Itoh Peony – Low Maintenance Beauty and Thrills for All
What’s all the fuss about the new Itoh (say it Eeetoe) peony? These new plants eliminate the only weak point of the old fashioned peony, the weak stems which can really spoil the flowers in our often wild and wet spring weather. Okay, they do cost three times as much as the old fashioned but read on.
Why do we want peonies anyway? They are EASY and will outlive you!! The flower is fabulous, fragrant and since the 1400’s has been filled with historical and cultural significance for us humans. My grandmother loved them and picked an armload for the house and to decorate the family graves on Memorial Day.
I grew up loving to play and work in her garden and today I love these new peonies as well because:
#1 Later Bloom – June not May
#2 Sturdy fibrous stems
#3 Bigger flowers in new colors
Itoh cost more than the old fashioned so expect $50 to $100 for a medium priced plant. The tissue cultured plants may be cheaper but I don’t recommend them because they are not as strong rooted. This will effect how many flowers you get on your plant year after year and this is a plant where the flower really matters. The dissected foliage is great but hey it’s about the flower this time.
Here is my best source for peony of any kind, herbaceous, tree or Itoh. Rick Rogers is a second generation peony designer and grower in Silverton, Oregon. His father is an international star of the peony world. Rick grows peonies the old fashioned way, propagating new peonies by extracting these perfect bits of root stock. Taking these cuttings is an art form and his plants will outgrow and out flower tissue culture generated plants easily. Rick’s nursery is called Treony……www.treony.com. Email him for his list of Itoh if he doesn’t have them on his web yet. Also see Wayside Gardens web site, (with fabulous close up of the flowers). Their plants are a lot smaller however than what Rick offers. These are a lifetime investment. They will outlive you and can be dug when you move but plan to dig very very deep.
Now regarding NO FEAR gardening. The Itoh peony can test your ability to postpone gratification. The first year, cut off all flower buds, do not let any of them flower!!!! that takes faith, hence NO FEAR. The second year, let yourself have one flower and cut all the rest off while they are still buds. The third year, let them rip uhm……….flower. Those who cannot do this may have to wait ten years to get anything near the number of flowers that you, gentle but fierce gardener, will have. It rewards those gardeners who can take the long approach to getting their kicks. I think perhaps Dulcy Mahar would have recommended nibbling on some good chocolate while you cut off the buds. I can assure you having an Itoh peony with 40 blooms on it will stop you in your tracks so it is worth it. Did I mention the plant has very attractive foliage, is low water and has golden fall color as well?