Wednesday, May 31, 2006

When synonyms fall apart - Paeonia triternata

This is one of my favourite species (they are all favourites, so this is saying either a lot or not much!). The foliage in particular is very unique in that the leaflets, which occur in 3 sets of 3, are twisting or undulating. They are a pleasant soft green right from the time of emerging, and carry their distinctiveness throughout the growing season, waxy in appearance and with a soft blue tint in some light conditions.

Some botanists include Paeonia triternata as a synonym of Paeonia daurica subsp daurica, which is also considered a synonym for yesterday's subject, P caucasica. Check the photos yourself and decide if they are horticulturally distinct. Oh yeah. The only obvious similarity to me is that both have leaflets arranged in 3 3's. It also has the synonym Paeonia mascula subsp triternata. Anyways, enough of that for today; as usual I will stick to the name on the seedpacket.

This second photo of the flower is a couple of days later than the first, and shows off the subtley ornate and beautiful radial striping on the petals. The colour stands out marvelously amongst the other pink to reddish species in concurrent bloom. First bloom here 28 May this year, 2 days earlier in the field and a day later in the woods.

This species is native to the Crimea and Turkey, where it grows in thickets and tending towards more moist sites. Here it is less vigorous than most species and is a smaller plant in my part shade bed and in the woodland. It's less happy in the open field although it has come into flower there a year later than in the shadier spots. But that could just be a moisture issue, since the field is dryish if not exactly dry.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Another of the mascula-like group - Paeonia caucasica

No points for guessing that Paeonia caucasica is native to the Caucasus mountains region, where it grows in forests, along forest margins, and in scrub. My plants are all grown from seed collected wild in the southeast of the Republic of Georgia.

The flowers have a crinkly crepe texture and are a good colour; first bloom was on 27 May this year. This species does well in my shade bed, but is more vigorous in part shade. Plants in the open field are smaller (no irrigation) and although about as vigorous as either amount of shade the flowers are quick to wilt in the full sun. The photos here were all taken in the partial shade bed.

Foliage is attractive with a bit of a bluish caste to it, moreso before flowering than after. This is another good garden and landscape subject, and even a few flowers brighten a patch of woodland.

Botanists agree to disagree as to whether it is a species in its own right, or is included in P daurica subsp daurica. This creates the following confusion: the latter synonym is shared with P ruprechtiana which we saw earlier, and also with P triternata which has yet to be featured. All are horticulturally distinct in my view and it would be a shame to grow only one of the 3, regardless of their botanical similarity.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A giant "Globeflower" - Paeonia steveniana

The British botanist from whom I bought my seeds of Paeonia steveniana had written in his seed list to the effect that gardeners who were impressed with the Golden Peony P. mlokosewitchii needed to see steveniana. I have to admit that I wasn't impressed with it when it first flowered last year, but the plants have matured leaps and bounds since then, in all ways larger and more impressive and I am now a convert to appreciation of the magnificence of this species.

The flowers open a soft yellow (well within the range of yellow of the better-known yellow, mlokosewitschii) and will fade to ivory by the time the petals drop; you can see a bit of the fading of the same flower, between the first two photos. The centre is exquisite with dark red filaments and stigmas, is mildly fragrant, and doesn't open much further than in the second and third photos, remaining globular in shape. There are also white-flowered plants which are also great, and one of my seedlings has a fine red edging to the petals, probably the influence of inadvertent hybridizing. (due to a camera malfunction I don't have a photo of these variants). First bloom here this year was on 27 May.

The third photo is of a plant of the "high altitude form", but I don't see any difference from the rest of mine. I include it because the raindrops appeal to my artistic side.

P steveniana is one of a few synonyms for a plant which some botanists classify as Paeonia wittmaniana subsp macrophylla. The foliage is lush, soft-textured and a bit droopy in an attractive way; the leafs are pointed and quite large with clearly visible vein patterning.

It is native to the region of the Caucasus and nearby, growing in forests and amongst shrubs. They are large plants, up to a metre tall, but like all species peonies are strong-stemmed and do not need support. Mine have flowered a year younger in the open field, but are less vigorous there and in the woodland bed. The photos were all taken at the part-shade bed near the house, where the plants are at their most magnificent.

Seed of my plants was collected from the wild in the southeast of the Republic of Georgia.

Compared to P tomentosa which we saw earlier, this has larger leafs, flowers later (no overlap here), and has the distinctive globular shape to the flower. Yep, a person would really have to have both in their garden!

ignore this bit... I'm trying to figure something out here

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Still fearing to tread - Paeonia kesrouanensis. And another pic of P ruprechtiana

A number of my various species are all rushing into bloom together here; I'll try to keep them in some semblance of the order of bloom, but won't be able to post them all on the date of their actual bloom commencement. Today's subject actually first opened 2 days ago.

Named after a village in Lebanon, Paeonia kesrouanensis is considered a subspecies of P mascula by some botanists, so if you thought it looked familiar you are right. Thus, syononym Paeonia mascula subsp kesrouanensis; and also P turcica which is another clue to part of it's limited range... .

This second flower close-up is of the plant in the woods bed, a bit paler and with a 2-tone thing going on.

My plants of this species are grown from seed collected from plants in cultivation and thus may not be true to name, although there is not much variation between them. Mine are more vigorous in the partially shaded bed near the house than they are in the woods bed, one plant being 7 flowering stems already, as compared to 1 to 3 on most of the other species plants of the same age. Unusually, they are flowering simultaneously in both areas.

Kesrouanensis is native to Asia Minor, ranging from Turkey to Syria, growing in forest, scrub, and rocky slopes (notably limestone which would indicate a preference for a higher pH of soil than it gets here!) It's reportedly uncommon in cultivation, but has proven easy and adaptable here so far.

The large bud of P ruprechtiana has opened, and what a massive flower it is! Well worth the wait. Packed with anthers and pollen, it has wasted no time in collecting a line of pollen all along the stigmas.

The plant grouping this one belongs to is curious in one respect. In the woodland bed the peonies are planted in pairs, with one of each on the southerly side of the strip bed, and the other on the northerly side. In all cases except ruprechtiana the more southerly plant is larger and more vigorous than the northerly one of the pair which it shades somewhat. This indicates to me that this species seems to prefer even more shade -- or that there's something going on in a little pocket of lucky soil.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Where mortals fear to tread - Paeonia ruprechtiana

Another beauty (well, they all are according to me), Paeonia ruprechtiana (synonyms P daurica subsp daurica and about a dozen other names) is very similar to P mascula. However the single most differentiating difference is that it's seeds are globular, according to JJ Halda. To me there is a difference in quality of the leaf (please don't ask me to explain just what! and I'm not saying it is better or worse, just different) and the pollen sacs of the anthers are reddish here as opposed to yellow on P mascula, although Halda indicates that even the anther filament colour is not uniform through the range of the species.

Please keep in mind that I'm using the name on the label the seed arrived with. Distinctions between some of these very similar species and subsp are often beyond my ability effectively to apply the botanical descriptions of the books to the actual plant sitting in front of me. (That's the part where this mortal fears to tread.)

The size of the bud! This impressive thing is on a plant in my woodland bed. The rest of them were not as large.

This species ranges from SE Europe to the Caucasus. My plants are from seed reportedly (3rd hand) wild collected in the SW of the Republic of Georgia (Not Georgia USA, but over in the Caucasus region.) Its' natural environment is woodlands and mountainsides in the subalpine zone and lower. Here it is equally vigorous in part shade as in my woods; I didn't have enough plants to put any in the open field yet.
Finally a decent day for a bike ride. Even my old legs are faster than the black flies, and they haven't figured out how to set a mass ambush yet, so it was nice to be outdoors and not have the things setting up house in ears and eyes and nose. (ok, small exaggeration...)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Another look - Paeonia mascula

Is this marvelous flower a hybrid peony or within the range of variation of the species Paeonia mascula? I know not ... as a gardener I really like it no matter what, while the purist in me would really like to know what label to stick on it.

And here is a fully developed flower of P mascula. Quite huge, and blowsy in texture, a noteable show.

In one of my other worlds, the Canadian Under-20 men's soccer team has just finished a 3-game friendly series against Brazil's team. In one of the ironies of soccer, yesterday's match ended 3-1 for Brazil but 3 of the goals were scored by Canadian players, and only 1 by a Brazilian. Other end, guys. Oh, forced errors. Never mind my wry dig, it was a good go by our guys and I was fairly impressed by the skills and soccer sense of our team. The game has come a long way in a relatively few years here. Sure, not up to the class of Brazilian skills but quite respectable. Fun to watch. Game 1 was a 2-1 Canadian victory and well won, game 2 (not televised) was reportedly a near thing but ended at 3-1 Brazil.

A bit of comic relief provided by the commentators in game 3 when, after the ball pinged around off players from both teams for awhile, "Australia comes away with the ball". My word!, three-sided soccer? Australia's participation in the game was confirmed to us later when they were reported to have launched an attack towards the Canadian net (yeah sure, gang up on the underdog) which was foiled by our defence and by the commentator's hearing what he had said (and correcting it, darn). Apparently the Australian national soccer uniform deludedly dares to be a near? look-alike of the Brazilian...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A close Peony relative- Glaucidium palmatum

Looking back in time by several days to Glaucidium palmatum. Native to a few of the islands of Japan in thickets and woodlands of mountainous areas. Except for the leaf shape which is more like some Podophyllums (Mayapples) or Maples, it is similar to peonies in effect and habits (some botanists include it in family Paeonaceae, others in Ranunculaceae (Buttercups)); others place it in a family of its own. Rated hardy to USDA zone 4 in some references, and is finally doing okay for me here. Doesn't take as long to flower from seed as the rest of the Peonies, a mere 3 years as opposed to 5 to 7 -- or even more.

A quiet plant with nice foliage, clump-forming and from 1 to 2 feet tall although still short (around 6 inches) when flowering here. Flowers opened at about the same time as Paeonia tomentosa, 14 May and by today only a few tattered petals are hanging on. It comes in 3 main colours: lavender, white and pink.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Another species, another colour- Paeonia mascula

Today's beauty is Paeonia mascula, a very ornamental, widespread native of southern Europe: into north-central France and into Austria, around to N Africa (in the mountains): around the Mediterranean. It comprises a complex (or grouping) comprising several subspecies formerly considered of species status. The "type" is native to S Italy, Sicily, Greece and Asia Minor. Populations are somewhat disjunct so it is quite variable. A number of references consider it hardy only to USDA zone 8 but it is happy enough here so is good to Zone 5 or colder; to some degree it may depend on the area of origin of the seed. The true species has 5inch purple flowers, with purple filaments; large sharply-pointed handsome leaves. (Apparently a hybrid often masquerades as mascula? I lack the ability to count leaf hairs and interpolate colour shades sufficiently to say if mine are the true thing or a hybrid.) I have a couple of pinker flowered plants which are not quite open yet, you'll see a pic of them here later in the week.

First flower opened 2 days ago.

My plants of mascula are about equally vigorous in all of my 3 growing regimes (or areas, if you prefer) although shorter in the open field, but are not as vigorous as those of tomentosa. This photo is of the group (4 plants) in part shade; you can see a bit of variation in flower colour.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Kick-off - Paeonia tomentosa

Once upon a time my website had a "Pic of the Day" page, which I discontinued this year. It had the disadvantages of crowding the available webspace and of zero archives. Then my e-pal Denis, in Australia, another peony enthusiast, introduced me to a the weblog concept. I never really clutched into it until suddenly the peony season was upon me, and so here we go...

Today's post should actually have appeared a week ago but I hadn't made the mental leap yet at that point. So:

15 May 2006: Paeonia tomentosa (synonym Paeonia wittmaniana subsp. wittmaniana), one of the many species peonies from the Caucasus region, showed me its bloom today for the first time. A surprise decent yellow (I hadn't been reading the books lately): so yellow that when I saw it in the field a couple of days ago (different plant!, same seed batch) I mistook the flower for a mlokosewitschii (more on that one in a week or few). Leaves fuzzy on back, but pointy and greener than mloko. More vigorous, and more sun and drought tolerant than mloko.

Flowers open pale yellow and fade to ivory; they last about a week to 10 days. Stigmas and anther filaments are reddish purple. Leaves are large and lush, a good landscape plant. I expect another colourful show in fall when the seedpods ripen and fold open.

This species does well in the partial shade of the display beds near the house, and is also good but less vigorous in an open field and in my test bed in the woods. Flowering was first in the field, 2 days later in the display bed, and 4 days after that in the woods. This photo is of a group of 3 plants in the part-shade bed. Plants in the background are other species of peony which will flower later.