Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Second of the year-- Paeonia mascula

First flower on Paeonia mascula, the Male Peony. (due to the geography of the flowerbed I can't get any closer to it, but I will be able to get a closeup of other flowers when they open.)

Woolly Peony, Paeonia tomentosa, is still in bloom both in the display bed (mostly sun) and in the woodland bed so it is overlapping with another species this year, unlike last year.

I made a quick visit to the open field where species plants are growing for sale, and found that things are not as far along there as on the home property. This is a first. Worse, some plants have not shown up at all there yet, and many that I had expected would flower this year have no buds. Not sure why... well, that's gardening (and weather effects) for you...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Something native, not a peony

Here we have the flowers of the native shrub Red Elderberry, Sambucus pubens. It's usually "just part of the furniture" here (i.e. I know it's there but don't really notice it) but yesterday turned out to be the source of a scent that I hadn't recognized. So-- fragrant flowers (although a bit of a rubbery quality to the scent). Later in the summer, big cones of small bright red berries much beloved of the birds.

It has an open form, with weird branch shapes because they are somewhat weak (the centre of the wood is very pithy), grows equally well in sun or open shade, and has leaves somewhat like those of an ash tree. A nice piece of furniture to have around.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Flower close-up: Woolly Peony

Paeonia tomentosa again. I got the focus pretty good this time, so one can blow up the central tuft, anthers and carpels, to almost full screen (2x) if you are keen on looking into the "private parts" of the flower. Somewhat risque, but the plant doesn't mind.

The anthers (the yellow pollen sacks) sit on the ends of purpley-red filaments (stalks), and the carpels (ovaries) are the fat fuzzy bottle-like shapes in the middle (3 in this flower, but others may have more or less). At the tip of each carpel is the flat, vaguely shovel-blade-like red stigma, which is what the pollen has to stick to in order to commence fertilization. The pollen gets there mainly by insects which visit the anthers, picking up the sticky pollen deliberately or by accident and then brushing some of it off against a stigma when departing the flower; or when entering a flower with pollen from another flower. Bees in particular like rolling around in peony pollen on warm days with the intent of carting off as much pollen as their back legs can carry, to their hive, where the stuff becomes food.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

It's Official, Peony Season has started here

The Woolly Peony, Paeonia tomentosa, came into bloom today during a short heat-wave of 29C (but tomorrow is forecast to be a more reasonable 21C). The temperature washed out the colours a bit, sadly. (Also washed out a certain cyclist who went a couple of bridges too far, but who will sleep like a log tonight)

In this their second year of blooming they have retained their postion as leader of the pack (peonies don't always bloom in the same order here, particularily while young).

Flowers are a decent yellow in cooler weather, have a tinge of green and are slightly fragrant.

This species also has the synonym Paeonia wittmaniana subsp. wittmaniana, and is one of the many species peonies from the Caucasus region. Leaves fuzzy on back, but pointy and greener than the "yellow standard", P. mlokosewitschii. More vigorous, and more sun and drought tolerant than mloko too. Flowers open pale yellow and fade to ivory; they last about a week to 10 days. Stigmas and anther filaments are reddish purple. Leaves are large and lush, a good landscape plant. They provide another colourful show in fall when the seedpods ripen and fold open.This species does well in the partial shade of the display beds near the house, and is also good but less vigorous in an open field and in my test bed in the woods. These photos are of a group of 3 plants in the part-shade bed.

Nursery note: Bug Report: Blackflies: We got 'em. Lots to go around, although not as numerous as they have been. Hopefully it will be a short season for them like the last few years.

Friday, May 25, 2007

First Peony flower of the year (sort of, but it's potted)

Paeonia mairei, probably somewhat ahead of itself. This is the first flower I've seen of this species. Opened yesterday.

This plant is grown from seed collected from plants in cultivation, so it may or may not be true to the species. Certainly the foliage is unique amongst all my peonies, and consistent in the three plants which resulted from that seed batch. Two are now in flower and the flowers are also consistent with each other.

The leafs of my plants remain very dark red for quite awhile after they have almost fully deployed, and then turn a dark shiny green with a notable veining texture. The leaflets are narrow and sharply pointed.

P. mairei, named after French botanist RCJE Maire, is native to central China (Yunnan and Sichuan provinces) where it grows in open woodlands and along riverbanks, at altitudes ranging from 800 to 3500m (JJ Halda, "The Genus Paeonia"). It's closely related to Paeonia obovata, although I don't see much commonality between the two in my plants here. It is said to be tolerant of shade and damp soils.

I expect the first flower of Paeonia tomentosa to open tomorrow (while I am out on the bike)-- we are having a short stretch of summery weather for a change, and the previously stalled plants are taking advantage of it. As are the previously stalled cyclists (this one anyways).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Peonies Progress (3)

At last an appearance by Paeonia obovata, from a wild population in Siberia. This species is always the last to appear here, and in fact most of the plants are not even showing this much yet.

The Largeleaf Peony, Paeonia macrophylla, similar to Paeonia steveniana, just emerging and also more advanced in leaf deployment: two plants right beside each other in the same bed.

And the promise of flowers real soon; the buds of Paeonia mairei coloured up and soon to open. This plant is growing in a pot, and so is somewhat ahead of where it would be if I had planted it in a bed.

Peonies Progress (2) - Tree types

Rock's Peony, Paeonia rockii or Paeonia suffruticosa ssp rockii is well along at this point. No flower buds in sight yet, but this species has not yet flowered for me here (the plants are fairly young).

Paeonia delavayi a few days along in the sprouting of its foliage buds, both from the root and on last year's wood.

Paeonia ludlowii not as far along; most of the buds are merely swelling a bit so far but a few have begun to sprout.

A bit further along is Paeonia x handel-mazzettii, a natural hybrid of the previous two.

Peonies Progress (1)

Veitch's Peony, Paeonia veitchii, finally showing, slightly more advanced in some locations than in others. The first pic shows the leafs starting to deploy, the second shows them just emerged.

Here, the Anomalous Peony, Paeonia anomala, just showing up; no obvious difference from veitchii at this stage. This species used to be my earliest to show up, but the warmer winters this decade have for some reason retarded its emergence. And of course I now grow a lot more species than I used to so I don't know if it would still be earliest following a colder drier winter.

The next 2 pics are of the Golden Peony, Paeonia mlokosewitschii. The first with the notable purple colouration to the leafs and the glaucous tint, is my original plant, purchased as a root division. The second with the greener foliage, is a seed-grown plant (seed bought from Chiltern's of the UK). Other seed-grown plants from different sources show leaf colouration between these two.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Green "flowers"

"Part 3" in the saga of the Helleborus niger (Christmas Rose) as a chamaeleon. From white to tan-ish to green; the sepals should retain this colour until the seed pods ripen (especially if the weather stays as lousy as this past cold wet week).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Growing Peony shoots

(photos from 12 May)

Yes, it's true-- a flower bud on a Paeonia emodi!

Looks like a bad hair day for this Paeonia mollis.

Paeonia triternata showing off it's fresh green naturally wavy leafs, well on their way to be deployed. Fantastic!

One of the Dr. Seuss critters, Paeonia kartalinika, a close relative of the Fern-leaf Peony (P. tenuifolia).

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Noses, Shoots, and Deploying Leafs (part 5)

This is the last part of this series of pics from 8 May. Whew.

Fern-leaf Peony, Paeonia tenuifolia, at home in a grass swarm. Not planned; the grass came later (as it is tending to do in all my beds. Why oh why do we insist/persist in using creeping grasses in lawns?! (why do we have lawns at all?)

And here, probably a hybrid of tenuifolia, or maybe just a variation on the species. Whichever, it's also enjoying the grass. And while writing that, it has just occured to me that the grass may help to moderate soil moisture in winter here and thus break the plants out of their habit of decline after wet mild winters. Hmmm, time will tell.

Pre-2000 we used to have cold winters with dry snow; back then Paeonia anomala or the Anomalous Peony used to be way ahead of the garden peonies and the other species I was growing back then (which were only a few, and none of the very early ones). These days it choses to sleep in and in fact is not showing yet in most locations around the property. Note the sections of crown and roots sitting proud of the soil. Several plants of this species have adopted the bareback approach to life almost since they were first planted about 12 years ago. I don't bother covering them up.

And finally showing up today, the noses of the traditional Chinese Peony, Paeonia lactiflora, forebear of most of the garden peonies. More slender than any (?) others, and redder. At last something familiar-looking to many! This plant is grown from seed collected in the wilds of Mongolia or northern China (again, the intrepid Halda).

Missing in action (well, inaction really!) is Veitch's Peony Paeonia veitchii, and several tree peony species. They're just not starting yet.

A brief note to those who check this site daily, I have made 3 postings on the evening of 10 May, all dated 8 May: parts 3-5 of this theme. (the reason for messing with the dates is because of the date of the photos)

Noses, Shoots, and Deploying Leafs (part 4)

This one looks an awful lot like the Fern-leaf Peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) but is in fact Paeonia kartalinika (classified by some as P. tenuifolia ssp biebersteiniana). Botanically, the difference is longer leaf segments on kartalinika; horticulturally the difference is that this is a plant of scrub and open forests, whereas tenuifolia is mainly a plant of the grasslands. I've also noticed that tenuifolia has buds readily visible by the time the shoot reaches this moppy stage, whereas on my kartalinika the bud wasn't apparent until 2 days after this pic. But that's probably not a useful distinction even if it is broadly applicable!

Well-formed shoots of the Caucasus Peony, Paeonia caucasica. Good-sized buds already. There is some variation in the degree and shade of reddish-purpleness tints of the leafs between plants.

Slowly enlarging leaf buds of Rock's Peony, Paeonia rockii or Paeonia suffruticosa ssp rockii, possibly the hardiest of the tree peony species. My other tree peony species aren't yet budding out, but should be close to it.

A few noses of a young plant of the Siberian woodlander Paeonia obovata. Older plants of this species are still keeping their heads down, here. Maybe they know something the rest of us don't...

And everyone's favourite, the Golden Peony Paeonia mlokosewitschii. These went from 0 to 8cm overnight, literally (a bit of a heat wave here the past few days-- great cycling!). More purpley than any other species, especially at this stage.

Noses, Shoots, and Deploying Leafs (part 3)

Paeonia mairei in a pot and with a well-formed bud, a total surprise. Somewhat ahead of what it should be coming out of the ground if I had gotten around to planting the thing. At the lower left, the greener mop-head thing is a Paeonia anomala from one of the Josef Halda collections, probably finer-leafed than the anomala's I've grown to date.

Another subspecies of the Apothecarie's Peony, Paeonia officinalis ssp banatica. Rather a twisty top to it, but that's not necessarily a feature of the subspecies.

The next 2 pics are Paeonia kesrouanensis; the first is the same plant shown with a naked crown on 05 April-- I piled a bit of loose dirt on it about mid-April. This plant is in the woodland bed.

Slightly further along, this one is in the "part sun" display bed by the house.

And the noses of the Largeleaf Peony, Paeonia macrophylla.

Noses, Shoots, and Deploying Leafs (part 2)

Paeonia mascula, the Male Peony. These are well-developed already, with fat buds.

Steven's Peony, Paeonia steveniana, also going great guns and with fat buds already formed.

The very interesting Paeonia triternata. Mostly green, blueish tinge, not much red or purple in the leaf even at this early stage. Distinctively furled.

One of the subspecies of the Apothecarie's Peony, Paeonia officinalis ssp villosa just showing its nose.

And the enigmatic Paeonia mollis.

Noses, Shoots, and Deploying Leafs (part 1)

The past week or so was cool and miserable; peony development was on hold. Yesterday and today were a sudden burst of summer and things bombed right along in the garden. Mainly for academic interest, I made today a datum day and took pics of most of the peony species in whatever state of development they were averaging (plants in different locations start at different times of course, depending on soil warming rates etc.)

First, Paeonia tomentosa, Woolly Peony. These are moving right along, nice fat buds visible as soon as the leafs start to deploy.

Here, Paeonia tenuifolia ssp lithophila, the smaller form of the Fern-leaf Peony. Buds already formed, cute little clusters of bristles. Yesterday they were just little red blobs a mere cm tall.

Note the lack of red in the barely emerged leafs of this one, Paeonia peregrina; very distinctive. Of 4 plants in close proximity, this is the only one showing yet-- and this one wasn't showing 2 days ago.

Paeonia emodi, the white peony from the Himalayas. I believe there is a single small flower bud forming in the midst of all those leafs (wishful thinking perhaps?) but it is still small and not visible in the photo. Fingers crossed... [and noted the next day, yes there is obviously a flower bud forming. Yay!]

And here Paeonia ruprechtiana; reddish-purple tints, fat buds at the ready.

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Something native for a change

This weird little construction is the opening leaves and flower bud of the native Red Elderberry, Sambucus pubens, a small open-form shrub with weak pithy wood. Very showy in flower and later when the small berries ripen a brilliant scarlet. The berry show doesn't last for long as the birds are quite fond of them.

The other native show in progress right now is the flowering of the Red Maple tree, Acer rubra. I used to have a tree with branches close enough to the roof to get a photo (and collect a few twigs for indoors display) but that is now gone; this photo is from 26 April 2000. Anyways, for those with a long ladder or good binoculars, the flowers are quite attractive and not insignificant. In addition, they are quite fragrant too-- it took me years to figure out where that particular spring fragrance was coming from!