and reading at this weblog.

Although I've been growing it for over a decade it is only recently that I started to see variations in flower colour, in plants grown from seed collected off my plants and in seed obtained from elsewhere.

Common name: Veitch's Peony. Paeonia veitchii has been an easy and low maintenance plant for me, responding well to neglect. Sturdy stems produce an almost dome-shaped bush form by the age of 6 or so; height: 2-3 ft.

All the species we've looked at up to now have only one flower per mature stem. Veitchii however has side-buds, some of which do not mature but usually each stem will put out 3 to 5 flowers. This means a longer bloom period, 2 to 3 weeks as opposed to about 1 week for the earlier species.

It's native to NW China (in the provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Shensi), where it grows in subalpine meadows and scrub, and to mountain grasslands. In my gardens it is quite adaptable, growing decently in all my bed sites, although flowering less in the woodland bed and remaining shorter more compact in the open field than it is in partial shade.

Some plants have foliage with an interesting etched-like appearance to the veining, while that of others appears smooth. The foliage maintains a great appearance right up to the first frost with no ornamentally interesting colour-change.

The deep red flower here is from seed obtained from a seed exchange as the "late-flowering form" of P veitchii; no mention of any departure from the usual pink flowers. Well, it chooses to flower at the same time as all my other veitchii's (starting 31 May this year) but has this intensely deep red bud that any rose would be proud to have, and flowers that age to crimson. An exciting variant!

These last two photos are of a probable hybrid grown from seed from a seed exchange. The foliage is incredibly finely-cut, almost as fine as tenuifolia. The flower is a very good red with a slight bluish tinge.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A tame peony- Paeonia mollis

One of the smaller peonies, this is a "species" which apparently has never been found in the wild, but is known only in gardens. Considered by some to have been a rare or possibly extinct plant in the wild, it was brought to the UK in the 19th century from Russia. It is related to Paeonia officinalis, and indeed some botanists classify it as within the range of characteristics of P. officinalis subsp villosa. It's rather distinct looking however. The flower is a true pink as opposed to having some tint of blue in it, and it has wonderful foliage. A good size for a rock garden or a small space. First bloom date here 31 May this year.

After several days of wet weather we were forecast to get sunny breaks today, but by 1pm it hadn't materialized here. So I went off on the bike to find some, heading towards the Annapolis Valley. And there it was, sun at last. It seemed like every householder in the area (except me) was busy cutting back the sudden rush of growth of lawns brought on by the rain, so the scent of the lilacs was overwhelmed by the not unpleasant smell of newly mown grass and weeds. Unfortunately every community seemed to have about one home or business that was burning garbage that was not exclusively wood fibre (including paper and cardboard). So the scent of mown grass was over-ridden by the stench of burnt plastics etc. Department of Environment inspectors no doubt travel in cars with closed windows... not that there are enough of them anyways.

And yes, there was sunshine at home when I got back!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Haven't I seen you before?- Paeonia macrophylla

Very similar, and probably well within natural variability, Paeonia macrophylla is a synonym of Paeonia steveniana which we saw a few days back. Both are subsumed by some botanists into P. wittmaniana subsp. macrophylla.

My plants are grown from seed which was collected at a botanical garden in the Rep. of Georgia, from plants grown from wild-collected seed. The species (subspecies if you prefer) is native to a small area of the Caucasus in that country, where it grows in mountain forests and subalpine meadows.

It's a striking plant with large lush green leafs with a noteable vein pattern. Large creamy flowers, which retain a globe shape. First date of bloom 31 May here this year.

Here, it differs from the steveniana I grow in a greener leaf with more noticeable veining, the flowers are paler, and it came into bloom 4 days later (there is about 3 days of overlap). These are botanically insignificant differences, although if the difference in bloom dates is stable it can be horticulturally worthwhile for the peonyphile to have both plants around, subject to space availability. For those with more limited space, I consider what I have as steveniana to be superior to my macrophylla, mainly for the flower colour.


It's hard to believe I have been doing this for two weeks already! I knew I had a bunch of different peonies but this is beyond what I thought was going to flower this year.

On another note, I have had to change digital cameras recently, and am still going through some teething issues with it. The major thing is that it tends to overexpose except on very overcast days. I have been manually editing brightness and contrast to counteract that trend but not always with greatest success.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Fern-leaf Peony- Paeonia tenuifolia

This species is always a visitor-stopper when in flower and often even when it isn't, despite the fact that it isn't really suited to the wet maritime climate at my place and so never achieves the vigour that it shows further west in Canada. It's not easy to find, and my first plant purchased some 12 years ago has turned out probably to be a hybrid (second and third photos). A few years later I was given a piece of the proper thing (first and third photos) and more recently have been getting results from purchased seed. The first of the seedling batches, a dwarf form called subsp lithophila, has started flowering this year (fourth photo onwards).

The flowers are blood red with a striking eye of yellow anthers. First bloom here in my datum bed (part shade) was 31 May this year, although plants in the open field were two days earlier and my older plants in a more exposed position were another 2 days ahead.

Foliage is very finely divided (less so in the hybrid which is the plant further from the camera in the third photo) and outstandingly so. Plants grow to 1-2 feet tall, perhaps half that in subsp lithophila. Here, perhaps due to the wetter climate, it can tend to be a bit recumbent (eg 5th photo) but normally stems should stand upright. It's only fault is that it is the one peony most likely to go dormant in late summer in hotter and drier locations. I'm usually spared from that though.

New growth usually appears quite early, but are not bothered by snowfalls that come later to cover them. Young shoots look rather like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, and at that stage it is easy to see that this peony tends to form a spreading colony rather than the tight clump most other peonies grow as. When happy it can grow to carpet an area several metres across.

P tenuifolia is native to southeastern Europe, from Yugoslavia into Russia, the Crimea, the Ukraine, Turkey and the Caucasus. It grows mainly in dry grassy areas, although also occuring in open woodlands, and enjoys a bit of limestone in the neighborhood.

Here, it lacks vigour in my woodland bed (definitely pushing the envelope!) and is best with as much sun as it can get. Care needs to be taken here over its drainage. It does much better in the colder prairies of Canada than it will ever do for me, but it is worth the effort of proper siteing to have even a small clump of it.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A shorty- Paeonia humilis

A real cutie for the rock garden or anywhere that a dwarf peony will fit, Paeonia humilis grows only 10-16 inches tall. It's a tidy plant with soft-textured well-divided foliage and a cheery bright flower, which has a range of colours from shades of pink and rose into red.

First date of bloom here 30 May this year, but I have it growing only in the open field. All other first-bloom dates have been in the part-shade bed.

This species is native to the SW of Europe, in France, Spain and Portugal. Adapatable to a fairly wide range of conditions from rocky slopes to open woods.

Some botanists classify this plant as Paeonia officinalis subsp humilis and like many peonies it has a long string of other synonyms by which it may be listed.