How applicable is this maxim to the creation of the Itoh peonies, also known as intersectionals,
crosses between a tree peony and an herbaceous one. Hybridizing of peonies has a long illustrious history, but the genesis for the introduction of intersectional peonies has its origins in the early 1900's with initial hybridization experiments of breeders Victor Lemoine and Louis Henry and later Professor A.P. Saunders (whose family connection to the Central Experimental Farm is well known and whose hybrid peonies have a formidable presence in the Farm's collection).
'The strongest of all warriors are those two ~ Time and Patience." Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace)
Introduction to North America
In the 1970s, an American breeder, Louis Smirnow, negotiated with Dr. Itoh's widow to introduce four of her husband's peonies into North America. These he had named: 'Yellow Crown', 'Yellow Dream', 'Yellow Emperor' and 'Yellow Heaven'. Peony aficionados were smitten. But these peonies, initially scarce, came with a steep price tag. They were largely sold to peony enthusiasts or obsessive buyers.
Other hybridizers in the United States - Roger Anderson, Don Hollingsworth, Donald Smith and Irene Tolomeo to name a few - continued the work of Toichi Itoh on intersectional hybridizing. They created some truly sensational peonies . In Canada, Serge Fafard, of Les Jardins Osiris, also breeds intersectionals.
As Itohs are derived from tree peonies, they produce an expansive root system that makes root division, the usual way to obtain new peony plants, a tough job and all too frequently results in few new plants that then take years to reach maturity and produce blooms. One alternative, of course, is to graft the intersectional to a nurse root of an herbaceous peony, which like a parent, provides food and strength until the intersectional roots are set and strong enough to take over.
Another option is micro-propagation, which is essentially growing plants from tissue or cell culture under controlled conditions. The result is Itohs that can be produced quickly and offered to buyers sooner at a more affordable price.
Itohs at the Farm
In 2009, the Canadian branch of Plantek International, which is one of the leading micro-propagation companies, contacted Mary Pratte, advisor to the Friends' peony team, with a very generous donation of 24 plants. Among these were benchmark Itohs - 'Smith Family Yellow', 'Going Bananas', 'Sequestered Sunshine', 'Singing in the Rain', 'Yankee Doodle Dandy', 'Cora Louise, 'Magical Mystery Tour' and 'Julia Rose'.
"He that can have patience can have what he will."
~ Benjamin Franklin
|Magical Mystery Tour. A bloom from this Itoh peony was a first place winner at the 2013 Canadian Peony Society (CPS) show|
|First Arrival Smith Family Yellow|
A happy member of the Friends' peony team since retirement. Blaine also tends to a collection of over 500 peonies in Osceola, Ontario. Past president of the Canadian Peony Society and editor of its newsletter, Paeonia Nordica, he is the author of eight books.
Reproduced with permission from Friends of Central Experimental Farm Spring 2014 www.friendsofthefarm.ca