There's Nothing Like It!
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University of Alaska Fairbanks Horticulture Professor Patricia Holloway is credited for finding the "gold" of Alaska's newest "gold rush"...Peonies! The story I've been told is a British tourist came bursting in her office one day exclaiming, "I want 100,000 of those a week!" There was a bit of confusion before it became evident he was speaking of the peonies he saw growing in Alaska during the "off season." Alaska is the only place in the world where peonies bloom in July, August, and into September. The unique summer weather in Alaska produces peonies that are bigger, with colors that are more vibrant, than anywhere else. In 2000 Pat Holloway began growing peonies in the Georgeson Botanical Garden at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and began researching the feasability of producing peonies in Alaska for the specialty cut flower market. Subsequently, Pat put the bug in some Alaskan farmer's ears, and peonies were planted in quantities in the early 2000's. Commercial production began in 2004. The peony industry has continued to bloom in Alaska.
My introduction to Peonies came 30 years ago. I had recently moved from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage to accept a position in a downtown medical clinic. One day, someone came in from the garden along the south side of the building with the most beautiful and biggest "rose" I'd ever laid eyes on. I was very impressed! This turned out to be the first peony I'd ever seen. Subsequently, 19 years ago, I planted peonies in my home garden. They do beautifully every year on the south side of our house. In the summer of 2014, around the dinner table, I brought up the subject of the peony industry in Alaska. Our then 12-year-old son thought is was a must-do idea. It didn't take too much convincing from him to start making plans for our own peony farm. Who knew I'd eventually be growing a field of these beauties?!
After a year of field prep, we planted 566 peony roots in the fall of 2015. After allowing the peonies to mature for three years, we harvested our first peony cut-flower crop during the summer of 2018. We were glad for a successful harvest and look forward to many more as peony plants can produce for 20 or more years. Each plant has the potential of producing up to 20 stems a year. For the health of the peony plant, we will always leave some buds on the plant unharvested. We have now planted five varieties of peonies, Pecher, Sarah Bernhardt, Duchesse de Nemours, Coral Sunset, and Boule de Neige, Paul M Wild, and Henry Sass. Pictures of the peony varieties we've planted are below. We use natural farming methods, and are pleased to offer peonies which are naturally raised and free of chemicals.