Friday, 8 March 2013

Plant of the Century - My choice

As our days here in the Northern Hemisphere are getting longer, more often than not our minds will drift to the summers past and the summers future.  We really must spare a thought for those gardeners and designers who are being asked to nominate their 'plant of the centenary' for this year's show - they have quite a task on their hands.

If you would like more information please check out Michelle's blog over at Veg Plotting.

I must really thank her for the mention - so Thank you Michelle.

Without any fore thought, pretty much like everything else in my life, I nominated Herbaceous Peonies.  Even a keen beginner gardener like me know that these plants are steeped in history and go back through many centuries, millennia even!  So a strange choice indeed for my plant of the century - I know - but now I need to put my money where my mouth is, don't I!

A stalwart of English County Gardens for years -  the Herbaceous Peony has faced a decline in popularity over the last century but is now, according to some sources, regaining popularity, especially here in the UK.

If asked to choose my favourite peony - I doubt very much that I could do that - I covet these beauties and each time I visit my local nursery during peony flowering time, I get lost in the moment!  They specialise in Peonies and indeed won a medal at their first Chelsea Show last year.  More about them in a later blog!  I wonder what/if they will nominate - I must ask next time I'm along.

Here's what I managed to come up with.......

A favourite peony in my garden has to be dependable Sarah Bernhadt - As it's considered rude to ask a lady her age please keep it to yourself that she was introduced in 1906 - thus making her 7 years too old to qualify.

Paeony lactifora Sarah Bernhardt (AGM)
introduced 1906

Another beautiful pink peony -  Peony lactiflora Bowl of Beauty.  One of the most popular and famous peonies around.  Meeting qualifying criteria - introduced in 1949.  Might it's popularity be worthy of a mention!  Awarded an AGM by the RHS - must mean it's in with a shout, surely!

Paeony lactiflora Bowl of Beauty (AGM)
introduced 1949
An early flowering peony Blaze - introduced in 1973 - is a possible id for this mystery unlabelled beauty in my garden.  Already gone from bud to leaf here in March.  Whilst I cannot be certain that this is in fact Blaze - it's the most likely candidate due to size, nature, flowering time etc.

Possibly Paeony lactiflora Blaze
introduced 1973
I hope I've managed to justify my nomination with just a couple of factual points.  There are of course 100s of peonies that would have been introduced since 1913 but my real reason for nominating is this:

Herbaceous Peonies will always hold a very special place in my heart.  Each time I see peonies, my thoughts and memories turn to my grandfather, we called him Papa - you have to imagine me saying that word with a Scots accent which sounds more like Pupu - quite unlike the way it would be pronounced in one of those British Periodic Dramas on TV.  We could never be classed as posh, that's for sure!

Being of farming stock - he was a big man, his hands best described as shovels.  When not working, he was a blacksmith to trade, he would, more often than not, be found out in his garden.  He grew all his own veg, had a huge greenhouse - my thoughts now wander to the smell of tomatoes in a greenhouse.  He always had rows and rows of Tatties (potatoes) - the largest Rhubarb clumps I can ever recall seeing and many more staples.  There was a friendly rivalry between him and his neighbour next door, his obsession was roses.  Many evenings were spent over the garden fence discussing goodness knows what!

When I was 3,  my mother and father decided their marriage was over - she, her pregnant bump (my brother) and I went back to stay with my Papa, he became and remained our father figure until his death just before my 20th birthday.


Down the entire length of his garden he had masses of peonies and dahlias - my passion for peonies comes from watching him tend his beds when I was little - we were never allowed to play in the 'back green' it was only for growing things and never would we be found with a balls, bicycles or the likes round the back.  There would be trouble if we were!  


I never did inherit his love of 'grow your own', pricking out seedlings, digging trenches (or what ever they are called) for potatoes, preparing the soil for his carrots, turnips, brussel sprouts and cabbages.  Nor do I look at Dahlia tubers in quite the same way he did.  Whilst I do appreciate Dahlia blooms - I consider them too high maintenance for me! Lifted and stored for winter - boxes filled the shed in winter months.  All the fiddling about he used to do out there in spring -  no - they are not for me but I will never say never! His affection for his beloved Peonies did rub off and I'm glad it did!

I very much doubt his peony collection was anything special - there was reds, pink and whites, doubles and singles - all like soldiers - standing to attention, probably afraid to put a foot wrong!

Incidentally, had my Papa been alive today, it would have been his centenary year too!

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did reminiscing and writing it.





  

        


33 comments:

  1. I've just begun to be interested in peonies. These are lovely, and your memories add a special dimension. Thank you.

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    1. Not a bad plant to have an interest in Helen!

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  2. I really enjoyed your reminiscences Angie. The only gardener in our family was my grandfather. Unfortunately I was very young when he passed away but I do have very faint memories similar to your own. He had dahlias too and in recent years I have started to grow them, they are a wonderful perennial and I have had a degree of success overwintering them in the ground.
    I love paeonies too. I particularly like their early Spring foliage which so often has lovely colour.

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    1. I glad you enjoyed Roger - it's nice to have memories, albeit faint/distant!
      Yes, the over wintering is what puts me off. I have spoken with a couple of gardeners who have them in terracotta pots and just lift the pots and let them dry out. I hope as time goes by your success increases.

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  3. What a lovely story, I also had my gardening interest started by my grandfather (my paternal grandfather), and being the oldest grandchild I was the only one who was allowed to ‘help’ him in the garden when we were children. When I was 7 years old we moved to the other side of the country and only saw my grandparents once a year if even that. But I can still remember many of the plants he had in his garden and what he taught me.

    I have a paeony in my garden too, it was here when I moved in so I have no idea how old it is and what its name is. I think it is at least 30 years old but could be almost 50. I have often wondered if it is Sarah Bernhard, just because it was a very popular paeony in the past, but mine is much paler pink than many photos I have seen of it so I am not sure. I love it, even if it flowers only for a short time.

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    1. It's good that you still remember all he taught you.
      Many folks inherit peonies and I know some of my grandfather's still grow in an old garden of mine and would probably be in excess of 40 years old!
      Their short flowering period is a bit of a draw back but having different varieties that flower at different times helps :)

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  4. It's nice to have a plant associated so closely with a loved one. My favorite herbaceous peony is a single red called 'America'.

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    1. Yes it is nice Jason - P. America is very similar to the dark one above. Lovely!

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  5. You bet I enjoyed it...such a beautiful and well written post. Thank you.

    Now you say, tulips don't do well in your garden (on my blog) and then I read, your papa's peonies stood like soldiers. Well...mine flop like mad and I am getting fed up with them now. A little peony envy perhaps at my end ))))

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    1. Gardeningbren - we are never happy are we? I followed in his footsteps by providing good support. A must have for peonies I feel!

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  6. I love paeonies, but it takes them quite a while to get settled. They tend to be floppy here too, no sign of them standing as soldiers...

    I have noticed most gardeners have gardening memories of a dear family member. Both my grandfathers loved gardening and when I think of them I usually see them puttering around the house and the garden. When I'm gardening, somehow they do not feel far away and gone at all.

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    1. Linda - as I stated above - support is important. Mines would be rather floppy too but introducing support very early is what is needed!
      Yes, it appears lots of us have memories and it's nice to get taken back to those places :)

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  7. What a lovely post about your beloved grandpa and his peonies, no wonder they have such a special place in your heart. Like you, I love peonies and have quite a few here, the frillier and blousier the better although my absolute favourite has to be P. mlokosowitschii, such a lovely pale yellow single.

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    1. Pauline - P. mlokosowitschii is a beauty!! I've a yellow Itoh hybrid - the only yellow one I have. You favourite might just be added to my wish list!

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  8. I enjoyed your very good story so much. It does remember me to my own grandfather who died already a long time ago. When I was a child he learned me everything about vegetable gardening. I remember he knew all Latin names of flowers, herbs and vegetables and his favourite flowers were carnations. I'm fond of Paeonies too, but also growing Dahlias and so on.
    Thank you for this lovely post.

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    1. Janneke - Carnations - another lovely flower for you to remember your grandfather. I'll be looking forward to seeing your blooms later in the year!

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  9. I loved your post! What sweet memories of your Papa. He sounds like a wonderful man, and his garden sounds beautiful. And I think the peony would make a marvelous plant of the century. They are such classics, with such a beautiful bloom. They definitely get my vote!

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    1. HolleyGarden - thank you so much for supporting my choice!
      Classic sums them up beautifully!

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  10. Thanks for sharing these memories with us and for demonstrating your love for peonies - I think the one in my header is probably 'Sarah Bernhardt', although it hasn't flowered well for a few years now. It's one of the very few flowering plants that were in the garden when we came. I wonder whereabouts in Edinburgh you are - I was born there and we lived in Warrender Park Crescent till I was 10.

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    1. Ramblinginthegarden - if your Sarah Bernhardt isn't flowering so well - perhaps it's time to consider lifting and dividing (autumn time for that)
      I live in Newbridge - right on the boundary with West Lothian. Probably still part of West Lothian when you were here!
      Warrender Park - a lovely part of the city, very vibrant and very 'studenty'.

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  11. I can't imagine me not having peonies in my garden Angie. I loved learning so much more about them.

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    1. I would hate to consider my garden without peonies Donna - I have them in the front/back and side gardens!!

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  12. How do you or your papa made the peonies stand? Mine all the fall down on ground. I love their smell. The blooming of my peonies will bring back the memory of my mother who passed away recently and loved those flowers :-(.

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    1. It's nice to associate loved ones with plants which grow in our garden - as a constant reminder plants do this job well.
      I've commented re support on your blog but for anyone else interested - it's all about support!

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  13. Thought I recognised your Gravatar, I have already left a comment on this post, looking forward to seeing more of your garden as the months go by, thanks for leaving a message on mine!

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  14. I'm a big fan of peonies too! I just have two, but wish I had room for more. Seeing their red shoots coming up in late winter is always a sign that spring is on it's way. I can just imagine how pretty your Papa's garden was! My Poppa was a gardener and there are flowers that remind me of him.

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  15. Hi Angie - thank you for expanding your comment into a wonderful story. I very much enjoyed reading it and so pleased my question inspired you to write it :)

    I have a very ordinary peony (as you probably saw in my post!), but it was a gift from my aunt in law when we bought this house and only had a turfed, sloping garden. That's what makes it special :)

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    1. How could I not expand! Plant gifts are the best gifts. I've lots of specials too.

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  16. What a lovely post Angie, it is funny how key people in our lives can live on in our love for plants, I always feel close to my Grandad when I am in the veg garden. I know next to nothing about peonies, so I enjoyed learning a little more.

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    1. Janet I'm glad you've learnt a week bit more

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  17. I like peonies but have the wrong soil for them. Lovely to read about your family too.

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    1. Thanks Esther. I've the wrong soil for a few things I'd love to grow. Gardening is always challenging us!

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