I never thought anything would replace allium as the showiest flower in my May-into-June garden. But the Itoh peony 'Bartzella' (what an unattractive name for such a magnificent flower) has finally gotten mature enough to bloom like crazy, and it's definitely the star right now. Each exquisite blossom must be 5-6 inches across, with feathery anthers and subtle gradations of color on its petals as if it's had the priciest of highlighting jobs. No dull, flat, uniform color for this beauty.
In this new little garden in Langley I didn't have room to grow the yellow tree peony Lutea that I'd loved in my old garden. So I subbed in the smaller, sturdier yellow Itoh version, with lovely, divided foliage and these intensely ruffled, softly fragrant, butter-colored flowers.
Itoh peonies are a cross between the herbaceous garden peonies that die down in the winter, and tree peonies which are imposing woody plants that take up more room than you'd ever believe a peony would need. The result is a hybrid with the exotic looks of a tree peony, but the stature and growing cycle of a herbaceous peony. This is one of those truly successful horticultural efforts where the sum is more than the parts....and the parts were pretty impressive to start with in the case of peonies.
Itoh peonies grow vigorously, are disease resistent, and put forth such a mind-boggling number of big, double flowers that it seems like they bloom much longer than the older versions of peonies.
There are two new kinds this year in the nurseries from Monrovia, including the bright pink 'Takara' and the uniquely colored 'Misaka'(left), a warm, blushing cream centered with dabs of coral on the inner petals.
But I've never yet seen any peony as absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous as 'Kopper Kettle' which is just coming into bloom in my garden this year for the first time...the foliage is strong, spreading and tinted with purple and the blossoms are more coppery orange (less pink-tinted) than in the official portrait below....really, have you ever seen anything prettier? I'm torn between cutting one to bring inside and leaving the flowers outside in the hopes they'll bloom longer....
Photos courtesy of Monrovia....