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Chinese Tree Peonies with Kasha and David

Martha Stewart Living Television

It's hardly surprising that the tree peony, with its bodacious flowers and beautiful foliage, was named the national flower of China in 1994. In fact, the tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) has been grown and revered by Chinese herbalists, gardeners, artists, and nobility for more than 1,500 years. It is not, as its name implies, a tree. It's actually a sparsely branched deciduous shrub with dark-green leaves and unimaginably large (and often fragrant) white, pink, red, or purple flowers. At New York Botanical Garden's Chinese Peony Show, more than one hundred specimens (fifty-eight cultivars) of the Chinese tree peony will bloom in succession over the course of a month. Kasha and David Furman, of Cricket Hill Garden in Thomaston, Connecticut, supplied the plants for the exhibit -- the most extensive ever offered in the country. The Furmans have worked for ten years establishing relationships with growers in China and importing these beautiful plants. Growing peonies is not difficult, but the Furmans do recommend that you plant them in moist but well-drained soil and partial shade. Tree peonies planted in spring may not have enough time to develop the roots they need to support a new flush of growth, so plant them in fall. Once they're planted, be sure to water and deadhead your tree peonies regularly.

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Find out more about Cricket Hill Garden and New York Botanical Garden.