Paeonia on the Pacific Coast/

James Waddick
Fri, 08 Apr 2011 07:59:20 PDT
Dear PBSers,
	My earlier suggestions to Mary Sue regarded Peony species 
suited to mild climates. Most growers concentrate on the hundreds of 
selections of P. lactiflora. This is a species that demands cold 
climates for its dormant buds to develop fully in many hours of near 
and below freezing temps. These common northern climate garden 
peonies can easily be grown well  into Canada, Scandinavia and many 
northern countries. Gardeners in southern climates miss this 
extravagant spring display*.

	The Mediterranean species are less well know and less grown. 
Few people realize that at least one and possibly more species are 
found in North Africa and another dozen species are Mediterranean. 
(See "The Book of Mediterranean Peonies" by G.L. Osti). These do not 
demand extended cold dormancy and should do well on milder climates. 
Then there are hybrids of these species which also fit into milder 

	Although P. mascula is an easy to find and grow species, 
these are all subject to "micro-climates" including variation in 
soils. Generally peonies do not flourish in sandy soils and prefer 
clay soils, generally peonies prefer alkaline conditions, not acid, 
generally they prefer good drainage, not wet conditions, but   some 
species are far more tolerant of these variables.

	A couple I'd sure recommend include P. mascula since it is 
one of the more wide spread and possible more tolerant of variable 
conditions, P. peregrina, P. cambessdessii ( the 'Queen' of the 
smaller 'rock garden' type species), even P. officiinalis, tenuifolia 
and mlokosewtischii are all Mediterranean in nature.

	Some species that are more demandingly Mediterranean ( i.e. 
milder climates, seasonal rainfall etc) are such less common species 
as P. parnassica, P. turcica, P. broteroi, clusii, rhodia etc.

	And let us not forget that there are two native Pacific Coast 
species well suited to cultivation. Although their flowers are of 
marginal garden decor, the foliage is striking and much appreciated 
(P. brownii and P. californica).

	As you get farther north on the Pacific Coast, the options 
improve greatly (see Pacific Rim Native Plant offerings in Brit. Col. 

	And finally all the wild tree peony species originate in SW 
China and do well in relatively milder climates. They are not 
Mediterranean, but in many garden situations they should do quite 

	So Mary Sue may have had mixed results with P. mascula, but 
there is a broad palette available to adventurous gardeners on the 
Pacific Coast.

			Best		Jim W.

* Not wanting to rub it in to mild climate growers, but my rough , 
cold, climate is ideal for many traditional peonies. I expect to see 
bloom on early species such as P.  peregrina,  mlokosewitschii, 
tenuifolia and tree peonies in a few weeks. Dozens more lactiflora 
selections, hybrids and intersectional peonies will extend the season 
for 6 to 7 weeks of continuous bloom. It will be heavenly through 
May.  Tree peonies start in mid-April and continue for a month from 
early species to later hybrids. Glorious.
Dr. James W. Waddick
8871 NW Brostrom Rd.
Kansas City Missouri 64152-2711
Ph.    816-746-1949
Zone 5 Record low -23F
	Summer 100F +

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