Peony News

Here come the peonies! Looking at the peony fields with all the budded stems, it is hard to believe that over 60 varieties are already blooming. There will be many varieties popping open this week and the following weeks – sun is on the horizon!

Brooks Gardens Peony & Iris Bloom Status

There is a four week swing in bloom time from 2016 to this year. Last year we had the earliest peony bloom season on record, peaking May 5th.  This year we were cooler and the bloom is about a week later than normal. We expect peak bloom in late May, which is more usual than the past two years. With lots of sun and warmth about to arrive in western Oregon in the next week, there will be different peony varieties opening daily for the next few weeks. Our historic iris garden has come alive with flowers and the sweet scent will greet you as you wander the pathways.

Our Secluded Peony Farm

We were blessed to have cut peonies for Mother’s Day weekend and puzzled when one of our Facebook followers said she stopped by and there were no bouquets. Turns out several folks went to a neighboring peony garden and thought they were here. As Brooks, OR is the peony & iris capital of Oregon, I remind folks that we are the ‘hidden’ peony farm, tucked out of sight from the highway. Driving here is a short adventure, and while we are only ½ mile down Topaz Street, the seclusion fills visitors with delight upon arrival. Follow the purple signs in the area. Directions to Brooks Gardens.

Those Itoh Peonies are In Their Glory

Many of the Itoh intersectional peonies are blooming this week, including Berry Garcia, Border Charm, Callie’s Memory, Canary Brilliants, Chief Black Hawk, Cora Louise, Hillary, Julia Rose, Lemon Dream, Luxuriant, Magical Mystery Tour, Old Rose Dandy and Sequestered Sunshine (fitting name for Oregon gardens). These peonies (a bush peony with a tree peony parent) come in amazing colors ranging from stark white, dark red, bright yellow and blends of orange, pink, cream and reds.

Herbaceous Peonies

The mid-season herbaceous varieties are now joining the peony festival of blossoms including many of the early corals, reds and yellows. Lemon Chiffon is in all it's glory! 

Visit Our Peony Fields and Iris Garden

Stop by and see what’s in bloom today. We have many of the varieties on display in our flower tents. Cut flowers and peony plants for sale; or, order bare root for fall planting. Open daily through June 10, 2017; 10 PM – 6 PM.

Brooks Gardens is located at 6219 Topaz Street NE, Brooks, Oregon, 97305. We are just over 1 mile north of Brooks, OR (between Woodburn and Salem, off of 99 E).

From Portland area take I-5 south to exit 263; exit left (east); 1 mile to Brooks; turn left (north) at stop light.  About 40 minutes south of Portland and 30 minutes south of Tualatin, Wilsonville and Canby, OR. Follow the purple peonies & iris signs.

The rage of peonies - Intersectional Itoh flowering garden plants.

They are peonies of perfection, with some of the finest qualities of all peonies: exotic flowers; pleasant fragrance; upright plant habitat, unique colors and winter hardiness.  

Canary Brilliants intersectional Itoh peony     Chief Black Hawk intersectional Itoh peony     Yellow Dream Itoh intersectional peony

Intersectional peonies are a hybrid cross between a bush and a tree peony, thus the name ‘intersectional’.  They are often referred to as Itoh peonies, after the first successful breeder of this type of peony, Mr. Toichi Itoh. His quest for creating an intersectional peony cross reportedly came to fruition in the late 1940’s, after years of dedication. Because of his success, many other hybridizers found hope and inspiration in creating additional intersectional peonies. Mr. Itoh left a living legacy to the world with these most spectacular, flowering garden plants. Sadly, he passed away before seeing their first blooms.  Fortunately, Louis Smirnow, a peony grower in New York contacted Mrs. Itoh and they arranged the transfer of the plants for future generations to enjoy.  Mr. Smirnow was able to introduce the first Itoh peonies (Yellow Crown, Yellow Dream, Yellow Emperor and Yellow Heaven) in the 1970’s, and the stampede for such magnificence began.

Incredible Peony Flowers 

While their large, showy flowers resemble those of the tree peony parent, the growth habitat is that of a bush peony. They come in single, semi-double and double flower forms, with petals silky smooth or delightfully ruffled. The color spectrum of selections ranges from solid tones to blends of multiple colors, many with contrasting ‘flares’ in the center. Clear, bright yellow; dark black-red; crisp white with lavender or purple flares; and, a kaleidoscope of colors are found in these peonies.

    Yellow Heaven intersectional Itoh peony     Lemon Dream intersectional Itoh yellow and lilac peony     Love Affair white intersectional Itoh peony

In early spring the primary ‘eyes’ (buds) on their root system sprout into new stems, each producing a flower. Many varieties also develop side buds, which produce additional, smaller blossoms on the same stem as the main flower. Prolific bloomers, they may produce 50 – 75+ blossoms on a single mature plant and tend to have a longer blooming period than most peonies. After blooming, most folk’s dead head; but, you can leave the spent flower to produce magnificent seed pods. They can be cut and dried to use in floral arrangements. You may even find a viable seed in one (although, that is elusive in intersectionals).

That Peony Foliage

The attractive foliage is serrated, like that of a tree peony. The leaves are shades of green or bronze, depending upon the variety. The plants display the flowers beautifully on stately, domed plants, making them excellent choices for landscaping. Once you see a few intersectional Itoh peonies, your eye will recognize the distinct foliage and flowers.

Oh, The Fragrance!

Let’s talk about fragrance. Itoh peonies have the most heavenly scented fragrances (I have only encountered one or two intersectional varieties that did not seem to have fragrance).  I think of their fragrances as ‘sweet’ or ‘perfumed’ – absolutely outstanding.  The flowers of ‘Bartzella’ and ‘Garden Treasure’ actually have a lemony fragrance.

Plant Habitat & Care

Gardeners love the upright plant habitat that never needs staking.  They keep looking beautiful through winds and rains. In 17 years of growing these peonies, I have never seen an intersectional Itoh peony plant go down under the weight of rain. Love that!

Like all herbaceous peonies, they can thrive in the same garden spot for years (even decades) without needing to be divided.  They come in many heights and widths, to fill small or large garden spots. On average they fill up a 3’ x 3’ space.

Care for an intersectional Itoh peony like any garden bush peony, including cutting stems to ground level each fall, as they go into dormancy for the winter. You’ll know when it’s time – they will start to lose their appeal and begin to look a bit ‘ratty’. It’s highly recommended to remove all peony stems and leaves from the garden each fall; rather than composting them. Sometimes people think their plant has died; but, it is just going dormant and is supposed to ‘die back’ each fall. 

If you forget to cut back the stems in the fall, they will naturally deteriorate and turn mushy. Try to clean up the foliage as soon as you can. While these cultivars are rather disease resistant, leaving old, mushy peony foliage in the garden can invite unwanted fungal guests.   

The underground roots are workhorses, growing quite large over the first 3 – 4 years. They store nutrients for stem and flower growth. Expect about 3 years to reach maturity from a newly planted root division or a transplant from a container.

Bare root peonies are planted in the fall and potted peonies may be transplanted spring or fall.  Intersectional Itoh peonies can thrive in USDA zones 2-8 (they do like a winter chill). In warmer winter zones (USDA zone 9) planting roots closer to the surface, with just a smidge of soil over the eyes (buds) ensures greater success.  While other herbaceous garden peonies only want one to two inches of soil over the eyes in USDA zones 2-8, the intersectional can take another inch of soil. Often, laying the root at an angle allows for easier planting, as the eyes tend to be more generous, on a longer root. As with other peonies, they love full sun; and will do fine in partial shade.

Peony plant growth is slow the first spring, as the roots develop. First year peonies may produce only a few stems – this is normal. While many flower the first year, it may take another year to get blossoms.  By the third spring, you should have a glorious plant.

Fertilizing peonies is a matter of personal choice and/or soil quality. Many gardeners fertilize annually in the spring, others never fertilize their peonies and have excellent results.  A 10-20-20 organic or synthetic bulb/flower fertilizer can be used in early spring. Be sure it is a slow release fertilizer if applied to potted plants, or it will burn the foliage. Follow recommendations from the label and apply near the drip line of the plant (a foot or so from center). 

Peony hybridizers continue to introduce new varieties of stunning intersectional plants every year. It seems as though the array of colors and hues never ceases to amaze peony lovers.

Itoh peony Kaleidoscope an intersectional peony Brooks Gardens Oregon  

Visit our peony fields this spring, take a look, smell the peonies…and, fall in love. We grow about 40 varieties of intersectional Itoh peonies - see them blooming from early May through early June. 

Therese Sprauer

The peonies are bursting open this week. Looks like the next week or so will be leading to peak bloom earlier than other years. Different peony varieties are opening daily this week. There is loads of color in the peony field. The iris gardens are magnificent - just in time for Mother's Day weekend in Oregon.

The Itoh peonies are in great bloom, ranging from copper, yellows, reds, whites and blended colors. Kopper Kettle is such a spot of brightness - we are in love!

Our field is now dancing with many shades of blush, pink, red and yellow herbaceous peonies.


Even a few whites are opening now - Colonel Owen Cousins with its blush undertones

soothes my soul each spring


We have a dazzling selection of cut peony flowers for Mother's Day and everyday. Bouquets start at $10.00 (we'll add a couple of bonus flowers for Mother's Day weekend). Stop by for the freshest cut peonies or buy potted peony plants to transplant now.  

Hours are 10 am – 6 pm, daily through June 15, 2016

Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @brooksgardens

Brooks Gardens, an Oregon peony farm & iris garden located at 6219 Topaz Street NE, Brooks (or Salem), Oregon, 97305. We are just over one mile north of Brooks, OR (between Woodburn and Salem, off of 99 E) and 30 minutes south of Tualatin, Wilsonville and Canby, OR. About 40 minutes south of Portland, OR.


While our peony season is just getting started, many of the Itoh intersectional peonies are blooming: Callie's Memory, Cora Louise, Chief Black Hawk, First Arrival, Julia Rose, Kopper Kettle, Magical Mystery Tour, Prairie Charm, Scarlet Heaven, Singing in the Rain, Watermelon Wine, Yellow Heaven, Yellow Heaven are looking gorgeous. Many are available in containers or to order bare root for fall planting. Now is the time to see them in bloom to pick your favorites.

The corals are opening – Coral Supreme and Coral Sunset are blooming just ahead of our Coral Charms this year. Red Charm has a few blossoms (usually May 12 or so). Flame and Paramount are two very bright peonies that are blooming now. I cannot get over the beauty of the peony bushes this year – they look more wonderful than ever, if that is possible.

The wisteria in the iris garden is in spectacular bloom. No, those aren’t blooming conifer trees on either side of the arbor, it’s our ‘wisteria gone wild’ that so many visitors are enthralled with.

We invite you to visit our farm during the peony and iris bloom season – the early peonies are blooming over two weeks ahead of ‘usual’ this year.

Hours are 10 am – 6 pm, daily through June 15, 2016. Potted peonies, cut flowers and bouquets are for sale at the farm. Cut peony flowers may be ordered for April and May weddings and events (picked up at the farm).

Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @brooksgardens

Brooks Gardens, an Oregon peony farm & iris garden located at 6219 Topaz Street NE, Brooks (or Salem), Oregon, 97305. We are just over one mile north of Brooks, OR (between Woodburn and Salem, off of 99E) and 30 minutes south of Tualatin, Wilsonville and Canby, OR. About 40 minutes south of Portland, OR.

These bush peonies are abundant bloomers with very pleasant fragrances. We love the ones that have lemony fragrances and find that almost every variety of intersectional peony has a heavenly scent.  They have the finest qualities peony plants offer: gorgeous flowers, upright plant habitat that never needs staking; and, like all herbaceous peonies, they can thrive in the same garden spot for years (even decades) without needing to be divided. They offer a range of colors not found in other bush peonies. 

They are a hybrid cross between a bush peony and a tree peony, thus the name ‘intersectional’.  They are often referred to as Itoh peonies, after the first successful breeder of this type of peony, Mr. Toichi Itoh.   

Peony hybridizers continue to introduce new varieties of these stunning plants with big, intriguing flowers and serrated foliage reminiscent of their tree peony parent. They are prolific bloomers and stately landscape plants. It is not unusual to enjoy 50 - 75 blossoms on a single mature plant.

Like all the gorgeous bush peonies, they are perennial plants and come back year after year. What’s not to love about these peonies?

Itoh intersectional peonies are a hybrid cross between a bush peony and a tree peony. They are technically intersectional peonies and are often referred to as Itoh (Ee-toe) peonies, after the original hybridizer of these exotic looking flowers. In the mid-20th century, Mr. Toichi Itoh was the first successful breeder of these peonies. There are now dozens of these varieties available and new introductions continue, as peony hybridizers share their successes with the world.  

They are herbaceous, perennial bush peonies. They grow each spring, produce exceptional flowers, have lovely foliage throughout the summer and are cut back to ground level in the fall. 

The flowers and foliage are reminiscent of their tree peony parent - big, exotic flowers and serrated leaves. They expand the range of colors available in peony flowers and have exceptional pleasant fragrances. Intersectional Itoh peonies are prolific bloomers and always upright plants – never needing staking. They add a majestic touch to any flower garden or landscape. Like all peonies, they are long lived and can produce flowers for decades. Many of the Itoh peonies have over 75 blossoms per plant at maturity, with side buds providing an extended bloom. 

All peonies may be planted bare root in the fall or transplanted from a container in the spring or fall. We grow 40 varieties of intersectional peonies and offer many for sale online. 

Pictured: Watermelon Wine; Lollipop; Kaleidoscope intersectional peonies. 


Want peonies that stand up to the wind and rain?

There are so many varieties of peonies grown in the world today, that no one knows how many are actually out there.  One thing for sure, there are peonies for every taste when it comes to color, flower form, fragrance and size.

Our customers often comment in amazement that so many of our peonies are standing up, even after a good rain. They want to know what they can do to get their peonies to stand up. Choose an upright variety – a peony with stems that support their flowers through all kinds of wind and rain. Some have never hit the ground in the fifteen years we have farmed peonies. We call these the upright, or, no stake peonies.  While we choose to grow some of the heavier headed peonies that do benefit from staking, we gravitate toward a large selection of the upright varieties that are no-fuss landscape beauties.

The little, shorter varieties such as Beautiful Senorita, Flame, Green Lotus, Little Dorrit, Joker, Little Red Gem, paeonia Lutea ‘delavayi’, Petite Elegance and Picotee show their flowers off, rain or shine.

Other peony bushes that stand up to our rains, include Bo Peep, Do Tell, Gay Paree, Illini Warrior, Lemon Queen, Lucky, Topeka Garnet and White Sands. The big flowers of Avalanche, Nice Gal, Old Faithful and Serene Pastel stand up superbly.

All of the Itoh peonies (intersectional crosses between bush and tree peonies) never need staking.  These bush peonies are abundant bloomers and most have very pleasant fragrance. We grow a number of these fabulous, upstanding landscape peonies, including:

  • Al’s Choice, yellow with red streaks. Single style flowers.
  • Bartzella, yellow with red center flares. Huge flowers. Semi-double to double.
  • Border Charm, yellow with base flares. Single style flowers.
  • Callie’s Memory, light apricot and cream flowers with maroon flares, Semi-double.
  • Canary Brilliants, semi-double, subdued canary yellow with yellow stamens; faint red flares at petal base.
  • Chief Black Hawk, dark blackish red. Single.
  • Cora Louise, white, semi-double with purple center flares.
  • Garden Treasure, semi-double, deep yellow, red inner flares. Lush dark foliage.
  • Julia Rose, semi-double, red-orange flowers fading to apricot-yellow.
  • Kaleidoscope, single with a kaleidoscope of pinks, cream & sangria.
  • Lemon Dream, a lemon yellow which may sport lilac petals or stippling on yellow petals. Dark green foliage. Semi-double.
  • Lollipop, yellow with burgundy-red candy stripes. Semi-double.
  • Love Affair, a white cup shaped semi- double to double, dark green foliage.
  • Luxuriant, white, semi-double with purple center flares.
  • Morning Lilac, single, medium sized lavender-purple flowers.
  • Old Rose Dandy, single, brick-red with darker flares.
  • Pastel Splendor, large soft pink/white single flowers with red flares.
  • Prairie Charm, muted light yellow semi-double/red flares at base of petals.
  • Scarlet Heaven, single, bright scarlet-red flowers, golden stamens.
  • Singing in the Rain, semi-double with a spectacular color: yellow blended with pink and appears orange upon opening.
  • Watermelon Wine, red-pink, single blossoms, yellow stamens. Gorgeous.
  • Yellow Crown, semi-double, yellow with dark red flares at base of petals.
  • Yellow Dream, semi-double, yellow with dark red flares at base of petals.
  • Yellow Heaven, semi-double, yellow with dark red flares at base of petals. 

We also love many of the peony flowers that do benefit from staking. Don’t be afraid to grow a heavy headed peony – it really only takes a minute to stake or tie up a plant as it starts to grow; and, the awe of looking at those huge flowers, dripping with peony perfume, is so worth it.


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