Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Double Fernleaf Peony: A most unusual paeonia

A hedge row of Double Fernleaf peonies at Fina Gardens Nursery

Rubra Flore Plena Tenuifolia (meaning red, double-flowered fernleaf) is the big name for one of the smaller—but most fascinating—peonies that can be found in gardens throughout the world. It makes our Top 10 List because of its finely-dissected, soft foliage set off by bright crimson blooms that open very early among all the peony cultivars. In fact the delicate leaves and tiny buds often can be seen emerging through the last of the winter snow.
Rubra Flore Plena is just one of the cultivars derived from the species tenuifolia, which still can be found in the wild on the steppes of Crimea, the Ukraine and the Caucasus. Other varieties feature single form flowers in red, pink and white. All are short in stature, ranging from about 1 foot in height up to about 20 inches, depending on where its growing. They are super hardy. Here in Northwest Wisconsin, the fernleafs have no problems with winters that can dip to minus 50 degrees F. Another feature they have in common is their tendency to go dormant in the heat of summer. The foliage then turns brown and can be removed at that time. Savvy gardeners often plant their fernleafs behind late emerging perennials or annuals to conceal the bare spot. They also know to cut back on watering these plants at this stage, because it can lead to root rot. Tenuifolia also have a very different root structure than other peonies, making them more difficult to propagate. That's why root divisions often are smaller in size and may have fewer eyes or buds, but command a higher price than many other more common varieties.

The blooms are small—about 2-3 inches across—and come one per stem. But the waxy quality of the petals make the brilliant red flowers shine in the sunlight, drawing the attention of any who wander through the garden. It's one of the reasons Rubra Flore Plena Tenuifolia is our best selling peony.
Do you grow this peony? If so, please share your experiences.
For more information or to obtain a red double fernleaf peony go to finagardenspeonies.com

Friday, March 3, 2017

Roselette: The Ice Queen

Gorgeous delicate blossoms belie the tough-as-nails hardiness when it comes to spring freezes
Roselette makes the list of my Top Ten peonies in part because of the ability of its buds to weather
spring freezes without damage, despite the fact that it is among the earliest peonies to bloom. In fact, it's nearly always our first tall bush variety to open in May up here in Northwest Wisconsin. 

In these times of fickle weather, we seem to be getting more late spring freezes that can cause peony buds to fail to open--a condition commonly referred to as bud blast. But we've never seen this on Roselette, which seems to have anti-freeze coursing through the xylem in its stems. Bud blast can also be caused by other factors--most commonly by botrytis or grey mold--but here, too, Roselette seems to possess greater immunity than many other peonies. Some of this toughness may be related to its breeding. Roselette is a triple hybrid that came out of the work of one of the world's most renowned peony hybridizers, A. P. Saunders. Its lineage includes the Albiflora, Mlokosewitschi and Tenufolia species peonies.

But Roselette has much more going for it than hardiness. The soft salmon-pink cupped blooms atop 34 to 36-inch stems provide an elegant accent to the beautiful green green foliage, which remains attractive throughout the growing season. Combined with sturdy stems, these factors earned it a place among the varieties given the Award of Landscape Merit by the American Peony Society.

Roselette has it all: hardiness, beautiful blooms and great garden presence.

For more information on Roselette or to buy a root division go to finagardenspeonies.com


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Aging Gracefully: Joanna Marlene

                                        Petals change colors as blooms of Joanna Marlene mature

Joanna Marlene is another Intersectional or Itoh peony (a cross between the more common herbaceous varieties and tree peonies) that has earned a spot on my top 10 list. Like other Intersectionals the stems are semi-woody, which means they will stand tall even in stormy weather, but what makes Joanna stand out are the flower's multicolored petals—a kind of Joseph's Coat affect—and the almost magical metamorphosis that takes place as they age. As the flower first opens, petals unfold in vivid shades of lavender, salmon, peachy-gold, red and cream. Over the next few days the colors then shift to softer hues. In full bloom a plant with perhaps two dozen blossoms in various stages will display a striking array of colors.

A well-grown Joanna will reach a height of around 30 inches and may have a spread of 3 1/2 feet. When it first emerges from the soil in spring, its stems and leaves are a dark red before transforming to a medium green. Foliage remains attractive right up until fall. It's another creation from breeder Roger Anderson of Ft. Atkinson, WI, and was first registered in 1999.

For more information about Joanna Marlene or to purchase one go to finagardenspeonies.com

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Elsa Sass: Pure perfection

                          Huge white blooms adorn the compact, dark green foliage of Elsa Sass

Elsa Sass is, in many ways, the perfect white double peony. Its snowy, rose-form blooms come on late in the season, when many other peonies have begun to fade, and stand erect on sturdy stems that top out at about 30 inches in height. The dark green foliage is impeccable. We never see any leaf spotting on this cultivar, and it appears to be highly resistant to botrytis or other bacterial or viral diseases that sometimes affect peonies. 

This is one of the mainstay varieties of the cut flower portion of our peony farm. We remove the sidebuds from the stems when the buds are about pea size, leaving just the central bud to grow into a bloom often 8 inches or more across. The symmetrically placed petals of each flower are thicker than many other peonies and hold up extremely well in flower arrangements, where their light, sweet scent is equally welcoming. 

Although this variety has received the Gold Medal of the American Peony Society and has been around since 1930 thanks to the effort of breeder Hans P. Sass, it's one that hasn't garnered the recognition it deserves. There simply isn't a better white peony for a bridal bouquet or to lend an air of elegance to a garden border than peony Elsa Sass.

If you have any question about growing Elsa or any of our many other varieties you can leave a feedback here or contact me at fingardens@chibardun.net. To buy Elsa Sass go to finagardenspeonies.com

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Video: Peony Variety Showcase

                                                   Rows of Edulis Superba in bloom

Jan. 8, 2017

The following link will take you to our You Tube video slideshow that highlights some of the more than 200 varieties of peony flowers we grow. The thought the 7-minute presentation would be a nice mid-winter break for flower lovers. Let us know what you think and please share with friends. For more information about Fina Gardens go to finagardenspeonies.com

Friday, January 6, 2017

Peony Paul Wild

I am wild about Paul M. Wild. It easily makes my Top Ten favorites for both beauty and ease to grow. This peony was introduced by Gilbert H. Wild and Son, Missouri breeders, some 50 years ago, but incredibly has never managed to win the American Peony Society's Gold Medal Award or taken the APS Best of Show honors.
The peony features full double flowers of a rich ruby red. It has exceptional size and vigor. The stems are very stout. Even so, the prolific and large blooms can make the stems bow unless supported. If sidebuds are removed, stems stand well on their own and the center bloom can become massive. Most of the descriptions of this peony put its height at 36-inches, but I find that it regularly grows to 40 inches or more here in Northwest Wisconsin. In fact, we've  had plants exceed 60-inches some years. It was amazing to see these big 10-inch blooms practically staring you in the face.
The plant is very disease resistant—unlike many other red cultivars. After its mid-to-late season bloom, the dark green foliage remains attractive throughout the rest of the growing season, which really adds to its value in the garden. The only thing I find fault with in this peony is—like many other reds—its lack of a significant peony fragrance. But its other exceptional qualities more than make up for this.
If you have a place for a red peony in your garden, try Paul M. Wild. I can almost guarantee you'll be wild about it, too.

For more information about Paul Wild or to buy this peony go to finagardenspeonies.com

Monday, January 2, 2017

Bartzella tops Peony list

                                          A group of Bartzella just coming into bloom

Bartzella leads my list of the the top 10 peonies because it hits the mark in every way that defines a great peony: fragrant flowers that are big, bold and beautiful, stems that are strong enough to display those blooms well regardless of the weather and foliage that remains attractive throughout the growing season, so that even when not in bloom the plant is an attractive part of the garden.

Bartzella—an Itoh or Intersectional hybrid—is vigorous, making it among the easiest to grow and precocious to bloom. We have close to 75 plants in our  commercial beds and personal gardens and, in more than a decade of growing them, have yet to see a problem with any of the bacterial, fungal or viral diseases that can sometimes damage peonies.

It's a peony with great presence in the garden. Our plants regularly bloom out at 4 feet in height and will exceed that in width at maturity. So they can stand alone as a stunning specimen plant or add greatly to a mixed border.

Many of these fine qualities stem from their heritage as an intersectional cross between the common herbaceous lactiflora peony and the woody-stemmed tree peonies thanks to the work of Wisconsin hybridizer Roger Anderson in 1986. Bartzella earned the American Peony Society's Gold Medal in 2006 and was one of the first peonies to get the APS Award of Landscape Merit.

His creation cause quite a stir in the world of horticulture. Early on, single divisions of a Bartzella root were commonly fetching $1,000. Fortunately for most of us, the price has come down greatly as the supply has grown in recent years. It's still not an inexpensive peony, but I would argue that at current prices, it's the best bargain out there.

Just one note of caution if you are contemplating the purchase of a Bartzella or two—or any other intersectional for that matter.  Some of the plants offered for sale at nurseries or garden centers come from tissue culture propagation. These tend to be less vigorous and may even be genetically unstable. The best way to ensure you will have a Bartzella to enjoy for decades to come is to buy direct from a grower who propagates by root division like we do here at Fina Gardens.

If you have Bartzella, please feel free to comment on your experience with this peony. Also, if you have any questions about the Intersectional varieties please post in the comments section.

To buy Bartzella go to finagardenspeonies.com