Intersectional Peonies

Posted by Jacob Stidham on

This little, long story has many dates we could start with.  Going back to the 1940's when Theodore Klein purchased the property that is today Yew Dell Botanical Gardens, we could connect how we are once again producing plants for the community.  About 4 years ago the idea was put into motion to develop, once again, a production nursery at Yew Dell.  We are going to go into detail on January 9th, 2019 though.  I had been at Yew Dell for exactly 1 year, it had finally stopped raining long enough for us to begin leveling some ground for our new greenhouses, and Paul was away at MANTS (Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show) in Baltimore.  We had finally broken ground to build a nursery with the plan to grow more, cool, harder to find, and great plants for our community.  While I was trying to figure out exactly where each new greenhouse should go at Yew Dell, Paul was in Baltimore looking for plants to fill them up with and making connections with a plant tissue culture lab!  Fast forward two days until January 11th.  I came into work and there was a small package on my desk labeled 'Sequestered Sunshine'.  The tissue culture lab had given Paul 10 starts of an intersectional peony to try out.  Now before we go any further I guess I should take a moment to explain how amazingly excellent this was.  Intersectional peonies are a cross between your old fashioned herbaceous peony and a tree peony.  Basically, these hybrids take the life cycle of the herbaceous peonies that die back to the ground each year and add the flower size of the tree peony and the stem strength to hold them up.  Anyone who has grown a peony knows how easily they are to divide but it takes a long time to get them up to a size that allows for it.  Tissue culture allows for the propagation of thousands of plants from a small amount of plant tissue.  This was it.  This is why the nursery was being developed at Yew Dell again.  Before these amazing peonies were being tissue cultured they were being produced by division which was time consuming and very costly.  Seeing an intersectional peony being sold for more than $100 dollars wasn't unusual, it was the norm.  Now fast forward to February 28, 2019.  We received our first shipment of tissue cultured intersectional peonies.  When they were first planted in a 4.5" container our Horticulture Apprentice at the time, Isabel helped me pot them up.  In the fall of 2020 our Nursery Assistant Cosmo and volunteer Martin repotted them into a 6.5" trade gallon (2.5qt) that they spent their 2nd winter of dormancy at Yew Dell in.  Now, as I write this message on March 2nd, 2021 I am just thrilled to know we will be offering some of these plants for sale in the morning, exactly 2 years and 3 days since we received the first order. The story of a plant in someone's garden can start from a seed given to them by a friend or have connections that may go back years or decades and start with a dream and a passion for great plants.

See you in the garden!


Remington the garden cat checking out the first day of ground leveling for the new greenhouses on January 9th, 2019.
One of the first 'Sequestered Sunshine' that Paul brought back from MANTS and left on my desk on January 11th, 2019.
The box that over 400 of the peonies were delivered to Yew Dell in on February 28th, 2019.
The peonies about to be unpacked in our glasshouse on March, 1st, 2019.
A tissue cultured peony about to being planted on March 1st, 2019.
A tissue cultured peony about to being planted on March 1st, 2019.
An overachieving tissue cultured peony about to being planted on March 1st, 2019.
Some of the intersectional peonies after waking up from their first winter at Yew Dell on March 25th, 2020.

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  • How can I purchase few peonies plants

  • That is a very interesting story !
    Question: that last photo showed hundreds of peonies !!! Who is going to buy them???
    Still wanting more Kopper Kettle !

    Mary Anne Thornton on

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