On 16th March Alec White joined us to talk about Peonies and Alstroemerias. Alec is the owner of Primrose Hall Peonies an eight acre nursery in Westoning, Bedfordshire. In 2012 Alec started exhibiting Peonies at the major garden shows and in 2019 the nursery won its first gold medal at Chelsea. Exhibiting peonies is tricky as they have a short flowering window and do not respond well to forcing. The stand at Chelsea takes about a week to build, the flowers are put into the display on Saturday and the judges start their rounds at 7am the following Monday. All the hard work paid off as his gold medal was the first to be awarded for peonies in eight years.
Primrose Hall Nursery holds the Plant Heritage National Collection for unusual Intersectional peonies. Intersectional are a cross between herbaceous and tree peonies and Alec grows these as well. On site, between 60 and 70,000 peonies are grown in the fields and in containers. There are currently 370 varieties in commercial production. There is a breeding programme and new varieties are being developed each year; the process from seed to established plant takes 8-10 years. The mature plants are sold to the public in 5.5 litre pots.
Alec gave us a wealth of information on the requirements of peonies. They are hardy down to minus 25 degrees C. They are low maintenance and are relatively pest free. They like a free draining soil, a sunny position and the herbaceous and intersectional varieties should not be planted too deeply. Cut them down to ground level in the late Autumn and ensure they are well watered in the spring when the buds are forming. Tree peonies can be planted more deeply. They can grow up to 9 feet tall and respond well to pruning. All peonies are long lived and, once established, will continue to flower for many decades. They make an excellent cut flower. Different varieties flower from April through to July so it is possible to have a succession of flowers in the garden.
The nursery also grows over 30,000 alstroemeria plants and these are marketed through the website Alstroemeria Select. This plant originated in Peru so it is used to the cold. However, it does like a free draining soil and lots of sun. It is a good idea to mulch the plants in winter and give a high potash feed in the summer. The plants are sold in 9cm pots, they flower continually from June to November, make great border fillers and are excellent as a long lasting cut flower. The dwarf varieties make good container plants.
There were lots of questions for Alec who was able to answer all the queries on depth of planting, pruning, feeding and moving and yes he is going to be at Chelsea this year when it takes place in September. It was a joy to have discussion with someone as knowledgable and passionate about his subject as Alec and members were clearly keen to know more about these stunning plants.
Please join us next month on Zoom on 20th April when Kathy Brown will be advising us on how to grow distinctive containers. Details can be found on our website. As usual this meeting will be open to all members and visitors.
New members and visitors are always welcome.
For more information contact: Linda Truscott on 01234 270747
Click here for Primrose Hall Peonies website