Peonies forum: 2018 Song Sparrow Nursery Open Greenhouse Day

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chicago, illinois (Zone 6a)
peonyplan
May 13, 2018 10:08 PM CST
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.

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The office, shipping and indoor shopping area.

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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.

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Retail list

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.

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House 13

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House 14

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.

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Ambrose Congreve

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Ambrose Congreve

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Ezra Proud

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Hinode Sekai

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Hinode Sekai

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.

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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.

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Tria

Dojean: many plants have a couple of fat buds. One plant has a dead bud, though.

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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.

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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.

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Joanna Gilbert

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Hephestos

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Burgundy Wine

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.

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The surroundings.

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.



chicago, illinois (Zone 6a)
peonyplan
May 13, 2018 10:09 PM CST
If I said "today" anywhere in the post, I actually meant Saturday, May 12.
Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
Image
Mieko2
May 14, 2018 9:03 AM CST
Thank you for all the details, Peonyplan. It sounds like a wonderful trip!!

Are you going to leave your new TP in their pots for the summer or are you going to plant it in the ground?

LG - My garden grows with love and a lot of hard work.
chicago, illinois (Zone 6a)
peonyplan
May 14, 2018 10:51 AM CST
Hi LG, I will keep them potted and change to larger pots in the fall. I am renting now so do not really have a place to plant them.
Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
Image
Mieko2
May 14, 2018 11:39 AM CST
Sounds like a good plan! I have a friend who has had TP in very large pots for years!!

LG - My garden grows with love and a lot of hard work.
chicago, illinois (Zone 6a)
peonyplan
May 14, 2018 2:13 PM CST
Thank you, LG. Will post updates about my plants later in this post.
chicago, illinois (Zone 6a)
peonyplan
May 19, 2018 6:01 PM CST
"Burgundy wine" bloomed Thursday, much sooner than I expected. The color and form is exactly what I was looking for. Very happy with this one.

Thursday
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Friday
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Name: LG
Nashvillle (Zone 7a)
Peonies Hummingbirder Hostas Region: Tennessee Butterflies Garden Photography
Image
Mieko2
May 20, 2018 4:49 AM CST
Peonplan, that is an amazing bloom! What a great color. I am so happy that you got exactly what you wanted!!
LG - My garden grows with love and a lot of hard work.
Name: Karen
Southeast PA (Zone 6b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Image
kousa
May 20, 2018 7:55 AM CST
peonyplan said:"Burgundy wine" bloomed Thursday, much sooner than I expected. The color and form is exactly what I was looking for. Very happy with this one.

Thursday
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Friday
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Wow, that is one gorgeous peony and color! I wonder how BW compares to Pluto as far as color is concerned. Are they similar or one is darker than the other?
chicago, illinois (Zone 6a)
peonyplan
May 20, 2018 9:36 AM CST
Hi LG, thank you!

Hi Karen, good point. I do not have Pluto but I think it is also one that I prefer. Those dark red/maroon colors all look to vary a lot under different lighting conditions. I will try to compare it with Pluto and Black Panther if I make it to this year's APS convention and Adelman Gardens. Sadly, some petals dropped this morning. I took a picture against some white paper. It was cloudy.
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littlebin
May 20, 2018 12:45 PM CST
BW seems a suffruticosa, should be more silky and shiny, Pluto is a Lutea hybrid, the petals should be thick and waxy.

Perhaps I think not just the color, also the texture. I prefer silky than waxy.

kousa said:

Wow, that is one gorgeous peony and color! I wonder how BW compares to Pluto as far as color is concerned. Are they similar or one is darker than the other?


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