June 4, 2013
The Mid-Atlantic Peony Society hosted the American Peony Society’s (APS) annual convention and floral exhibit at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania May 31 – June 2. I was thrilled to attend, enter a few of our peonies in the floral exhibit and tour some of the expansive gardens and property. The setting was breathtakingly beautiful. We were treated fabulously – the peony society members and staff at Longwood went the extra mile providing helping hands and welcoming hospitality. I give them an A+++. Some of us ventured out to Eleanor Tickner’s nearby peony nursery where we received ‘the royal tour’ from her family. Eleanor and her husband Bill put a lot of time and effort into coordinating the convention, as I am sure many of the Mid-Atlantic Peony Society members, APS members and Longwood Gardens staff did.
The Philadelphia area was experiencing a ‘heat wave’ with temperatures in the 90’s and a good dose of humidity. There were times when both the lovely peonies and the attendees were wilting; but that didn’t stop peony gardeners and growers from around the country from displaying gorgeous peony flowers. We were honored to receive a ‘Court of Honor’ for our peony entry ‘Ave Maria’. Our Oregon neighbors, Adelman Peony Gardens, took top honors with ‘Best in Show/Grand Champion’ for the tree peony flower ‘Boreas’.
Preparing for the competition is an exciting event, with lots of logistics to coordinate: selecting, cutting and shipping flowers to the event; staging them in water a day or two before the show; the challenges of heat; properly classifying them; and, trusting that your flowers are set on the correct table, in the correct classification. My friend Rita, a peony gardener in Washington state joined me in the excitement this year. We had the benefit of the use of floral coolers, which was a godsend with the heat. As usual, we had too much fun when we are together. We learned a lot, misclassified a few of our entries, tossed out the blooms that 'blew open' too soon, either irritated or entertained others with our exuberance and had a great time. Logistics and sites may vary year to year; but, it always cumulates with a beautiful and enchanting exhibit of peonies for the public to view.
Having now visited Longwood Gardens, I suggest everyone who loves plants, flowers or trees visit it – it’s a ‘national treasure’ in my book. The conservatory, trial gardens, formal gardens and fountains are absolutely stunning. I am so impressed that Pierre DuPont arranged that this would be shared with the world. I am grateful to have gone to such a lovely place to visit and to meet with other peony society members.
Here are a couple of photos from the weekend: ‘Ave Maria’, our Court of Honor; and, my friend Rita and I prepping flowers. I am the one on the left, with the humidity hair, that 'looks more like my Mother every day'. Yikes! Sorry, Mom.