Paeonia species – my growing experiences
I started growing peony species in 1999, by having sent seeds to me from Josef Halda in the Czech Republic. I also did make it possible for others to buy them as I also sold some of the seeds, the main buyers being Danish and a few from sweden. I planted them out in the garden in 2000 – but could already see they were very different each one from another – even from the same species…
Then I contacted Will McLewin in England, who did have students collecting them in situ where they lived naturally. He also told me that many people had informed him that Halda was selling seeds from botanic gardens, so the seeds had obviously crossbred in those gardens. I no longer have pictures of Halda’s seedlings, but I began to take photos of the peony species I did grow from Will’s seeds. I then bought, and also distributed, seeds to my members in some years. Next to that he also sold me some mature plants. But the problem was – they were not very suited for my garden, so even though I tried hard, many of them died.
I moved my garden in 2011 – and took the surviving peonies with me, by then I only had paeonia anomala and some tree peonies. The tree peonies that did grow were the tree peonies that Halda called P. Handel-Mazzettii – and more names in this category – they where a cross between P. delavayi yellow x P. potanini, of which most did not sprout but they have a trait to spread by stolons… What I did not know at that time was that it made a big deep root down in the soil… up to 1,5 meter – so when I moved this one that was dark red a few years later it died and also the 3 stolon siblings of it died.
I kept contact with Will, and some years ago I contacted him for more seeds. At that time he was nursing his Chinese wife, he was alone and I told him to get help, as I knew from my own work it’s too hard to cope with this alone. He did send me all his seeds, and told me they where old so maybe they would not sprout. A box with a huge amount of seeds was sent to me, I bought them all, but he was right, most did not sprout, though some survived. Some P. tenuifolia and some of what he called the true species P. officinalis, also a few tree peonies did survive and last year they where still alive… I moved some of the tree peonies to my old garden, they are somewhat orange-colored, to hybridize with my 2 big tree peonies growing there. One is a seedling, I think from Bill Seidl, the other is a tree peony from New Zealand, striped yellow and orange. I can show pictures later on, when I know how to put them here, or perhaps I’ll upload them in the hybridizer’s corner.
I have seedlings of these 2 tree peonies in several stages now and have not sold any, as I found they are not frost hardy in their first years. I can post later how many will have survived – as we had a frost of -15°C here and 2 pots had not been dug into the soil – so I’ll have to wait until Spring to see if they have survived.