Paeonia on the Pacific Coast/

Fri, 08 Apr 2011 11:00:30 PDT
Dear Jim,

Both your extensive and interesting comments and those of others this week
reminds me of the days when I used to grow a number of both the herbaceous
(not sure if that's the right term) as well as the tree kinds. In
north-western Europe they flourished and, with the notable exception of the
moutan, P. suffructicosa, they all bloomed superbly. The displays lasted for
many weeks in that cool climate. The ground was limey which, as you noted,
suited their requirements well, particularly when top-dressed annually with
horse manure.

The tree species such as P. lutea ssp. ludlowi performed very well, growing
over 6 feet tall and blooming reliably. All specimens of the moutan, in many
garden varieties, grew slowly, as they do everywhere. However, it flowered
infrequently for me. I tend to subscribe to the explanation of wet winters
and mild climates being the cause, as pointed out here earlier. In eastern
and south-eastern England, where winters may be a little colder but are
certainly drier than those of Ireland, they bloomed far better. P.
suffructicosa, in southwest China, has a cold, dry winter and a warm,
monsoon-dominated summer. I believe this species is really not well suited
to container culture - its fleshy roots want to wander and it would need
considerable attention in summer to keep it happy, not to speak of the need
for a large container. But, unless she were to grow it under cover in
winter, I don't think Mary Sue would be able to get this gorgeous species to

I now live in a drier, warmer climate, indeed in a rather dry one. Of those
peonies that prefer moisture in winter rather than in summer I may want to
try some of the mediterranean species mentioned in your messages, Jim. As of
now, I cannot grow even the native P. californica. Believe me, I have failed
more than once! It demands more chill and more winter rain than we get near
the coastline. Here is a shot taken in mid-March of it blooming a mere
twelve miles further inland where frosts are more frequent and rainfall is
greater than what we get here:…. This year we've
had 11 inches since July 1, an unusually wet year; in Poway to the east
they've had 21 inches at the site I checked. But, it grows more abundantly
at higher elevations where winters are both colder and wetter. 

So, it takes all sorts!

San Diego


-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of James Waddick
Sent: Friday, April 08, 2011 7:59 AM
To: Pacific Bulb Society
Subject: [pbs] Paeonia on the Pacific Coast/

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 climates.

	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 well.

	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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