Thursday, June 28, 2007

Paeonia lactiflora

The grand precursor of the garden peony is still growing in the wilds of Mongolia and Northern China, and their seeds are collected by a few dedicated botanists from time to time. I obtained about 10 seedlings from collections made by J Halda in the Altai mountains; these 2 are the first to bloom this year. They're in a sunnier bed than the datum display bed. I'm not sure why hybridizers insist on trying to improve on nature... Nice strong stems, heady fragrance, clean simple lines-- a fine way to start the end of peony season, these are my last species to flower.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Delicate but tough: Paeonia obovata

A woodland peony from Siberia, this species has ridiculously thin stems, and yet they are strong enough to stay upright all winter here, despite wet snow that levels most other peony stems. The relatively small flowers of the seedlots I've grown remain globular, the one in the photo is as open as they get (until the petals fall off).

Here is a group in the display bed.

One of my plants in the woods had the crown of the root exposed by erosion last winter. In spring it looked like it had had the biscuit, but eventually a single stalk emerged from it. I've since covered it over with more soil and mulch. (photo from 6 May)

I was also surprised earlier this year by the flowering of two plants of Paeonia obovata var. alba which were growing in 1-gallon pots (that's supposed to be a transition size for one year only but the transplanting "schedule" went all awry the past few years and a lot of plants are still languishing in the small pots). Due to their location in pot farms they warmed and developed earlier than the plants in the display bed, blooming a few weeks ago. To avoid confusion I decided not to post the photos until the rest of obovata were in flower.

The flowers are from different seed sources (both are from plants in cultivation, the first from a seed exchange, the second one generation removed from a wild collection); note the difference in the colour of the stamens in the second one. Flowers in both of these are larger and open more widely (almost flat) than the rest of the obovata I've grown.

Friday, June 22, 2007

More of Paeonia peregrina

I am delighting in this species since it is the first year that it has amounted to much for me. Flowers and stems may still not be full size, but they are much larger than last year.

Two are now in bloom, one being a bit darker than the other (this is the one shown two days ago). Some variation in petal shape and in

leaf segmentation and shape between them too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Today Paeonia peregrina stopped teasing me with its' huge buds and started to open. (just in time for a rain storm). Known as the Crimson-Flowered Peony, and sometimes as the "single red peony of Constantinople", this species is much used in hybridizing. It's native to southern Europe from southern Italy to western Turkey at elevations up to 1200m. Although this doesn't sound promising for extreme cold hardiness, but I learned this spring that it has grown well for many years at the Devonian Botanical Garden near Edmonton, Alberta: Zone 3 territory. However, although in its native range it grows in scrub and in woods, I have found that here in Nova Scotia it is unhappy in my woods, and less vigorous than most of the other species in the partially shaded display beds, but it has done best in the open field.

The first of my few tree peonies to bloom (and the only type with buds this year), the small but dark red flower of Paeonia delavayi. A shy critter which keeps its face pointing to the ground. All the literature that I had consulted indicated that this species would be unlikely to bloom here, and not much more likely to survive, period. But it has surprised me with a high survival rate and with at least one plant (of the several in pots) producing flowers each of the last 3 years. The flower is smaller than it appears in the photo; the golf ball ended up a few inches below the flower because I had to hold the stem upright and forgot about positioning the ball properly...

Friday, June 15, 2007

The "Ugly Duckling"

Remember the Hans Christian Anderson tale of the Ugly Duckling, in which a cygnet finds itself somehow in with a brood of ducklings, all of whom mock the cygnet for being ugly? And then one day the cygnet grows up to be a beautiful swan, and all the ducks envy it.

Well, I have a plant from a batch of P mlokosewitschii seed which performs a similar feat each year.

Here it is in bud. A rather humdrum, grubby colour showing. (Ignore the flash of pink on the right margin!)

And here it is the next day, just opened.

Same day, side view of both the flowers the plant had this year. The one on the right is a bit further along than the other. In the background, some normal mlokosewitschii's.

Day 3, and we're starting to see something a bit more exciting developing.

Day 3 still, side view.

And a close-up of the right-hand flower.

Then the weather intervened in the form of a heavy rain and wind-storm overnight. Wretched timing...

So this is day 4, and the right-hand flower has been destroyed.

But the weather was not done yet, and overnight another storm or the same one backtracking (which happens in NS more than one would care to imagine) attacked my peonies.

Day 5, the ragged remnants.

Usually I can expect a flower to last at least a week before it falls apart... Heck, the pollen sacks hadn't even opened yet!

I presume this plant to be a hybrid due to the fading red tones, but for all I know it might also be a natural variation within the species. Foliage is purely mlokosewitschii in form. The seedlot from which it (and the proper yellow one behind it) was grown was collected from my own plant, open-pollinated in my garden with the possibility of P anomala or P veitchii pollen getting involved.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

From the Arctic circle to Northern China

A pair of closely related species which have been open for up to 5 days in various locations (and not yet at all in others) opened today in the datum bed.

The first is Paeonia anomala (this is subsp intermedia which has wider leaf segments), the Anomalous Peony, probably the most cold-hardy of the species as it's natural range runs the entire length of the Ural mountains of Siberia and it has been naturalized into the Kola Penninsula since about the end of the 1800's. Easy to grow in normal garden conditions and soils, it is adaptable from full sun to the dappled shade of woodland gardens in mixed cover. Indeed its natural environment is in forests and scrub. The species has some variability in the fineness of the leaf segments, and in the colour of the flowers (there is a white-flowered form which I am anxiously awaiting the flowering of); the form most often seen in book photos is narrowly segmented and has dark magenta flowers.

Second is Paeonia veitchii, Veitch's Peony, of late classified as a subspecies of anomala by some Chinese botanists. It has some overlap with the southern end of the range of anomala and extends further south. Flower colour is variable, most of mine are either slightly paler pink than this plant or a darker pink, but from later seed batches I have been getting plants ranging to dark red. And of course there is a white form which I try to keep the bees from diluting. Leaf variations include shiny smooth leafs to "matte finishes" and veining with an "etched in" appearance. The plant in the photo is from seed from a compact form, but the plant seems about full size in garden conditions.

Veitchii is one of the few species which has more than one flower bud per stem (it has a terminal bud and 1 to 3 pairs of side-buds). Those who seek large flowers can direct more growth energy to the terminal bud by early removal of the sidebuds, whereas those who leave the sidebuds on get to enjoy a succession of smaller flowers over a couple of weeks, extending the bloom period of the plant. This species is equally easy and adaptable as anomala.

These 2 (or 1 if you prefer) were the first species for which I obtained seed and had success with. They used to be my earliest peonies to flower... How naive I was, then. (okay, still am but that's a different story)

Friday, June 08, 2007

More peonies of course

Paeonia tenuifolia ssp lithophila, a dwarf form of Fern-leaf Peony; today the sun was out so the flowers opened fully.

Same plant but on a cloudy day; this is meant just to give an idea of plant form. Windy and rainy weather a few days ago have twisted the stems a bit, and with the leafs fully out on the overhanging tree branches these are somewhat more shaded than they would like.
Flower of a seedling of tenuifolia proper, seed from a J Halda collection near Vidin, Bulgaria.


Paeonia mlokosewitschii, the Golden Peony, opened today in the datum beds although it has been open for a few days already in another bed. This is the palest yellow any of my mloko's have shown as, and is growing in the woodland bed.

From the same seed lot and in the datum bed, a couple of apparent hybrids of mloko. The buds were photographed yesterday, and the opening flower this morning.

I wrote "apparent hybrids" because to the best of my knowledge plants from wild-collected seed do not show these shades of colour, but they are not uncommon in plants grown from garden-origin seed, where cross-pollination with other species is possible.

Although unusual (but perhaps not uncommon among mloko hybrids) and interesting the colour is not exactly the cleanest and I was getting myself set to sell this plant off this year. But the fragrance!! oh my, has convinced me to keep it around: a strong scent of allspice and orange. Strange, didn't notice any scent to it last year.

This just opened, Paeonia officinalis ssp villosa. Apothecarie's Peony. Similar in flower to P mollis, but taller and with different foliage and seed shape and etc.

And here a closeup of the flower of the Caucasus Peony, P. caucasica.


Final pic today, the carpels of P steveniana just after the rest of the flower parts have been shed. Still an interesting show with the red pistols... Totally hairless, which is where the synonym P wittmaniana forma nudicarpa came from. If I'd been thinking I would have a pic of P. tomentosa's woolly carpels for comparison.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A couple of green flowers, and one to be green about

Green flowers were all the rage a few years ago. I don't know if they still are, but as usual I lag the trends when I'm not way ahead of leading them...

Arisaema amurense, one of the oriental relatives of our native Jack-in-the-Pulpit; the oriental ones usually go by the common name of Cobra Lilies. Clean, simple lines. (and apparently unable to decide how many leaflets make up a leaf)

Better known, the Stinking Hellebore Helleborus foetidus. Well, it doesn't stink noticeably to me, but maybe a field full of them would? The first photo is of a new flower which has not yet been pollinated.

The second is of a couple of older flowers which were pollinated a while back; note the ovaries in the middle and the absence of pollen and anthers, which have fallen off.

The third photo shows flowers in both stages, side view. The apparent petals are actually sepals, the actual petals of the flower are small things which fall out of the flower when the anthers go.


The Rhododendron hybrid cultivar 'Vinecrest'. In its parentage are R. fortunei which is a large tree-forming species, and an early-blooming small-leaf dwarf type from which the yellow flowers come. Fragrant too, with gorgeous constantly changing hues of salmoney-apricot (not a lunch recipe! although maybe... hmmm, I wonder...) buds seeen at the bottom of the photo, to fragrant soft yellow blooms. It is the earliest of the my large-leaf Rhodos to flower by a long shot, and gets its size from the tree side of the parentage. Definitely worth seeking out.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

more from the wittmaniana group

Today saw the first flower of the year on Paeonia macrophylla, the Largeleaf Peony. Classified by some botanists as Paeonia wittmanniana var macrophylla, it is similar to P steveniana (which some classify as Paeonia wittmanniana var nudicarpa). My plants have similar but paler flowers and distinctly larger leafs with a more substantial texture to them.

For a comparison, here is a pic of the leaf of my Paeonia steveniana:

More new openings

Paeonia mollis, a "pseudospecies". It is apparently no longer to be found in the wild, but has perpetuated in gardens, coming true from seed. A smaller plant, only knee-high, with soft-textured attractive leafs. The seeds are noticeably different from all other peony species.

And here the first of my various Paeonia officinalis plants to open, ssp banatica.

And Paeonia triternata with it's lovely 2-tone pink flowers and the excellent undulate blue-green waxy foliage. Neither flower nor foliage are apparently consistently unique across variablity of the species, so apparently the population my seeds were collected from is a more worthwhile form.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Expectations unmet

The plant of Paeonia steveniana which last year bore a flower with a fine red line around the rim, has now opened. Whether due to the move or the new location or just the maturing of the plant, the red rim is disappointingly missing this year, although there is a bit of reddish veining to the petals which gives the flower a bit of a tawny tinge. Maybe next year, once it is re-established...

And here, a group of 4 steveniana in the display bed.

Also on the theme of unmet expectations (aka don't count your peony buds until they open), the single bud of Paeonia emodi has aborted and will not open this year.