Saturday, May 12, 2018. Song Sparrow Nursery open greenhouse day. It opens from 8 am to noon. I arrived a little earlier than 9 am and stayed there till noon. The weather is not good--cold and wet, and windy. It rained before and after I toured the nursery. But interestingly, while I was there, it did not rain at all. In that sense, it was a very pleasant weather for me. I was expecting something much worse. Tree peonies are what I am looking for there.
The office, shipping and indoor shopping area.
The greenhouses. They have more than 50 of them. They provided boxes and wagons for you to move things around.
Upon arrival, one is given a retail list that has all plants they have to offer today. The plants are in alphabetical order. Tree peonies are on the last two pages. Itohs are pages earlier. The staff told me if a plant is marked as "sold out" or "backordered", even you see some in the greenhouse, they are actually reserved and not available. I noticed that "sold out" and "backordered" items do not have prices on the list. I did see some tree and itoh peonies that are sold out online but present in the greenhouses. Also, their online catalog/website/inventory system is very accurate. Varieties not online are not offered onsite, either. The "sold out" and "backordered" information are also exactly the same as their website.
They have more than 50 green houses, of which more than half are not open today, with the sign "Not For Sale—Growing". 3 greenhouses H13, H14, H15 are dedicated to peonies. H15 is half unoccupied, so that makes 2.5 greenhouses of peonies. Itohs are in H15, occupying a quarter of that house. There are only about 10~15 potted herbaceous peonies, but those are not on the list. Others are all tree peonies.
Maybe 3/4 of the tree peonies are single woody branch; some have two branches. A few even have 3 or 4 branches. Different varieties are also sorted in alphabetical order in the greenhouses, as I recall later tonight.
Most varieties there are 15~40 plants to choose from, and you can find some plants with one bud (or maybe more). For some varieties there are less than 10 to choose from. For "Alice in Wonderland" and "Joseph Rock Double", I believe I did not see any plants with flower buds. Also, I did not see any "Age of Gold", which I noticed weeks ago were "backordered".
3 varieties are currently about to bloom, in a couple of days or within a week: Ambrose Congreve, Ezra Pound, and Hinode Sekai. (Many of these plants have at least one fat bud) I saw a couple took a Hinode Sekai with a large bud after seeing the flower about to open on another plant. I guess I would have probably done the same thing if I did not have a prepared list.
Varieties that have more flower buds (in Song Sparrow's greenhouses, not necessarily "floriferous" by nature):
Wanceda Princess: they offer the most generous plants for this variety. One plant has 3 branches, 8 buds (all already reasonable size and look very promising), incredible! I think the "very floriferous" part in the description on their website for this one is obviously true. However, their photo probably did not do it justice. After I got back and checked other photos of "Wanceda Princess" out there online, I regret not buying one.
Wanceda Princess. The plant closet to you have 3 stems and 8 buds! Wow!
Tria: some plants have 3 or 4 buds. Some are side buds, typical of this variety.
Dojean: many plants have a couple of fat buds. One plant has a dead bud, though.
Dojean. I noticed a dead bud on one plant. That was the only dead bud I saw the whole day there on all their peonies.
Joseph Rock: some plants have a couple of buds
Yachiyo Tsubaki: some plants have a couple of buds
Other interesting things:
Urania: One plant is about 4 feet high, including this year's new growth, but excluding the height of the pot. That is so tall! Either the scions they used for this variety are super long (and older), or could it be the previous year's growth? I did not look very carefully.
Urania. How tall is this plant!
Hana Kisoi: this one was on my list and I thought it was common and reliable but I did not see a single plant with buds.
Shimane Chojuraka: one plant with a very large bud. It was on my list, but I finally passed on it.
I narrowed down to three varieties, Joanna Gilbert, Hephestos, and Burgundy wine. Joanna Gilbert is my must-have. Finally, I had to pass on the APS Gold Medal winner, Hephestos. It can be found elsewhere and I did not see one of imposing size. I chose Burgundy wine instead, which is their own cultivar and has some aspects which I prefer over Hephestos. Hopefully, this one won't let me down.
Surrounding this place, there are endless farmlands. Not sure which lands are actually operated by Song Sparrow and it is not easy to see what are growing there on those fertile dark lands. Maybe the plants are just emerging due to cold weather this spring.
Overall it is an interesting tour and very worthwhile. It is only time of the year Song Sparrow will open its greenhouses for onsite shopping. Once you are there, you can pick the healthiest plants and those with buds to enjoy first year blooms. I did buy two tree peonies. I prepared a list of 8 but I had to refrain. Obviously, I did not expect that some varieties not on my list are in superb conditions at their nursery. I do regret now that I did not have any idea of "Wanceda Princess" previously.