These last few days I have been busily pulling out boring plants and planting a few nice ones. Among others, a grafted very free-flowering and very compact Dove Tree, Davidia involucrata Sonoma (very new to Australia) and a lovely cousin to the witch hazels, Corylopsis spicata, also one of the more handsome American Silverbells, Halesia carolinia. These have gone into our dry border above the Upper Meadow. They’re all choice things and I was not too unhappy removing a dull Garrya elliptica to make space for them.
Above: Corylopsis spicata
Above: Halesia carolinia
And, I have been planting peonies, a little collection of Itoh Hybrids, also known as Intersectional Hybrids. These are crosses between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies. Itoh was the brilliant Japanese nurseryman who managed to achieve this very difficult cross. He spent much of his life hybridizing trees with herbaceous peonies and though he lived to see the first fertile seed, he died before any of these wondrous plants flowered. American nurseries took over his project and much work has since been done and at last these extraordinary plants are becoming available in Australia.
Above: Itoh Canary Brilliants
I really shouldn’t go to too much more detail as the story will be explained to us this Friday night (tomorrow) on the ABC’s Gardening Australia. Tomorrow Gardening Australia will be featuring peony guru – Ronnie Boekel. Now it happens I know Ronnie well. His nursery is five minutes away. Ronnie has devoted much of his life to figuring out peonies, the herbaceous, the various trees (Chinese, Japanese and Lutea Hybrids) and finally that holy grail of peonies, the Intersectional Hybrid.
Why are the Intersectionals so exciting? Well, like their Tree Peony parent, they do not require winter chilling to flower. They bloom almost down to the beach (in Victoria and Tasmania at least) and they also inherit the compact and exceptionally free-flowering growth habit of the Herbaceous Peonies. From first planting, the Intersectionals will be vigorously flowering within three years with long-lasting blooms over several weeks, late spring to early summer. Also their colour range runs from whites to apricot-pinks to scarlets, and from yellows and orange to maroon-reds. Finally their flowers tend to be fuller than the old Lutea Hybrids, which to now have been the gold standard for anyone with difficult garden conditions wanting to try Peonies.
Peonies are the motif for two of the World’s great cultures. The Chinese have been enthusiastic aficionados for several thousand years and the Japanese for nearly as long. Ronnie has a pretty good collection of classic Japanese Peonies and there’s the chance to see some of these exquisite plants in full flower tomorrow night as well. Finally, I myself will be looking forward to seeing someone who has devoted much of his life to collecting and propagating peonies and showing just why this plant deserves such lavish attention. Ronnie’s nursery is testament to the many stages of his passion and tomorrow night we will all have a personally guided tour.
I should also mention we received wind of this big event a few days back and Diggers immediately ordered in as many peonies as they could for this weekend. A range of Intersectional Peonies are available in all their nurseries along with a good selection of Luteas and Japanese. They won’t last long! Whistle up to Cloudehill and choose a couple and I guarantee you’ll be amazed.
See you in the garden