This double white lactiflora peony from an open pollinated seed from Carl G. Klehm is arguably my favorite double white lactiflora that can be used as a cutflower. I got a few seeds from Carl G. Klehm that grew into mature plants, but this was the only remarkable one. It’s no good as a garden plant unfortunately. The foliage is not particularly attractive (somewhat open and the very lower part of the stem has none), but most importantly during rain and wind the open flowers will be too heavy for the stems to carry them well.

But as a cutflower I know of no better double white. We’ve just summed up the cons that make it unfit for your garden, but here are the pros as I see them:

-it has a rose-form flower and not a bomb-form, the former is generally preferred over the latter

-the buds are quite large, not as large as Bowl of Cream, but far larger than Duchesse de Nemours

-the buds are pure white in bud and are closed, thus bud presentation is excellent

-the stems are very tall, easily reaching over 1 m and thus the requested 60 cm can easily be cut, leaving enough foliage for good growth of the plant

-a large number of stems, before digging and dividing it had 19 stems

-the flowers are pure white with a hint of yellow towards the base of the petals, very occasionally there are some red markings present

-the flowers are large

-they have a very, very strong agreeable fragrance. Although it cannot compete with the double pink Myrtle Gentry, the absolute queen of fragrance, it surely ranks among the most fragrant whites.

-no matter how tightly closed the buds are when cut, they will always open well

-there are 2-3 sidebuds on average, but disbudding them is discouraged simply because these sidebuds will also open perfectly well. The following picture shows a flower that was cut when then the main bud was still closed. That main flower opened well, but to my surprise then, the sidebuds also opened as well, from the first to the last, although less double; something I had never seen before. This is extremely important for a good cutflower, there are only a few peony varieties that always open well from tight buds (and many of those tend to have a short vase-life unfortunately, not a problem here). When florists are surveyed about the good and bad about peonies, one main issue always comes to the fore: peonies that don’t open well. The main offender is Sarah Bernhardt, which has to be cut rather late. A customer that buys a peony that doesn’t open well is unlikely to revisit… So peonies that always open well have a bright future ahead if you’d ask me.

-it propagates readily, the first time dividing it (Fall 2017) gave me 12 divisions (some small, some large)

-its flowering time is rather early, just after Miss America

It’s fair to say that we have high hopes for this one. I’ve provisionally named it ‘Serendipity’ as this one was in fact only found by sheer accident, I was not trying to find a double white, but here it is. Of course we’ll need to observe it further the following years to see whether it’s not overly susceptible to diseases, and if it’s reliable from year to year.

If you know of an excellent double white variety that you think of as excellent for cutflowers, I’m always happy to hear about it. I grow quite a few double white varieties, but it seems there’s always something to nag about (pink buds, too short, lax stems, needs to be cut when nearly open, too few stems, etcetera, etcetera…)

last updated by Bob 5 years, 1 month ago
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    • #21227

      If you’d like to comment on this article, please do so below, your replies will be available both in the forum and under the article itself.
      [Read the full article: “Serendipity”]

    • #21228

      Looks pretty encouraging Koen !

      This spring I had a row of about 100 seedlings that bloomed, which were part of a push I made to get good early white hybrids. We selected 16 of them to dig and divide, and then grow for another rotation. Of the 40 seedlings of Lemon Chiffon x Greenland, I think we kept one. Of 26 seedlings of Blushing Princess x Greenland we kept 5. Of 27 plants of Blushing Princess x (white double from a Bill Seidl seed) we kept 10.

      I wish I could tell you what these things looked like, but we were forced to evaluate them so quickly one late afternoon that I can’t remember. When you are trying to evaluate that many seedlings, getting rid of the duds, and keeping only the better ones will make it much easier to judge them. It’s been my experience that seedlings which have been dug, and then grown from the resulting divisions, may look different than when they were seedlings, even if the seedlings had many stems, and gave every impression of being mature plants.

      It does seem that Lemon Chiffon may not be the best way to go when looking for early whites, and that Blushing Princess presents better opportunities. Bill got some whites that seem like they offer the best pathway, although getting ahold of them is still not easy at this point it seems. The double white I grew from one of his seeds…I don’t think it’s parentage is what Bill claimed it to be, and may be something from his work with whites that got mixed in with some other seeds that he sent me, 10 or 11 years ago now.

      Everything in it’s proper season though. Good whites are useful and needed in every part of the peony season, especially by the cut flower industry.

      Bob Johnson

    • #21230

      Yes, it does look encouraging, next year I’ll be able to judge it better, some of the larger divisions should have grown into good looking plants by then. It was a ‘lucky shot’ and it won’t count as an early white though, as it’s purely lactiflora. It might be a rather early flowering lactiflora, but it doesn’t flower with the early hybrids. A good early double white is still what I’m trying to hybridize for, something you also seem to reach for.

      Some crosses give far better results on average I would agree (seedlings from Blushing Princess are also generally better than crosses without it at my place). From your numbers only 1 in 40 from Lemon Chiffon for a second round of evaluations is indeed far less compared to the crosses with Blushing Princess. I don’t grow Lemon Chiffon, it used to be very expensive and at that price I opted for other varieties. Also the fact that to my feeling every hybridizer was using it, put me off somewhat. So I can’t say whether it would be a good parent. I’ve no doubt that it’s a good seed setter and it may have a good bush habit. But I’ve also heard people say that it does tend to have some open buds, that the flowers aren’t always very full and that the flowers open very fast (a bit like Coral Sunset). For garden plants those might not be the most important things, but as for cutflowers they are somewhat problematic. Thus I’ve been using Vanilla Schnapps instead for several years when it comes to a yellow herbaceous one. I have some seedlings growing from Vanilla Schnapps x Buoy Master (a good early single white), but they are still small and the few ones flowering weren’t white.

      The best results for white currently I got from Pink Vanguard x Buoy Master. Some 40 seedlings of them gave me 4 good plants for a second round of evaluation. They have grown one year after division and we’re down to three as of the two good single whites, one is clearly better than the other. The other two are very good (semi)-doubles, but pale pink. Perhaps I should reiterate this cross, but I’ve since acquired Grand Massive and I tend to use that one now instead of Buoy Master. Grand Massive is mentioned in another post and I consider it currently the best early white, the flower is pure white both in bud and flower, very floriferous, extremely early and it propagates very fast. There’s room for improvement of course: the petals are somewhat ‘ragged’ at the edges and it’s more a semi-double than a double. But of course ‘the best peony’ is always the best only for as long as something better comes our way. I have crossed it with many things, Old Faithful amongst others and also Belleville, a large lactiflora which is one of the parents of Command Performance. The seedlings thereoff are still small and not very numerous. As an aside, I had to put pollen on many, many flowers of Belleville to get only a few seeds, a bit unexpected as it used to be known as ‘Harold Wolfe Lacti seeder’…

      I don’t know what other plants could be used as good parents for early double whites? Greenland here didn’t appeal to me very much, the stems were somewhat crooked under the weight of the very heavy (and, admittedly, very pretty) flowers. Campagna I’ve tried but never got any seeds both ways. White Vanguard I thought the stems way too lax (but there’s another, reportedly better, peony under the same name). White Doves has been a candidate for some time thanks to its earliness and pure white buds, but by the time I started my first controlled crosses I already had Buoy Master which I preferred as that one does have foliage down to the ground (much as Salmon Dream does). All white lactifloras flower too late.

      Then there’s the white species, some of those are also very early. I’ve got an extremely early white ‘caucasica’, I thought it quite unique until I recently disovered P. caucasica ‘alba’ isn’t too rare at all, it appears in several facebook groups. But it’s a weak plant, lost many of them after division and the pollen of it didn’t give me a single seed on all peony varieties I’ve tried (even very fertile ones like Pink Vanguard, Dreamtime, and so on). P. mascula hellenica is also early and very pretty, although the edges of the petals are pink at first opening. After many efforts I finally got the first (few) seeds from its pollen this year. P. mascula bodurii I’ve also tried many times to no avail. That one might be the most interesting one as it is a week earlier than P. mascula hellenica and can cope better with our climate (I’ve lost several hellenica due to drought in Summer that made them die off above ground then followed by lots of rain in late Summer). Of course there’s also P. emodi, but that one has small and hanging flowers, not exactly what I’m looking for. Some others are P. obovata/japonica/willmottiae but I don’t grow them and I guess they can’t take full sun very well. I’m sure there are also others, but those are the ones I have or am thinking of.

      I do wonder whether it would be an idea to exchange pollen? That is much easier than sending plants (although I got my envelopes with pollen back that I had sent to the USA this year) and also a possibility to work fast with new plants. I did create a forum ‘plant exchange’ that isn’t being used (still too few members, but the site is only half a year old), but it could also be used for that purpose. This year I received pollen from P. parnassica to work with. I do have my own very small plant of P. parnassica but by looking at the size of it, it will take another three years at least before I would get my first own flower of it (if it survives, usually it doesn’t). Exchanging pollen would make it easier to start with a larger ‘gene pool’ which is, if I’m not mistaken, one of the requirements for a good hybridizing program. The APS does have a good seed exchange program, perhaps this site should start that pollen exchange program?

      Well, all the best in the meantime,



    • #21589


      I think you are right about Blushing Princess.  The thing tends to make very vigorous seedlings and large plants.  My sense is that it’s children often carry these same qualities.  Bill used it a lot, so his things carry it too.  BP tends to “grow old” in my sandy soils though, and over time I’ve had to get rid of a few of them, and at this point I only have one of them left.  It’s also fairly frost sensitive (but not as bad as some) so getting seeds off of it has always been dependent on the sort of spring we have here.  At this point I’ve been trying to replace it as a breeding plant with some of it’s seedlings I’ve grown.  Which is the same thing that Bill did over time, I think ?

      I continue to use Lemon Chiffon, as it’s a good seeder here.  If it’s terminals freeze out, then it’s side buds often will want to make seeds.  The seeds are small, and often the seedlings are small as well, but once they get out in the field, they proceed to make large plants.  I avoid using other yellows on it, as I’ve got enough yellows to last me forever, it seems.  Otherwise it tends to make pinks, and the very occasional nice red, if red pollens are used on it. To be honest, I don’t think of it as a source of yellow anymore – I just think of it as good seeder.  Everyone has already made the LC x Mac Grand cross years ago I suspect, but I just got around to making a big push with it myself  several years ago, and was able to get a row of 100 into the fields this fall.  LC can produce some very full doubles as well, much more double than LC itself, so I still consider it a good breeding plant, and keep several plants of it at my home.

      I finally dug out Bill’s Best Yellow ( VS) this fall.  I had it for quite a few years, and it grew well for me, but I simply could not get seeds on the thing. It’s carpals were just too frost sensitive here. My room here at home is limited, so I’ve used it’s location for something else.  Something equally as interesting I hope.

      I became fascinated with plant vigor a few years ago, after seeing some frighteningly large plants among my seedling, and so I would hold back the very largest seedling of any interesting cross that I made, and kept them here at home for an additional year in pots, instead of taking them over to the nursery. My soils are so poor that I figured I’d have the best growing luck with the most vigorous things here at home, no matter what their flowers should happen to look like.  I’ve been getting several of these 3 year olds out of their large pots, (some of which would bloom in 3 years in pots) and into the garden over the last few days.  I did the same with a few things last year, and the results this spring were promising. I probably should be more patent, and wait to see what the rest of their siblings at the nursery look like, and then select the best of them to use, but at least I’ll have some of their genetics to use here at home *soon*, rather than waiting a few more years to get divisions back from the nursery.

      Plant vigor is not always a positive though.  Many of these giant things will sprawl, and will be unable to hold their stems up. Rapid spring growth can apparently make them susceptible to botrytis as well.  But like any other seedling, sometimes they’ll have good plant habit too. I’m not sure that they always pass their vigor on to their seedlings, but for now it seems like a reasonable thing to experiment with, and over time I hope to cross these various “monsters” among themselves.

      And then see what happens.

      Still nice weather here thank goodness, as often it’s turned cold and ugly by now, so I’m trying to make the best of the time while we still have it.

      Bob Johnson

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