Friday, April 2, 2010

Milton Jack

by David Jack
"Peony flowers appeal to the heart as well as to our senses of visual beauty and fragrance.  They are indeed the flower of remembrance and have been for hundreds of years" (Allan Rogers, Peonies)

When I received this request to do a peony profile from Lindsay D'Aoust in mid December, I thought of the rigors of our varying Canadian peony climates, (Winnipeg, going from +5 C to -23 C in a 24 hour day) and thought of these garden stalwarts.

These classic garden peonies such as 'Festiva Maxima' (introduced in 1851); 'M. Jules Elie' (1888); 'Sarah Bernhardt' (1906) and 'Karl Rosenfield' (1908) are older selections that remain popular and inexpensive.  And how they keep performing throughout this great country.  Incidentally the Ferncliff Gardens 1927 catalogue lists 'Festiva Maxima' @ $2.00! Most gardeners have fond childhood memories of these peonies in the gardens of family and neghbours.

Thinking of time or years passed, my other thought was how our nursery, Ferncliff Gardens is now in its 85th year.  Ferncliff is quite literally where I grew up with the family business.  Now at age 56, and the third generation, the grandson of the founder, Milton Jack, I continue to grow peonies in the same location and live in the original family home.

In 1980 the peony 'Milton Jack' was introduced to mark the 60th anniversary of Ferncliff Gardens.  Milton Jack , my grandfather founded Ferncliff Gardens in 1920.  Born in 1877, in Chateauguay, Quebec, Mr. Jack was educated at McGill University.  Owing to ill health, after 15 years in the Presbyterian Mission Services in Formosa and Korea, he returned to Canada.  There he found the beautiful location in the Fraser Valley where he built up the farm Ferncliff drawing on his boyhood association with horticulture and flowers.  For several decades his gladiolus hybrids were some of the best.

'Milton Jack' is a double type, eye-catching deep rose red peony that stands out in the field.  A very floriferous variety, blooming early mid-season.  The petal texture is excellent, and flowers stand up well to sun and rains.  The stems are strong and hold the blooms well.  The colour combines well with pink varieties.  Reliable bloom, healthy foliage and a refined growth habit make 'Milton Jack' a plant that can be counted on to provide an excellent performance through the years.  This peony stands up and stands out.

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