Floral Architecture
Fri, 30 Jul 2004 11:23:16 PDT
Jim M,

When you said: 

"Now this is getting interesting. In recent years,
Chinese-grown tree
peonies have appeared in local shops. Generally they
are less expensive
than the Japanese-grown plants (and they appear to be
The Chinese plants are bigger, twiggier plants than
the Japanese-grown
plants, which typically are little more than a scion
and stock stuck
together. Those Chinese plants are very tempting. When
you unpack them,
they seem to be a much better deal than the
Japanese-grown plants. 
are often multiple stems and a superficially much
better developed root
system. "

Rick actually said of Chinese imports:

"The plants are ruthlessly trimmed of all the small
roots and out growing roots, leaving only a few down
growing main roots.  My Oregon State inspector said
this is for two reasons.  Number 1, is to take off any
roots that have been infected by soil bugs, namely
nematodes and symphylans.  The presence of both are
readily seen as root knots on the young roots.  I have
seen plants so badly infected that it looked like the
root had marbles inside.  If you strip these roots
off, then no one can see that the plants are infected.
Number 2, is that if you take away all the small roots
the plant is far less likely to rot or mold in
transit.  My inspector said that he sees this with
bare root roses from China too.
After all this trimming, they put the smallest amount
of moss in the middle of the roots and pack in plastic
bags with 5 rubber bands. This promotes mold
where the plastic touches the root. 
In '01, I had to destroy a whole shipment of 3000
plants that had mountains of mold.  My inspector was
so excited because he said that there were so many
kinds of mold, many that he had never seen."

And about Japanese varieties:

"For the last two years I have been ordering through a
different vendor from Japan. These plants are huge,
packed bulk, one layer of plants then a thick layer of
moss, and so on. The plants are NOT TRIMMED AT ALL.
The best part is that 98% grow out in the spring. I
can send you a price list from our best vendor if you
like. The proof is in the pudding.  When I put the
plants from different vendors side to side, there is
no comparison."

As far as roots and grafting, most tree varieties are
increased by grafting onto herbaceous roots. This
serves several purposes. First, the tree peony roots
are not as strong of growers as the herbaceaous ones.
So, if you wanted to grow tree peonies on their own
roots, you would be waiting some time for the cuttings
to form a sizeable enough root structure to be
marketable. But, the Chinese are master gardeners when
it comes to their prize plants. So, they take their
time and wait, and thus, the prices go up with it. 
But, there are ways to remove the herbaceous root from
the tree peony. Rick, again, was kind enough to tell
me his trick for such an act with minimal impact on
the plant. When planting, plant deep, 6-8" below the
soil line to the top of the graft union. This does
double duty. First, herbaceous roots cannot grow that
far. So, it does not allow them to take off. If they
are planted shallowly like other peonies, the
herbaceous growth will surpass the tree graft and
thus, all will be lost. Second, it forces the tree
graft to produce it's own roots. 
Now, to the trade secret. Get a very strong piece of
metal wire. Use it like a twist-tie and put it right
at the union of the tree stem and herbaceous root and
tie securely. So, when the herbaceous root starts to
expand, it slowly girdles itself and does not allow
the tree to get more food from it. Thus, it forces the
tree to produce it's own roots to compensate for it.
So, over the years, you will have a tree peony growing
on it's own root system. 

Now, about the names, I will go with the irony of old
translaters and say that they are great. Even if they
were meant to be sarcastic, they are very artistic and
sometimes quite descriptive in their own right. 

John Ingram in L.A., CA. check it out
310.709.1613 (cell, west coast time, please call accordingly. Thank you)

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