Prairie Peonies is rooted in Meadowlark Park, a charming and lively residential neighbourhood that lies just west of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The peonies reside on a generous-sized city lot, on which a house was first constructed in 1958. The spatial constraints of suburb growing have always proved challenging, but with some creativity the garden tastefully contains over 90 unique peony varieties. This is one of the garden's crowning achievements in my eyes; it exists as a special space teeming with life and beauty, strongly connected to nature, providing a stark contrast to and standing defiantly in opposition of faceless suburban sprawl.
The peonies have been carefully selected not only for the frigid USDA zone 3B hardiness designation, but also to represent the diverse spectrum of colours and flower forms from a range of peony breeders whose contributions still remain important in the peony hybridizing landscape to this day. The garden has something for all tastes - historic heirlooms, trailblazing new introductions, APS gold medal winners, best landscapers, garden novelties, fragrant wonders, and rare and sought-after collector varieties.
ABOUT ME; GARDEN ORIGINS
Hello. My name is Nick. I am a florist by trade, a peony enthusiast, and a collector and appreciator of the visual arts. I am also the gardener behind Prairie Peonies. As tending this garden has been such a personal journey, it is hard to tell the complete story of the garden's origins without introducing myself into the mix at some point.
This venture began during a period of a lot of change in my life. I had left university, moved to Japan, and started a full time job as a florist when I returned home. It was during my time living in Japan that I would take notice of the peony as a powerful recurring motif in traditional Japanese art. I would see peonies as I went about daily life visiting shrines, temples, art galleries, museums, gardens, parks, and folk craft merchants. The peony captivated and bestowed a sense of wonder in me. When I returned home, I knew I had to have one in my garden someday.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the garden would start with the purchase of a single Sarah Bernhardt plant from a big-box retailer in hopes of transforming an unremarkable space into something extraordinary. I knew nothing of proper peony care at the time and decided to plant in the blazing heat of mid-July summer. I struggled to keep the peony properly hydrated. I would subsequently move the plant twice before being satisfied with its location and depth. To my surprise, Sarah Bernhardt flowered heavily the next year, producing 7 large flowers. I was in awe and it was this moment that sparked my passion. I found a Canadian Peony Society webpage that listed reputable Canadian peony vendors and ordered as many interesting varieties that space and my modest florist earnings would allow, and this would lay the foundation for the garden as it exists today.