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  • Hurtekant
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    khurtekant posted in the group Species Peonies International Network (SPIN)

    5 months, 1 week ago · updated 5 months, 1 week ago

    Just a small anecdote about a rare peony species P. sterniana. Last year I lost my only small plantlet of this species, even though I tried my best giving it good growing conditions. It was a small root that I received from the Edinburgh Botanical Garden (in Scotland that is). As far as I knew they had the only true plants of this species outside of China, collected half a century ago in Tibet. But their plants are not doing well ever since they removed some shrubs that gave them shade. No flowers and thus no seeds from them these last years.

    Several years ago they did send out seeds however. They gave me a list of ‘public’ people (scientists, commercial growers,…) that received them. However when I contacted several of those it turned out that only failures resulted from this. A few private persons also received seeds, but due to ‘privacy’ rules I could not get those contact details. So perhaps some people might have it growing, if they were better growers than the others, but I never found any traces of it (not a single image of a true P. sterniana ever showed up in the social media fora I follow).

    Coincidence then that I met a person who did actually grow them and was successfully doing so. He gave me some small rootlets grown from seeds from his plants (protected crosses). Unfortunately that person is in somewhat poor health and has just recently decided to move places and he has -with regret – to leave his garden behind. He asked me to grow his species plants as he’d very much like them to be in the hands of someone who at least has some experience growing peonies. I thus went to his garden last week.

    Some P. obovata ssp willmottiae, P. delavayi, P. potanini, P. veitchii, P. peregrina, P. officinalis ssp banatica, P. lactiflora (wild collected!), P. ostii, P. qiui, P. mairei and so on. Most of these from seeds supplied by Will McLewin. But thus also that very rare P. sterniana grown from seeds from the Edinburgh botanical garden. Growing protected from wind and direct sun, in soil with lots of grit mixed in, I saw a rather short growing plant with lots of stems. Foliage was nearly withered, but showed small leaflets, mostly lobed.

    I dug it, and noticed that it ‘split’ in two nearly immediately. But I was wrong, this wasn’t one large plant. He had placed several plants of this species together in one spot he said. And indeed, it turned out that this one very large plant was actually three more or less average plants. As you can see, a big part of the crown is actually blackish from decay and the number of new shoots is rather mediocre. From all the plants I dug there, these are the least healthy roots (no other species had any decay there), which goes some way towards explaining the many failures at other places (and mine). The seeds he got from his plant are probably the result of crosses between different plants of this species, a cross which more easily gives seeds than simply self-pollinating. They tend to grow very very slowly. As you can see the roots are carrot shaped, and not too thick, definitely much smaller than P. emodi roots.

    I was able to divide the plants somewhat, though not too much, and I’ve planted them in very free draining soil mixes in some shade at several places. Let’s hope they’ll grow better than my last plant of this species. These three different plants and the small rootlets from his seeds and a few other seedling roots I received this year from yet another source all add up to about ten different plants of this species. We hope to be able to publish some images of flowering plants in a few years time and perhaps that can also be the start of some wider distribution of P. sterniana as it is still nearly nowhere available.

    • good luck pulling the plants and lots of grit under the roots.

    • A good new. Unfortunalely, as you say, this species is unavailable. In its habitat in South-East Tibet (Xizang), only a few hundreds of plants grow. However if seeds where distributed to growers with the aim to preserve the species, this beautiful peony could be seen in protected collections and maybe, why not, reintroduced in its natural habitat.

      • @phenix Alain, My aim is twofold here. 1. As with most peony species I grow, I’d like to hybridize them with more recent advanced hybrids. And 2. Make them available to more people. To give that the best of chances I’ve also sent some divisions and seedlings to other (more) experienced peony species growers. It’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket and thus if they fail here, there are still backup options :-)

    • I hope you have success in growing this rare, desirable but very difficult peony. Good luck Koen!

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