Paeonia mascula
Thu, 07 Apr 2011 10:44:45 PDT
On 7 Apr 2011, at 8:51, Jane McGary wrote:

> It's puzzling that Mary Sue Ittner, on the northern California coast, 
> would lost Mediterranean Paeonia species in the garden. As far as I 
> know, nothing eats the roots. They are subject to Botrytis and 
> perhaps other diseases.

In 1989 I visited Western Hills Nursery, west of Occidental, California, a 
nursery famous in its day for holding a treasue trove of unusual plants.

I asked Marshall Olbrich, who was still alive then, how his specimen of 
Chaenomeles 'Rinho' (aka 'Contorta') was doing. He replied, not well, as the 
winters were too wet for it. This surprised me. Driving to the nursery. I'd 
noted a distinct change in the ecology, from the sun drenched, dry, grassy 
hills to dry forest vegetation like that native to southern Vancouver Island. 
Quite a remarkably sharp change, as though someone had drawn a line on a map 
and said "on this side, dry sunny grassy hills, on that side dry forest".

I have a mature specimen of 'Rinho' in my present garden, and it doesn't seem 
to turn a hair at our winter wet, not even in my ex-swamp patch of squelch and 
ooze. Species peonies have always done well for me, too, including P. 
cambessedessii which came up in situ from a stray seed and has survived 
everything Mother Nature has thrown at it over the years.

I conclude that at Western Hills the winter rainfall is significantly greater 
than here in Victoria. Or perhaps that the climate is more humid, though I am 
much closer to the sea where I live (three quarters of a mile, maybe) than 
Western Hills' site is (was).

Mary Sue, iirc, lives even further north up the coast, and I speculate that her 
winter rainfall is even worse than Western Hills'. The web indicates that 
Eureka has about twice the rainfall of Victoria, ~38 vs. ~18 inches per year. 
Temperature graphs indicate at Victoria's climate is slightly warmer in summer 
and colder in winter than Eureka.

Maybe this isn't right, but whatever the explanation, clearly there's an 
ecological surprise here.

The problem is compounded because the west coast has widely (and wildly) 
varying microclimates, depending on proximity to the sea, elevation, and the 
local terrain in general. (The Pacific coast of northern California, Oregon, 
Washington, and BC is hilly, even mountainous, almost everywhere.)

Google StreetView URL for Western Hills Nursery:,-

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

More information about the pbs mailing list