Though I always turn to Klehm first when I am thinking of peonies, this year Plant Delights Nursery is offering three of my favorites that are not always easy to find. I'm talking about woodland peonies, which I've had growing in my garden for a number of years. They are very early bloomers and seem to be able to withstand April snowstorms when they are in bud as well as bloom — assuming it's light snow and disappears quickly. There's nothing quite like a peony to say "Spring," especially when it blooms long before the more traditional big blowzy beauties.
The other great thing about woodland peonies should be obvious from their name: they can take a bit of shade. Mine are growing at the edge of the canopy of a Washington hawthorne, near striped maples and old Austrian pines — and not far from my two neighbors' black walnut trees. These are not easy to find and most catalogs seem to only offer them sporadically, so finding all three in the PDN catalog is a real boon. They are not cheap but I think they are worth the price. Now that I have them I can't imagine the garden without them.
The other plants that I want from PDN are all things that they were able to acquire when plantswoman Ellen Hornig closed her wonderful nursery, Seneca Hill Perennials, in 2011. Some of my favorite plants came from Seneca Hill and I was sad to see it close, especially knowing it was due to the ill health of Hornig's spouse. Last summer she sent out a notice that the house and the noteworthy display gardens that surrounded it were for sale. For a brief moment, I fantasized about moving back to New York and living amidst her glorious garden.
That dream can't come true, but I can order a few things in memory of Hornig and Seneca Hill. So my PDN order will include three Hepaticas from Hornig: 'European Pink,' 'Lithuanian Blue' and one with speckled leaves from the Spanish Pyrenees. I'm also getting Primula sieboldii 'Drag Queen,' a 2010 release from Seneca Hill (shown directly above). I've had great luck with both Hepaticas and Primulas and always intended to order more from Seneca Hill, so I appreciate knowing that not all of Seneca Hill's great plants will disappear with the closing of the nursery. And that positive give and take with other gardeners is another reason why I patronize independent mail-order nurseries like PDN. So, keep up the great work PDN — and the great catalog covers. This year's was a particularly effective coupling of plants and politics.
All images from the PDN 2012 catalog.