Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Longing for a Tree Peony May 27, 2009

Filed under: flora,neighborhood gardens — greenwalks @ 4:54 pm
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Somehow, I went my entire life up until this winter without ever knowing about tree peonies. Then, suddenly, they were everywhere – Portland Classical Chinese Garden, blog buddies’ photos, nurseries, and on the street. I’m not sure I have the just-right space, but my longing for one is severe and I might have to make a good spot if one doesn’t already exist.

I saw this one hanging over a retaining wall the other day, not sure if I am IDing it correctly but regular peonies are just starting to get buds here so I wonder if this could be a short tree peony. What do you think? It’s a bit past its prime, but still pretty glorious. Sorry, full sun, hard to capture the beauty of the white blooms.

A little past their prime, still fancy

Tree peonies have such a following, apparently, that there is an entire nursery called Tree Peony Garden in Pennsylvania devoted to them. Click here to see photos of their numerous varieties or if you just want to learn more about this astonishing plant, native to China and cultivated there for perhaps as long as three millenia!?! According to this article, it pays to find a reputable grower and spend the big bucks for a good plant, otherwise you won’t have much success. Site preparation and proper conditions are important too. In other words, this isn’t my typical cheap/free/whomp-it-in garden addition, so if I get one, it’s going to be a major decision.

I had to put my hand on one of the flowers to show the scale. These really are immense! Please ignore the dirt under the fingernails, occupational hazard for many of us at this time of year.

Big big flower (tree peony?) on way out

Plants are litterbugs too! But nice ones.

Plants are litterbugs too

What new-to-you plant has captivated you this spring?


9 Responses to “Longing for a Tree Peony”

  1. Catherine Says:

    That is a beautiful one, huge flowers. I have a tree peony, but I think I’m starting to give up on it. It’s been in my garden for many years and it has given me a few flowers here and there. This year it had 3 buds and none of them finished opening. I think it gets one more year and then I’m passing it on to someone who might have better luck with it.
    They sure are gorgeous though, I think you should try one. Maybe I’ll give you mine next year 🙂

  2. I planted one in my former garden n Spokane in my early gardening days. I didn’t realize what I had planted…keying in on the word Peony and not giving any meaning to the “tree” part. I was a little dismayed that it didn’t look “right” – however it quickly won me over and I learned more about what I had really planted. Do it! Even if it is a cheap one to start. You won’t regret it! Or at least I hope you won’t!

  3. GardenJunkie Says:

    I’ve also been lusting after a tree peony. But, given the cost and the fact that there’s just no more space in my tiny garden, I’ve resigned myself to just looking at them in other people’s gardens. New to me this spring was Leucoseptrum stellipilum ‘Variegatum’. I’d never seen or heard of it before but it’s beautiful and should fit in well in the new shade garden at the front of the house. Looks kind of like a hydrangea serrata, reaches about 3-4 feet tall and wide, and is supposed to bloom late (maybe Oct – Nov here in zone 6). I’m curious to see how it does.

  4. Megan Says:

    You’ve got the plant lust bug 🙂 Tree peonies are a good one to fall for. They take a while to get established, but even the leaves are worth it. The one on your wall looks like mine, but I only had one flower this year, and it has already come and gone. I think this was year 4 for mine? But I let too many plants crowd around it, I had to clear out some volunteers and give it a little space.

  5. jean Says:

    Me too! I love tree peonies but shrink from the price whenever I am at the nursery.
    Speaking of peonies Karen, I know an amazing planting strip here in Queen Anne that is full of peonies and will be a glorious sight in a few weeks. I would be happy to show you. I blogged about it last year if you want to see pictures. It is an absolute delight.
    Let us know if you take the plunge with the tree peony.

  6. Kanak Says:

    Karen, gardening blogs got me dreaming about hellebores. And now it’s the peonies. Those blooms are huge! And so beautiful! My latest love is the shrub–yesterday today and tomorrow. It’s in a pot and blooming now. I find the colours fascinating.

  7. Carol Says:

    Yes that is a tree peony and so true it is hard to capture the beauty of white in full sun. I have my tree peonies in part shade … read they like that. I have three kinds but the two doing well are yellow and a blush pink that becomes white … seems it has more petals than the one you found… or maybe they are just mostly all on the ground now. A wonderful plant and well worth the price.

  8. I love tree peonies too and would love to have at least (…) one in my garden. I don’t have any peonies at all and I love them all, herbaceous & tree ones. And the new Itoh-hybrids, tree peonies crossed with herbaceous ones. They are a bit special though, after their season of big drama, they just disappear into a bit dull greenery, so they need a place where they can be both admired and ignored at the same time. (No Bloedel – my life is still a organised chaos and I’m paddling very fast to keep on the top of it…)

  9. Kim Says:

    I’ve been lusting after them, too. Problem is, I’m lusting after more plants than I’ve got dirt to put them in. My favorite nursery had a few this spring for $45. Is that what they should cost? I’ve got lots of part shade, so if that’s what they need, then I may have a spot . . . . . And I think if you really want one, you need one.

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