Three Tree Peony Dreams

In the beginning, there was but one.

It was white. (Links to posts about it can be seen at the end of this story)

The name is believed to be Paeonia ostii ‘Phoenix White’, in Chinese ‘Feng Dan Bai’.

It was noticed that bees loved to buzz around the carefully coiffed hairdo of the mustard yellow stamens, scattering pollen over the pristine white petals, then falling into a sleepy stupor.

This tree peony is growing at the far end of the knot garden at the top of the Fairegarden hill behind the main house. It is guarded by the loyal concrete foo dog, barely visible at the bottom middle of the image. A couple of years ago the zen gravel garden was added to the space. The tree peony had a portion overhanging the box. The sharp shovel was thrust downward at the base of the plant to remove, and replant elsewhere, the offending bit. It lives, that offending bit.

Occasionally but rarely, the second tree peony will be open at the same time as the first.

Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Hatsugarasu’, which means the early crow, or first crow of the year, alluding to the near black, actually more red, coloration, is growing well in the front of the bed known as the Azalea Walk. It too has been the subject of a previous post, link offered at the end.

The reds darken with age as the golden pollen sprinkles the petals with bee activity on warmer days.

Being younger than the white tree peony, it has fewer blooms, but is reliable in the yearly show that increases with age. These are plants for the patient gardener, expensive, slow to establish, but worth the waiting period.

Which brings us to the number three tree peony.

After the success of tree peonies one and two, the lust was lit within the shamelessly obsessed gardener’s heart. At a local nursery a large pot with a little six inch stick was noticed. It was instantly recognized as a tree peony stick, the tag had a photo of a beautiful purple bloom, Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kamatanishiki’, tapestry from the Kamata province in China. I gladly, well, with a smidge of tightwaddedness quickly brushed aside, paid the forty dollar price for this promising stick. For years we waited, making sure the little stick was protected from harm in the way of careless booted feet with a rock wall fortress. Extra water was given in times of drought, even though the tree peonies are drought tolerant once established. It grew, painfully slowly until this year, 2011, three buds emerged.

But, to paraphrase, *Southeast Tennessee, we have a problem*. Tree peony number three is beautiful beyond my wildest imaginings, seriously. But it is pink. In no realm of photoshopping heaven could this be called purple, or even lavender. Onward to the magic reference guide, Google, we go. Some of the photos claiming to be Kamatanishiki look similar to this pink, but most are more clearly shades of purple. More clicking reveals that there has been some confusion in the nursery trade with this one, sometimes sold with the wrong name. My friend Mr. McGregor’s Daughter helped me out with a suggestion of Kamata fuji. Due diligence has lead us to a ruling that this is indeed what we have growing here in the Fairegarden. Yes, thank you MMD!

May we hereby officially present the debutante debut of Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Kamata fuji’, which means Wisteria of the Kamata province. Long may she prosper here.

Someday, perhaps, the vision will be met of the decidious Azalea Walk in bloom, fronted by the three tree peonies with flowers unfurled, all together. At the base of the post with the concrete ball is the root cutting of White Phoenix. There is a very small bud on it. In the middle is Kamata fuji with three glorious open flowers, and far right is Hatsugarasu with one late bloom hanging on. Will it ever happen, the simultaneous bloom of dreams come true? Never say never.


Other Tree Peony posts for those who need more:

Tree Peony And White Feather
White Feather And Tree Peony Et Al
White Tree Peony Identity Discovered
Tree Peony Hatsugarasu


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26 Responses to Three Tree Peony Dreams

  1. Randy Emmitt says:

    I was on a web site looking at hellebores and found they had lots of tree peonies, one was $150 for a gallon pot. These are expensive but the blooms you have are so wonderful. So at the end of the season do they wilt back on the ridgid stem or does every thing wilt back?

    Hi Randy, thanks for visiting. Yes, the tree peonies can be very expensive. They do just as you say in the winter, the leaves fall off and the woody stems remain. You can often see the buds, still very tightly closed, through the winter. They bloom early in the spring and you can watch the buds start to swell even in February.

  2. Eileen says:


    You have convinced me – I have to have a tree peony! Right now, I have two plantings of Krinkled White, now a mission to fit in a glorious tree peony.


    Hi Eileen, hooray! I hope you are a patient gardener, though. 🙂

  3. Layanee says:

    The tree peonies have such lush flowers. The true ‘Party Girls’ (for they must be girls) of the garden. I love Kamata fuji and the fact that you hunted down her name with all the skill of a plant detective.

    Thanks Layanee. Google makes being a detective easy and fun. The tree peonies, esp this new pink one are frilly flirts! 🙂

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I would never say never. Under your care anthing might happen in the garden. I must say I love the way my tree peony looks when in bloom but I don’t have much patience with it. Usually about the time it blooms a severe storm comes through and knocks off the blooms. They just don’t last long. WHINE~~ I have even thought of getting rid of mine for that reason. It still sits there though, full of buds this time of year. I am hopeful that they last more than a day or two.

    Oh my, Lisa, get rid of your blooming tree peony??? Please don’t! I made a little weird cover for the pink one, we had tornado warnings the day it opened. Hardware cloth, wire, stakes, it was crazy looking, but saved those gigantic blooms. You can see the wires in some of the shots. It is true the blooms don’t last long, this year has been a good one for that.

  5. gail says:

    Dear Frances, Yes, a few of these gorgeous beauties must come to live here. I have the space, I have the place, but, I’ll have to change the name to the garden formally known as the Garden of Benign Neglect~Who could ignore/neglect any space with Wisteria of the Kamata province, White Phoenix or
    Early Crow! They are all lovely and I hope your dreams of a full blooming Azalea Walk come true! xxoogail

    Dear Gail, thanks so much. You do have the room and a name change would definitely be in order. The Azaleas are all opening now, the most together ever. Kamata fuji continues to shine. It is a compromise of the dream, but I’ll take it! 🙂

  6. Kathy says:

    I have the patience, yes. But the tightwaddedness must be dealt with. And I wonder if enough of the children have grown up that I would not have to fear for its safety. I will start contemplating promising locations.

    The price is always high, Kathy, that can be an obstacle. My original white was purchased at Walmart, a dried up stick in a box, for $15. Four were purchased, the one lived, so the cost was $45. Kamata fuji now seems a bargain at $40. If you get one, I would put a cage around it until the kids are all grown. You will probably have to wait that long for a bloom, anyway! 🙂

  7. Cindy, MCOK says:

    They’re all gorgeous, Frances! Since we can’t grow them, I will admire yours all the more.

    Thanks Cindy. You are welcome to come see mine anytime! 🙂

  8. Leslie says:

    Oh dear…must resist temptation! Those are just lovely and I hope to someday see the photo of that azalea/peony combination.

    Thanks, Leslie. I hope you can see the azaleas and peonies open together, I hope it happens someday. 🙂

  9. Absolutely gorgeous,no wonder you are so proud of them. We only have one so far, but there is room for more !!!

    Hi Pauline, thanks. Hooray for you having one of these treasured plants. Yes, always room for more. 🙂

  10. My tree peony yearnings must remain unrequited here in Austin, so thank you for sharing yours, Frances! Will you be tempted by one ot the pale yellow varieties next? They are so beautiful in photos.
    We also have a concrete foo dog on guard, but his wards are a Loropetalum ‘Plum Delight’ and a Magnolia figo instead of a peony.
    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Hi Annie, thanks for visiting! You must be psychic, because I have planted in that same bed the yellow Molly the Witch. We saw them in bloom in England last year, and it was doggedly tracked down. It is about two inches tall at present. I hope to live long enough to see it bloom. I remember your foo dog, love them! 🙂

  11. Your tree peonies are absolutely stunning! One is more beautiful than the other. I am wondering if I could grow them in my garden in San Diego, inland, too. Maybe it is too hot here. I have to do some research… Thanks for the inspiration!

    Thanks Christina. I hope you are able to grow these fabulous plants. Good luck with your research! 🙂

  12. p3chandan says:

    Your macro shots of the white peony were stunning! I love all the three colours. You have such a lovely garden!

    Thank you so much. I am glad you liked them. 🙂

  13. sequoiagardens says:

    I’ve done something you haven’t! I’ve grown tree peonies from seed! two of them. One even flowered…. once, a few years ago. I must check if it is still alive. I know the other is. It’s the yellow one with the long unpronounceable (Polish?) name starting with an m… Perhaps a little TLC is called for, rather than my ‘shape up or ship out’ approach!

    Well Jack, you have every reason to be proud! I have recently purchase a yellow with a long Polish name, nicknamed Molly the Witch. Paeonia mlokosewitschii. I wasn’t sure it was a tree peony, however, wikipedia says it is herbaceous, but what do they know? Mine was decapitated with days of being planted outside. It was only a couple of inches tall to begin with, but has regrown a leaf, so all is not lost. 🙂

    That’s the one! I can vouch for its tenacity, even if I can’t say much for its flowering power. Definitely a tree peony! I picked the seeds myself of a huge bush, and I’ve watched mine grow VERY slowly… Jack

    Good to know, Jack, thanks! Perhaps if there are ever seeds on my Molly, a long term germination project will ensue. 🙂

  14. ricki says:

    My book club gave me a gift certif for a tree peony when my mom died. It makes a wonderful, very special memorial plant. I still haven’t quite gotten the knack of pruning, though. Any tips?

    What a thought gift, Ricki, I am so sorry about your mom. Pruning? Are these to be pruned? I have never done so. Good luck with yours! 🙂

  15. Such a beautiful post Frances. You know, MMD inspired me to get my first tree peony, and I now have three too. May they all stand strong and prosper. They are all so different from herbaceous peonies. My question, has the intersectional peony bug hit yet? I keep looking at them, but oy! the price.~~Dee

    Thanks Dee. MMD is quite the inspiration, isn’t she? HA I have looked at the Itohs, but so far resisted their charms. Perhaps there is one of those with my name on it. 🙂

  16. Holley says:

    Your garden shot is gorgeous! I see why people fall in love with these plants – such a romantic bloom.

    Thanks Holley. Only for such a beautiful flower would gardeners pay the price and wait so long. All I can say is, worth it! 🙂

  17. Lovely as always. Lovely shot of the drunk bee 😉

    Thanks Sunny. I was surprised by the sleepy bee in midday, but when I jiggled the flower he woke up and flew away. I wanted to make sure he was still alive. He was. 🙂

  18. VERY beautiful! Stunning photos.

    Thanks Christine. 🙂

  19. Love these tree peonies!! I must have some someday.

    Do you have a mail-order source that you have ever used for these? Not many available in-store in my area.


    Thanks Julie. All of my tree peonies were purchased locally, but I know that Klehm’s Song Sparrow nursery is reputable and has lots. There are not cheap. Whenever you travel, if you visit a nursery, ask if they have any tree peonies. They most likely will not be in bloom, or even properly named, but you will be surprised when they do bloom. All of them are pretty. 🙂

  20. Thanks for the shout out, I was glad to help. ‘Kamata fuji’ and ‘Kamatanishiki’ were the first tree peony blooms I’d seen, and it was love at first sight. I bought what was also labeled ‘Kamatanishiki’, and you see how different mine is from yours and from the true ‘Kamatanishiki’. Makes you wonder if anyone is growing the actual ‘Kamatanishiki’.
    I have pruned my tree peony to give it a better shape, but only a little. I prefer to weight down the branches instead.

    Thanks for the help, MMD, much appreciated! It seems the naming has been a problem, or rather keeping the proper names with the proper plants, anyway. Kamata fuji is amazing, and I am glad to have it. As for the pruning, I let them be whatever shape they chose. I do prune the cutleaf Japanese maples, though. 🙂

  21. Rose says:

    All so gorgeous, and well worth the wait! I’m afraid my tightwad nature has prevented me from adding any tree peonies to my garden–the one I saw at one garden center a few weeks ago was $70. But I did purchase my first regular peony today–a no-name bargain at a big box store:)

    Thanks Rose. I have never paid that much, $70 for a tree peony, but might be tempted if the right one came along. Good luck with your no name, all are beautiful! 🙂

  22. Tree peonies, unlike herbaceous peonies, grow in part shade so I used to sell them at my nursery where I only sell shade plants. However, it was my experience that a high percentage of the plants weren’t the color they were tagged to be. Although all tree peonies are lovely, this just didn’t meet my quality standards, and I stopped selling them. I do have a lot of them in my display gardens.

    Thanks for that info, Carolyn. I can understand how you would need to have the tags right, people expect that, especially when paying top dollar. I bet your display gardens are fabulous all the time, but when the tree peonies bloom, oh la la! 🙂

  23. Lola says:

    Love those Peonies. I have trouble growing them here. I heard they don’t like to be moved. And it may be too hot for them here
    That little Bumble is so cute, falling asleep due to being too full. lol

    Thanks Lola. It may be too hot there to grow tree peonies and they do not like to be moved, either. It is always a joy to see the sleeping bees inside of flowers. This is the season for it. 🙂

  24. I have a number of peonies, but no tree peonies. Your post has convinced me to think about purchasing some. They are gorgeous!

    Hi Jennifer, thanks. You could blame me for being a tree peony enabler! 🙂

  25. Sorry for being MIA for a couple days, was leaving your posts to take time to read….then you posted more!!! aughhhh well, not augh…but time to get reading.
    Your tree peonies are incredible to say the least. I passed up one from Costco (of all places) felt like I was buying a little too much for the garden…trying to pace myself…now, after seeing yours, crap! Should have bought one or two!! 🙂

    Hi Janet, thanks for reading whenever you can find time! I do appreciate it, and the posts will be up for you, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays each week. Tree peonies at Costco? Go back, right now! 🙂

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