Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Itoh Peonies

Plants for the Discerning Gardener

Posted By: in Perennials
itoh peony

My first experience with Itoh peonies was over 15 years ago when a colleague of mine from Alberta sent me a small plant of 'Bartzella' that he had just gotten from hybridizer Roger Anderson (Fort Atkinson, Wisc.), at that time the bare cost was $500.

Those days are long past and now the Itoh peony is widely available with many more varieties being offered and for much less than $500!

To this day 'Bartzella' still gets visitors to stop and marvel as it is such a stunning sight in full bloom.

Paeonia x Itoh

Intersectional Hybrid Peony

In 1948, Japanese nurseryman Toichi Itoh did what many though not possible, crossing a tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) with a herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora). This created a whole new plant that had the best of both worlds; bushy and compact with attractive foliage and large flowers in colours not previously seen in peonies.

Itoh made thousands of crosses before getting the plants he was seeking, however it took eight years after his death to see the first of his crosses bloom. Since then many hybridizers have worked hard to create some absolutely outstanding hybrids.

Itoh peonies die to the ground in winter like their herbaceous parent but have the sturdy stems of a tree peony which enable the flowers to be help upright even during heavy rains. These sturdy, uniform plants look good through the seasons, are hardy and tough and have greater resistance to blight and disease. For our West coast climate these are probably one of the best peonies to grow.

Itoh peonies like full sun to light shade, are fairly tolerant of most soil types but must have good drainage. Being heavy bloomers they do appreciate a rich fertile soil and a yearly dressing of well rotted compost or manure in the fall.

Most range in size from 75-100cm with an equal or greater spread, all are very hardy and can tolerate temperatures below -30 degrees Celsius (Zone: 4).

Popular Itoh Varieties

bartzella itoh peony

'Bartzella'

Still one of the best hybrids that produces an abundance of fragrant, semi-double to full double flowers from late spring into summer. Each flower can measure 20cm or more across and is bright yellow with orange flares at the base. A vigorous hybrid that can produce up to 50 blooms on a mature specimen.
keiko itoh peony

'Keiko' - Adored

Large (15cm), lightly fragrant, semi-double to double dark lavender-pink flowers that fade to soft pink with bright yellow stamens.
kopperkettle itoh peony

'Kopper Kettle'

Upright grower with lush green foliage and large semi-double to double flowers that are a unique blend of red, yellow and orange giving an overall coppery look.
misaka itoh peony

'Misaka' - Beautiful Blossom

A fantastic new introduction with attractive finely cut foliage that is bronzy when young. 'Misaka' is a heavy bloomer that produces many secondary buds which prolongs the blooming season. Mature flowers can be 20cm or more across and begin as dark orange buds that open soft orange fading to peachy-yellow then yellow with very prominent dark red central flares. Flowers have a mild, pleasant fragrance.
takara itoh peony

'Takara' - Treasure

Delightful peony that provides an ever-changing blend of colours, from pink to light yellow flushed with deep lavender pink which finally fades to pale white with a large dark burgundy central flare. Blooms measure 15cm and start to bloom in early May and continue through June.
yellow doodle dandy itoh peony

'Yellow Doodle Dandy'

A great selection with large double flowers of soft butter yellow; lightly fragrant.
yumi itoh peony

'Yumi' - Beauty

Masses of lightly fragrant blooms are held above a compact mound of dark green foliage. Each clear yellow flower is a perfect double form up to 20cm across.

Most, if not all of these Itoh Peonies are available at Art's Nursery on a regular basis. Please call ahead to confirm availability if you are making a special trip for one of these beauties. Believe me, it's worth the trip...

Lyle Courtice A.H.

Lyle Courtice A.H.

Lyle is a certified Horticultural Technician (Niagara College), Landscape Designer, Nurseryman and the proprietor of HarkAway Botanicals.

Since 1980 Lyle has worked in both the retail and wholesale sectors of the horticultural trade; he operates his own wholesale nursery, which focuses on an eclectic mix of rare and choice plant material from Asia, Europe and North America. Lyle has appeared on The Canadian Gardener and is a contributing author to A Grower’s Choice (Raincoast books 2001).

His horticultural expertise makes him sought after as a consultant, lecturer, photographer, instructor and writer. An industry veteran, Lyle is esteemed within the horticultural community for his passionate and often humorous enthusiasm for plants.

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