Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yellow Tree Peony in Bloom (Sort of)

The only yellow tree peony in Brueckner Rhododendron Garden is in bloom. Sort of.

On Friday, this unusual yellow peony had three fat buds. Today (Tuesday), only one yellow peony flower is blooming. The other two buds that would have opened yesterday or Sunday have been cut off in their prime; all that's left is the cut on the stalk that marks their spot.

Thanks to a light-fingered flower thief, all that's left for the rest of us to admire and take pictures of is this one flower. And so, in case this last yellow tree peony flower is cut off in its prime, here are a few pictures to show how gorgeous it is.  And how gorgeous the other two blossoms would have been.

Yellow Tree Peony Three Buds
 Here is a picture I took on Friday. The first peony bud is front and center, and the second bud at the top of the bush directly above it. These are the two peony blossoms that were removed over the past few days.

Who would do such a thing? Someone who is simply thoughtless, or perhaps disassociated from the community around them. Or someone with an undeserved and unwarranted sense of entitlement.

Whatever prompted someone to think, "Oh ! Pretty! Let me just cut off those flowers and take them home with me," likely never thought that this yellow tree peony was more than just a pretty blossom, that it might have a history. And it does.

Why get upset about two peony flowers? It's what they represent: All the time and effort to get this unusual plant to bloom. That's reason enough in a public garden where plants are meant to be enjoyed by all. Three years of waiting for it to bloom and when it does, and before everyone can see it, someone cuts it off.

Yellow Tree Peony With One Bud Removed
 Here is the yellow tree peony with a red circle marking where the first bud and flower used to be.

Time and effort and public garden issues aside, we are upset because this is Rob's Yellow Tree Peony. Two summers ago, Rob, a longtime volunteer and plant donor (Rose Garden, Peony Garden, Lily Garden), came across this yellow peony. His first thought was to buy it and bring it to Port Credit. It would be a wonderful addition to the peony garden at the BRG.

Yellow Tree Peony with Second Bud Removed
 But then he reconsidered: Several tree peonies in the peony garden had already been dug up and removed by plant thieves. This unusual yellow tree peony would surely be a target. Instead, he put it in the care of a friend while he thought about when and where to plant it at Brueckner.

The friend put the yellow tree peony, pot and all, into the ground in a sunny location in her garden. As it was mid-summer, there would be no room to plant it until fall. In October, the yellow tree peony was given its own spot in a location that would see good spring and summer sun, yet be protected from the worst of the winter winds. Well mulched, the peony settled in for the winter.

Last June, the friend was moving, so the yellow tree peony was dug up and transplanted into Brueckner Garden.

But this yellow peony would not be planted in the peony bed, Rob decided. Instead, he chose a sunny location in the main annual bed, close to the path where visitors enter the garden. In this location, he reasoned, everyone would be sure to see it, and to admire its unusual color.

With this second transplanting in less than a year, the yellow tree peony didn't bloom. But it came through the winter in fine shape, and we all waited to see if it would finally bloom during this, its third year.

And so this spring, with Rob now too ill to come to the Garden, head gardener Para Kanp kept special watch on the yellow tree peony, likely the last plant Rob will ever donate. Bush peonies throw out buds like they are free, but tree peonies are more frugal with their blossoms, so we were happy with these three.

Yellow Tree Peony ~ Third Bud in Full Bloom
 And finally, here is the yellow tree peony in full bloom. This one blossom is all that remains. But isn't it gorgeous and well worth waiting for! What a wonderful addition to the Garden!

One bloom is better than none, I suppose. It's likely that the thief simply didn't see the third flower, tucked in the back as it is, so we are lucky to have it.

Yellow Tree Peony Red Center, in Flower at BRG Port Credit
This yellow tree peony will be moved to a new location, says Para Kanp, a location less visible to passing eyes and sticky fingers. Those who know where it is can enjoy it.

Like so many plants and trees in Brueckner, this is a memorial plant, one of dozens in the Garden. Some garden beds, plants and trees are marked with plaques, though many are not. But every plant is precious, and represents years of nurturing and care, of waiting for it to grow, to blossom. That's the payout for gardeners: Seeing the fruits of your labours.

Why steal plants from a public garden? I don't know. Last summer, the Toronto Star did a story about plant thieves in that city. Apparently stealing plants is more common than most of us would think, and it's not a high priority crime situation. Even when thieves are caught in the act on video, likely nothing will be done.

But gardeners are nothing if not optimistic, and there's always next year. And with a bit of care and lots of luck, next June, I can post photos of this yellow tree peony with lots of buds and gorgeous blossoms.

Then we can all admire Rob's yellow tree peony, the last and rarest of all the hundreds of plants he gave to the Garden, and the people of Mississauga.

Be aware that interfering with anything in our city parks is contrary to this by-law, which states, in part:

15. While in a park, no person shall:

Plant, prune, remove or damage any plant, shrub, flower, flowerbed, bush, sod,
grass, or any other vegetation unless otherwise authorized by the Commissioner;
or (133-06)

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