Saturday, May 30, 2015

Peony Heaven

I went searching for a peony to add to my garden, and found myself in peony heaven, just a short distance from my house.

Peony heaven is a real place. It is Cricket Hill Garden, in Thomaston, Connecticut. It's a nursery and show garden dedicated to every kind of herbaceous, intersectional and tree peony you could want.

Since it was late May, the herbaceous peonies were blooming, but the intersectionals and the later tree peonies weren't out yet. The herbaceous peonies need umbrellas to keep their heavy blooms out of damaging rain, but we have had so little rain in Connecticut this spring that they really weren't necessary. But they were decorative.

An entire wooded hillside, an area around a pond, and a stretch of stepped terraces had hundreds of peonies growing. There were paths to wander that let you get up close to see each special peony.

Milkweed and clover and dandelions and weeds of every kind were allowed to complement the peonies and I was surprised at how well that worked, growing so closely together. There were alliums and roses and viburnums too. Everything looked naturalized, but of course it was all highly tended.

Scattered among the peonies were glass sculptures by Mundy Hepburn, a nephew of the actress Katherine Hepburn. He makes these Chihuly-type big garden glass shapes, and they are filled with inert gas (like neon) so they must glow at night, although we were only there in the daytime.

Big multi-petal peony bombs in pinks and magentas stole the show. And there were quite a few fried egg peonies -- the clear white ones with egg yolk centers. But my favorites were the demure single blooms in creamy soft colors. Like this delicate yellow single petal variety.

In my own garden I have only one herbaceous peony, a fire engine red one called 'Blaze'. It is open now, but does not bloom for more than a week. It's brief but intense.

At Cricket Hill I picked up another, this time an intersectional called 'Bartzella' that is a lovely upright shape, and has yellow double and semi double blooms that flower in June. It's a popular variety and quite showy.

The staff at Cricket Hill were friendly and informative and I had a long chat with a woman who clearly loves these beautiful plants and thinks she works in a place close to heaven.

Here is what she told me to do with my new 'Bartzella" -- I must not disturb it right now. I am to put the whole pot in the ground now, enjoy it this summer, and then when the leaves turn brown in fall, and only then, I can take it out of the ground, unpot it and plant it in its permanent spot. Peonies don't like disturbance unless they are going dormant for winter.

It won't flower this year, and maybe not next year, but she spent so much time picking out just the right container with the best looking stems and the most promise, that I felt I was adopting a pet and not buying a plant. Her care and concern was touching.

I think I am supposed to send her postcards every year showing its progress as it grows up.

Cricket Hill Garden


  1. I would love to check out this nursery! I am always interested in how people integrate different gardening styles into the garden....and with all of this wild surrounding these peonies it would be high on my list to see! The varieties are stunning! Thanks for sharing this one! I will have to have a look at their website! Nicole xo

    1. I was surprised at how all the peonies were growing in such a naturalized, woodland setting -- not what I expected from a peony "farm". It was definitely worth seeing.

  2. Laurrie
    I love your blog and look forward to every post! I admired your stoicism over losing so many wonderful trees this past winter. I had a cercidiphyllum that I had nutured up to 15 feet and a derecho wind storm came through and broke the entire trunck in half. It was heartbreaking and a devil to dig the rootball out! The best trees that withstood that storm were the maples so I replaced with an October Glory and so far so good. The one thing you have that is stunning is your GRASS!!!! How do you get it so green? I admire a nice lawn even though I am slowly pulling mine out in favor of gravel courtyards and transition zones. Grass in our dry summers stays pretty dormant past June. I have the Blaze peony with yellow baptisia behind it for a stunning look in my red and yellow japanese island. So much fun to share with other gardeners - wish you lived closer! Karen

    1. How discouraging to lose that big katsura! It's a heartbreak. The maple is a nice replacement, but still. . .

      The lawn here is my husband's doing, and I think it is over watered and over fertilized, but it does make a nice frame for the gardens. If it was up to me I would eliminate more of it, but he does love his turf grass and enjoys mowing and trimming, so we keep a fair amount of lawn.

      (would love to see that 'Blaze' peony against the yellow baptisia -- wow.)

    2. Do you have an email address? I have a photo of the Blaze - but looks like the yellow baptisia had not quite opened when I took it. I got the idea from a photo from Chanticleer that was gorgeous. You can email me at

  3. I found your blog via Casa Mairposa. I noticed your name Laurrie, my birth name is Laurri and I never see it spelled like that. I go by Laurin now to honor my father who wanted that to be my name similar to his Orin. I love your beautiful blooms especially since I can't grow peonies. I really love your glass sculptures too! Happy Gardening!

    1. Welcome to the blog, Laurin. Glad you found it!