Newbie question

tandaina(WA (8))March 1, 2006

Hi all. I'd like to add peonies to my gardens, but not sure where to start. I found a nursery (Gilbert H. Wild) offering a "Beginner's Starter Collection" and I'm hoping you all can tell me if its a good thing to start with. It includes:

Dr Alexander Fleming

Felix Crousse

Hit Parade

Sarah Bernhardt


Walter Faxon

I know nothing about peony varieties. Everyone around here grows peonies but they're just "aunt Jean's pink peony" or "grandma's white peony". ;) I'm just looking for good hardy plants with LOTS and LOTS of fragrance (neve smelled a peony that wasn't, not sure what the point would be). Would the above collection be a good start? The price seems right but since I know nothing i thought it would be a good idea to ask the experts. :)

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Hey, if the price is right, go for it. However, you really should wait till fall to buy and plant your peony, they will do better for you in the long run if you do. This will also give you time to research peonies and see if maybe there isn't some out there that you would like better. Once you get bit by the peony bug you're hooked for life. You might also check out Hollingsworth Peony, Peony Garden of Center Point Iowa and Khelms Song Sparrow Gardens. Now, I have gotten peony from Gilber Wild in the past, but I ordered for fall delivery and I got really nice size divisions and they all seemed to be true to name and for the price if I got one that wasn't true to name I wasn't going to squeek too much about it. Have fun and welcome to the addiction! :)

IA Z5a

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 5:29PM
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Another potential newbie question here: We have a 2'X 6' planter box, in partial shade, that we finally ripped the big, overgrown never-die (some type of sedum) out of when we were re-tucking the bricks. We're looking to put something perennial back in there this fall, and my husband mentioned peonies. I saw a segment about the plant on "Gardening by the Yard" on HGTV, but I can't remember too much other than something about the "eye". Any ideas if peonies would be a good choice for this box? Where should I start?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 1:45PM
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Mozart2(Zone 5 Michigan)


Since you still have plenty of time to do your homework, I'll echo the suggestion of one response - check out a few other resources and a few books before making your selections for a fall order and planting.

FYI - Peonies are hardy up through USDA zone 3.

I've provided a few links for you. I placed an order for five peonies last fall, the roots were enormous, and they're up and running here in northwestern Michigan. Good sturdy plants will a few blooms to open and grace my garden for their first year.

I gave them (A & D Nursery) an excellent review at the Garden Watchdog place.

Here are a few more excellent nurseries to explore.

A & D Nursery

Klehm's Song Sparrow

Hollingsworth Peony Nursery

Peony Garden of Center Point Iowa

Besides the books suggested below, you might wish to make use of the excellent source of information, photographs, etc. found in the "PlantFinder" section of the Missouri Botanical Garden web site.

The link below will give you an idea of the information available for all sorts of items. Once, I considered this white variety as "she" got rave reviews from more than several sources, but I decided on two others, whose "portraits" are below.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Duchesse de Nemours'

Here's one of the two whites: "Florence Nicholls" that I chose to add to our northwestern Michigan garden.

And here's the second one: "Moon Over Barrington"

One of the real reasons that I have given you a few images to enjoy is that you'll find there will be a difference in the quality of the images/photographs used by various firms.

For example, another one of the five peonies I ordered from A & D Nusery last fall was "Chestine Gowdy", which they are not, unfortunately, offering this year. Their photograph of her was very nice, clear, and sharp. In searching for other images of this peony, I found several images which were so fuzzy or out of focus that I had no idea of what the bloom might be like in my garden. FYI - "Chestine Gowdy" was named after a school teacher. Who ever hybridized this peony must have thought a great deal about the women.

For added fun, you might also wish to look into a few books. I have added "Peonies" by Jane Fearnly-Whittingstall to my own personal library and have read Alan Rogers book of the same title. A third title "The Gardener's Peony" by Martin Page looks like a good read as well.

Your local library should have or be able to secure these books for you through their interlibrary loan system.

Here's a link to each.

The Gardener's Peony

Here's the second suggested book.

Peonies by Allan Rogers

And here's the third and highly recommended book.

Peonies by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall

As for the matter of fragrance, well that's going to change and/or have variations due to your soil and weather conditions as well as weather conditions from year to year.

When I was living in central Illinois, there were a number of years in which all of my old-fashioned/antique roses came into bloom for a long period of time and smelled like a perfume factory - all because of the then cool/warm weather conditions on the Illinois prairie. In those years in which Mother Nature quickly turned up the temperatures, the roses were still fragrant - but their perfume didn't permeate the garden since the hotter temperatures caused their scent to more quickly disappear.

Hope these links, images, and suggested books spur you on to greater explorations.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 8:13PM
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Oliver F. Brand (1844-1921)of Brand Peony hybridized many of the well known peonies including Chestine Gowdy. Many alas are seldom found for sale but many are of the truely beautiful clasification.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2006 at 9:06PM
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