What Was Once Lost…

It was feared you were a goner…

April 16, 2008 069 (2)
…When all of your leaves turned brown and fell off last summer.

Since the first year you bloomed, the lone survivor out of four boxed tree peony roots planted, it has been a love affair extraordinaire. We didn’t even know your name until years later when deductive reasoning led us to know you as Paeonia ostii ‘White Phoenix’.

January 27, 2013 028 (2)
Never before have your stems looked so bare…

January 27, 2013 031 (2)
…As they do now. Normally there are swollen buds holding the promise of blooms dotting your branches. Your offspring, a rooted piece that was cut away in the making of the Zen Garden shows the expected look now.

Sierra Exif JPEG
But wait! Spied just today at your base…hope is the thing with feathers, or in this case, reddish, tightly furled leaves. Life remains, though there will be no flowers on this White Phoenix for 2013. It is alive. It is all we can ask for.


January 27, 2013 034 (2)
Yes. Paeoni suffruticosa ‘Kamata Fuji’ is alive and well with several bloom buds in evidence.

Sierra Exif JPEG
Even Bartzella shows signs of sprouts, if not blooms. Paeonia Itoh ‘Bartzella’, new last spring replaces the much longed for but lost forever Molly the Witch, Paeonia mlokosewitschii that died outright within weeks of planting. Some things are not meant to be.

April 23, 2008 022 (2)
Your sibling, or maybe cousin, Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Hatsugarasu’

January 27, 2013 037 (2)
… Does not look as promising. Yet.

The tree peonies in all of their glory can be seen in this post, which has at its end links to all previous tree peony posts. Once taken for granted, these majestic shrubs showed distinct signs of distress this past extra hot and dry summer. Some were thought to have succumbed, sadly. Hatsugarasu may yet be a goner. It remains a possibility to be so, but Fuji and Bartzilla will take up the baton to join White Phoenix in our dreams.


This entry was posted in before and after, Plant Portrait, Seasonal Chores. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to What Was Once Lost…

  1. Mark and Gaz says:

    What a lovely surprise and a welcome bonus! Always uplifting when you see a plant you thought you had lost before is actually coming back 🙂

    Thanks Mark and Gaz. That is pretty much exactly the way I felt upon finding the red tips of life at the base of White Phoenix. It had been given up for dead, but we always wait when a plant shows those signs before taking action. Nature surprises us sometimes.

  2. ‘Yet’ is a hopeful word.

    Hi Lucy, thanks for visiting. We have not given up on Hatsugarasu yet, it is true, but it does not look promising for that one. We shall see.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Yes, this droughty weather is not good for growing things. I hope the Phoenix continues to rise. Seeing these beautiful flowers makes me anxious for spring.

    Hi Lisa, thanks. White Phoenix will rise again, thank goodness. Hatsugarasu looks to be still be a goner, or maybe taking a longer nap. It will not be touched for several months just to be sure. Thank goodness for the photo archives, they can be so cheering during winter.

  4. In China, the name of the white peony is Feng Dan Bai. In additon to White Phoenix, it is also sometimes translated as White Parrot. Whatever it’s called, I adore this lovely and easy tree peony.

    Hi Marian, thanks for adding in here. The Chinese name was mentioned in the post where the name was discovered. It was also written down on the piece of paper when the original four boxed, brittle roots from Walmart, $15 each!, were planted at the end of the knot garden. Since only one survived from that planting, I did not know which was which, and Walmart is not known for their plant identification skills. It did turn out to be wonderful and a survivor.

  5. Frances, I’m weeping right now — your first picture is so lovely. Good luck with your peonies. It *hurts* that I can’t grow them.

    Hi Helen, please don’t cry! I thought the tree peonies liked cold climates better. They struggle a bit in our hot, dry summers.

  6. Cyndi says:

    HI Frances,

    I have missed your posts and what a great beauty you have in your garden!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Smiles, cyndi

    Hi Cyndi, thanks so much and smiles back to you. I have cut back to two posts a week for the winter. If that continues once spring is sprung is yet to be seen.

  7. michaele anderson says:

    The blooms of tree peonies are so glorious….I don’t blame you for hovering and hoping that each year they will spring forth in sumptuous flower. I inherited two when we moved to our current property quite a few years ago and I can’t begin to describe the absolute amazement I felt when our first spring here arrived and I focused in on the incredibly fat buds that surprisingly appeared at the ends of some brown sticks. I was not disappointed when they opened into flowers that were more splendid than I could have imagined.

    You have described it so well, Michaele, the first sighting of a blooming tree peony. Lucky you! White Phoenix was in the ground several years before blooming, I was just glad it had leaves and was alive since the other three never leafed out. A couple more were purchased from Hinkley’s Heronswood that also never leafed out. The blooms are quite early, and are the stuff of dreams.

  8. Jayme B says:

    Walmart?!?!!!! I must admit Lowe’s is where I found ‘ Bartzilla’ last year… I just couldn’t walk away! Love the hopefulness of the Garden. I an keeping an eye out for winter Aconite here in NC. Love your photos!

    Jayme, I know!!! The year was 2000 and this was the old Walmart, not the newly built gigantic one that has very poor plant offerings. That these dried up roots in boxes were $15 was an insult. I bought them all! HA Winter Aconite is something I have never grown, good luck with it and thanks for the kind words.

  9. Barbara H. says:

    The white one took my breath away. It is unexpectedly beautiful. They are all stunning. I have loved tree peonies since seeing some beautiful 4 foot tall ones in a yard while walking in my old neighborhood. I have a very short one now and each year enjoy its slow upward progress.

    Hi Barbara, thanks for sharing that. The white is still my favorite, but don’t tell the others. I haven’t seen Bartzilla in bloom yet, either, so that is not entirely fair. White Phoenix is about four feet tall when healthy. It has been in the ground for 12 years.

  10. Christy says:

    I love peonies and yours are wonderful. I don’t have any tree peonies, and just might have to get one or two. Your garden with the bench is beautiful! What are those white flowers in each corner? I also really like your obelisks…how clever to put that top on them. Since I love getting ideas from other gardeners, you will probably see these in my garden this year!!!!

    Hi Christy, thanks so much for visiting. The knot garden is a favorite space here, especially in early April when the white viridiflora tulips ‘Spring Green’ are in bloom along with the White Phoenix. Do look for some tree peonies for your garden. Barzilla is an Itoh hybrid that is a mix of herbaceous and tree peonies. Pricey, but such fantastic!

  11. I thought tree peonies were hardy to Zone 4, so Helen should be able to grow them. But I thought she had a very shady garden, and perhaps that is why she can’t grow them?

    I think you are right, Kathy. Or perhaps it is too wet in her, Helen’s, garden. I don’t think it is the cold, it might be shade or drainage that is more the problem.

  12. commonweeder says:

    Frances – tree peonies, with such ephemeral bloom, are among the most beautiful of flowers. I am so glad you had this happy surprise.

    Hi Pat, thanks. The blooms do not last long here, for the temperatures can be in the 80s, or higher by April. They still earn space in my garden, however short the bloom period. Nothing compares to them.

  13. gail says:

    Dear Frances, They are gorgeous flowers and I can see how they have worked their way into your heart. I had a white flowered tree peony years ago~I would prop up the umbrella to cover those delicate blooms if storms were forecast. I planted ‘Bartzella’ last year and hope it flowers this year, heck, I really hope it’s still alive! xoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks. One look is all it took for those blooms to be a necessity in this or any garden I tend. Weather can shorten the bloom time, rain, high temps, even the weird snowstorm has shortened their tenure. Even during the best of conditions, the blooms are short lived. I hope your Bart is alive and well!

  14. I love the texture of the white flowers at the top. Always a joy when a favorite plant returns from the apparently dead.

    Hi Jason, thanks so much. These flowers are sublime. The white ones in particular are almost too pretty to be real. Seeing life at the base was thrilling, even if there will be no flowers this year.

  15. Alison says:

    I love this time of year, when gardeners scour the garden, looking for any signs that beloved plants have survived the winter. The slightest swelling bud or basal growth brings joy to the heart. I’m so glad some of your tree and Itoh peonies have made it. I’ve never grown a tree peony, but it’s definitely on my plant lust list.

    You are so right, Alison. This is the time when we are down on bended knee wearing the best glasses to see any bit of green new growth. Or red new growth, in this case. Seeing it on a plant thought to be dead was cause for whooping and hollerin’.

  16. julieadolf says:

    Such a beautiful and happy surprise! Tree peonies are so stunning.

    Thanks, Julie. Tree peonies are amazing.

  17. Frances-I love your blog and am now following. Your peonies are beautiful. I have Karl Rosenfelds in my garden and love them so much. I wish they would last longer but even the foliage is attractive after the blooms are gone. I am hoping your tree peonies come back…maybe in a little more time.

    Thanks for visiting and those kind words, I appreciate your support! All of the peonies are wonderful, but the woody tree peonies are my favorites. It looks like only one, Hatsugarasu, could be dead. I will give it more time.

  18. Sandy & Richard says:

    I adore your beautiful peonies, ‘Phoenix’ rising all in white. I wonder what magic I shall have when mine bloom, never having had a peony before in my garden…the one I bought was from a local Sunday market, apparently they were collected from around a tumble down cottage, on some land the seller had bought….the clump he said was massive…..so I assume they are hardy, he had no idea as to what colour they would be. I remember my 3 yr old having her picture taken in my sisters garden, with what I know now to be a peonyie, it was the size of a cabbage, and deep crimson. Love your magnificent knot garden….so, so elegant.

    Thanks Sandy and Richard. I am sure your new peony will be gorgeous, they are all so pretty, not an ugly one in the bunch. I do love the dark red ones. And the white, and the pink…

  19. Donna Baylor says:

    I notice lots of pine needles and bits of moss in your gardens. Have you made a soil test for your peonies? They prefer an alkaline soil and a bit of wood ash could be beneficial. Adore your site..such a inspiration.

    Hi Donna, thanks for that idea. My soil is quite acid. I do add wood ashes each year to several of the plants here, including the herbaceous peonies, although the neighborhood is full of healthy and happy peonies that do not get that treatment. I have not added the ashes to the tree peonies though. I might try a bit on them. Thanks for the suggestion.

  20. Lola says:

    So sorry for your losses but you still have beauty.

    Thanks Lola. The dark red Hatsugarasu may be a goner, but we do still have plenty to be thankful for. A dead plant is an opportunity to try something new.

  21. thequeenofseaford says:

    On plants like this I think you almost hear the angels singing and see rays of light coming down from the heavens when new growth is found. What beauties.

    Hi Janet, well said. The tree peonies are heavenly and seeing new growth on White Phoenis was a gift from above.

  22. RobinL says:

    Please cross your fingers with me Frances, as I await the arrival of my first tree peony. I planted it last summer, and it spent the season as mere sprout, so let’s hope it comes back!

    Here are my fingers crossed, Robin! I do hope your tree peony makes it. May you have a long term relationship with it.

Comments are closed.