Friday, February 15, 2008

Ken Clare

It was with surprise and much sadness to hear recently of the death of Ken Clare last October.  Ken was the owner of what he liked to call "The Ultimate Peony Super Store" also known as peonygarden.com   He was quite a character and a legend in Canadian peony history.

Ken undoubtedly had the largest collection of peonies in Canada.  He started out growing them in pop bottles but later moved them to several area fields he was borrowing when his collection had outgrown his overwintering facilities.  Pop bottle culture may have sounded a little odd to many peony growers but it was an innovative solution that worked very well.  I was lucky enough to see Ken's tree peonies when they were in bottles and displayed on a wooden stadium structure.  They were a beautiful site to behold on an early spring day.

Hard work, a sense of humour and a generous spirit are what I will remember Ken for.  When I was learning to graft tree peonies, Ken invited me to take as may scions as I wanted from his plants.  He would take nothing in return.  Each time I visited he would offer me some rare cultivar to take home.  The 'Renown' tree peony I received in the pop bottle many years ago still grows well in my field.

Ken Clare began Peonygarden.com in 2003 in the little town of Frankford, Ontario after retiring from the cabinet business.  Ken grew many hundreds of varieties and it could only be described as a private peony museum.  He had a true passion for flowers and imported peonies from all over the world including Europe, China, Japan, even New Zealand.  After his illness and passing in 2008 the business was moved to Alberton, Ontario to a two acre farm run by his son Mike and his family.

Lindsay D'Aoust

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