Over the past couple of weeks, the garden staff of Coastal Maine Botanical Garden has been getting together to walk around and critique each other’s garden spaces. This has been a great exercise for the gardeners and horticulturalists to look back over the year and see what worked and what needs to be improved. It has been wonderful for me as I am still learning the gardens, the plants, and how each person gardens in their area. We can have some rather lengthy discussions on what should be done next. If you are a gardener, then you know just how passionate and opinionated all of us can be about our gardens and plants. Of all of the thousand or so plants we discussed, one plant, hands down, was a crowd favorite. That plant was Paeonia ‘Bartzella.’ The Bartzella peony drew oohs and aahs from all of our staff.
For our garden, the big (6-8″ wide), yellow flowers come on in June and flower over a 5 week period. Once this plant is established, it will fill out to become a 3′ by 3′ clump. Bartzella is one of the newer group of peonies called Itoh or intersectional hybrids. This means that they are hybrids that result from the cross breeding of a tree peony with an herbaceous peony. The name Itoh is in honor of Mr. Toichi Itoh, the first person to successfully hybridize these plants. The result is a plant that is tough and reliable like an herbaceous peony with the big foliage and flowers of the tree peony.
Itoh peonies do die back to the ground in late fall but re-emerge each spring. To me, that is the best of both worlds because I love the flowers on tree peonies but I don’t like that they look half-dead when not in flower. The herbaceous peony genetics yield a more garden-worthy plant. The Bartzella peony is hardy from zones 4-8 so it should do well for most gardens. You can plant it in most garden conditions, we have ours in a raised bed with sun for most of the day. I am looking for spaces to add more of this peony along with other Itoh peonies in 2013 because they are gorgeous and somewhat easy to grow. - Rodney