The Deer Creek Daisy Garden Club ladies traveled to Highland County in May to see plants that they have never seen before: tree peonies.
The Daisies visited Donnie Rothwell’s garden, located at 7966 Buckley Road in Hillsboro. He started out growing tulips, daffodils and lillies. While looking through a garden catalog 16 years ago, he noticed tree peonies and ordered his first plant.
A tree peony is distinguished from its herbaceous counterpart by the fact that it retains a woody habit above ground. A trunk can live to extend more than one generation. Some reports say that the tree peonies have lived past the century mark and more.
Rothwell did some research and now has several varieties including Imperial — both Chinese and Japanese — in various colors. He has white, red, light and dark pink, coral and burgundy. He is hoping that next year he will have one with blue blooms.
Rothwell has acquired more than 100 plants that originally came from China.
The Daisies just missed the blooming of over 700 tulips and daffodils. They were there just in time to see the tree peonies in bloom.
Tree peonies stay in bloom about seven to 10 days a season and never bloom two years in a row. They can grow up to five feet tall and three feet wide. Each plant can have up to 100 blooms. Some have bloomed the year after planting and others have taken up to five years to bloom. Rothwell said the key to tree peonies is patience.
To prolong the blooms, Rothwell puts umbrellas over the plants to protect them from the sun and rain.
In 1999, when he bought his first tree, a Seidi, he began to pollinate the flower head to get more seeds. This also keeps the seeds free of disease.
The ladies asked him about ants. He said ants and other pests seem not to bother his plants.
His garden is called “A Heavenly Garden” and has been visited by more than 3,000 guests. Many are from out of state. He has a book that he asks his visitors to sign.
Three years ago he put together a book called “The History and Growth of Tree Peonies.” It gives details on the plant and has many colorful pictures.
Those interesting in seeing the garden blooming firsthand should visit the first seven to 10 days in May.
Deer Creek Daisy Garden Club members making the trip were Judy Gentry, Joyce Schlichter the door prize winner, Shirley Pettit, Marty Cook, Barbara Vance, Rita Lanman and Billie Lanman. Hosts for the outing were Kendra Knecht and Jeanne Miller.