Taken from The Peony - C to C Vol 1, Issue 3 Nov 1998
written by Brian Porter
The Seager Wheeler Farm, just east of the town of Rosthern, Saskatchewan, is the newest location of a public peony planting in Saskatchewan.
Seager Wheeler (1868-1961) was perhaps the most famous prairie farmer in his day. While best known for his international awards in wheat competitions, Seager Wheeler was also involved in horticulture. Emigrating from England in 1885, he became an innovator in farming methods and eventually published his own book on grain growing, in 1919. Among his horticutural achievements, he introduced to his region the Siberian silverleaf willow, the Saskatchewan Crabapple, Prolific and Ruby cherry-plum hybrids, Advance sandcherry and Gold Coin potato. His farm was well known for its beautiful gardens, and in particular was known for its delphiniums and annual poppies. To my knowledge, Seager Wheeler was not involved much with peonies, but his farm now includes a modest historical collection of peonies.
The peonies have been donated by the Saskatchewan Horticultural Association and Hollingsworth Peonies of Maryville, Missouri. Because the site has been designated as a national historic site, it was felt appropriate that an historical collection of peonies could be grown in a couple of the rectangular beds, similar to the beds used by Seager Wheeler.
The beds have been designed to hold 40 cultivars of peonies, planted in chronological order. The limited number of plants (one of each cultivar) emant that a number of very good cultivars could not be accommodated, and the choice was dictated somewhat by availability. The first planting (about 75%) were planted in the fall of 1997. While most of the peonies are growing, it appears according to my records, that some peonies were planted in the wrong locations, and thus some investigation will need to be done to verify the cultivars and possibly replant them in their proper chronological order.
The peony collection is entriely herbaceous, as tree peonies require much more care to winter them successfully here. The collection begins with the cultivar 'Edulis Superba' (1824), and is followed by the well-known 'Festiva Maxima' (1851) and the now very rare Delachei (Emperor of Russia)(1856). 'Duchesse de Nemours (1856) and Augustin d'Hour (General MacMahon)(1865/67) are next in line. Seven more represent the 19th Century. The first bed is completed with 8 more cultivars from teh time period 1901 to 1918, and includes the widely known 'La France', 'Sarah Bernhardt', 'Karl Rosenfield' and 'Kelway's Florious'. These are all cultivars, which would have been available in seager Wheeler's time.
A second bed was included to bring the collection more up to date. Here, it was very difficult to select only 20 cultivars. The emphasis on Chinese peonies of double form was continued, although af ew hybrids such as 'Red Charm', 'Firebelle', and 'Pink Hawaiian Coral' have been included. Most notably, the Itoh Hybrid 'Garden Treasure', from Hollingsworth Peonies, was included, and it has survived its first winter. Another Hollingsworth donation, 'Sweet Melody' concludes the collection with its representative from 1992.
Recently I was informed that three plants have been seriously damaged by what appears to be botrytis blight. It is hoped that these will survive.
This fall, it is hoped to add a few more cultivars to the collection. One is 'La Perle', a rather elusive Crousse introduction from 1886.
It will be a few years before the collection will be in good bloom, but, we are hoping that it will become in time a notable tourist attraction to the Seager Wheeler Farm. In the meantime, visitors are welcome to the farm from Victoria Day Weekend to Labor Day, and can view the historic buildings, gift shop and teahouse, orchard, and English garden. The farm is located just of Hwy 312, approx. 8km east of Rosthern. From Saskatoon it is about 68km NE.
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