Thursday, April 1, 2010

P. veitchii

by Patricia Gallant

Visitors can't help but stop in front of the small mound of dissected foliage covered with large flowers like pink anemones.  "What is it?" A peony.  "Are you sure?" Positive, Paeonia veitchii, that's it.  But I sense a certain disbelieve. "Yes but.... that plant has single flowers and the foliage doesn't look anything like that of a peony".  Let me explain. Paeonia veitchii is a species peony and not a hybrid. Introduced in Europe by E.H. Wilson in 1907, this peony comes from northwest China, more precisely the provinces of Gausu, Sichuan and Shensi.

It grows naturally in an alpine environment, in the grassy meadows or in the thickets at an altitude between 2500 and 3000 m.  It is an adaptable peony but seems to prefer clay soils.  In the Montreal area it will flower in May but here at les Jardins de Metis, it flowers in mid-June because of our geographic location.  Paeonia veitchii is the first peony to flower here and it has a longer flowering season than all the other peonies we grow.  "Why?" Well, because it produces single flowers and it also makes side buds that flower after the main flowers are finished, giving small nevertheless charming blooms.  And of course, though the cool and fresh climate of the Gaspesie may be disagreeable for you, flowers flourish in this environment.

Another interesting characteristic of this peony is that it grows well in partial shade.  When planted in association with ferns the two are a winning duo.  Paeonia veitchii can attain 2ft (60cm) in height and about the same in diameter and once established it will provide decades of splendid bloom.

As for any peony, frequent moving is to be avoided. "Staking?" Certainly not.  With solid stems and light single flowers it does not bend under its own weight, even after a heavy rain.  Because the developing seedpods are so decorative, there is no need to dead head the faded flowers.  All these qualities make Paeonia veitchii a good investment for the garden.  "Where can you buy it?" Quite rare on the market, you will find it usually in specialty catalogues.  "Good, if I continue my visit....." At the next corner he stops and looks at me again with a questioning look ... "What is this?" Ah, now that's another story .....

Editor's note:  Patricia Gallant is the horticulturist at les Jardins de Metis (www.jardinsmetis.com)

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