Plant Shopping: Clerodendrum, Clematis and a bonus Tree Peony sighting

For those of us with willpower deficiencies, a car with a large cargo area is a dangerous thing. There’s always room for another plant or six, especially if you get to the annual Trade Secrets plant sale too late to find any interesting dwarf evergreens.

I did of course buy a few other little things, and then as usual a few more, at my annual TS day next stop, Greystone Greenhouses, on rt. 343 right outside of Sharon CT and no I can’t put in a link because they have no website. What they have – in addition to all sorts of gorgeous tropicals you didn’t know you needed but gee the prices are so reasonable –  is the tree peony of the century, in bloom early this year just like everything else.

giant tree peony in bloom

depending on the weather, you probably have two or three more days to see this on the way in to buy your never-saw-a-pink-one before Clerodendrum thompsonii and other necessities.

hand used to show size of tree peony flower

Base of thumb to middle finger tip = 6.25 inches

The flowers aren’t especially large, as tree peonies go, but they have unusual substance and are actually a rich lavender (my camera has pink/blue issues).

So of course I asked what it was, only to learn it has no name. Ed Powers, who owns and runs the place with his plant-powerhouse wife, Laurel, told me it was grown from a seed.

The nursery sold it to them at a bargain price, he said, with no guarantees. But he thinks the fact that it IS a seedling, rather than a clone or graft, may account for its unusual vigor.

The Powerses planted it in 1992, and it has already been this size twice ( it took a great deal of damage in an ice storm, a few years back).

But I digress –  the thing is indeed worth a detour but Greystone is not about peonies…or conventional bedding plants, although they do sell things like marigolds and coleus.

The thing that’s great at Greystone is Laurel’s eye for the unusual: terrific fuchsias and begonias, papyrus galore, variegated brugmansias, all for prices so low they put the box stores to shame.

clematis alpina, clerodendrum thompsonii

left: Clerodendrum thompsonii, right: clematis alpina

This is a picture of why I should have an MG or something. The clerodendrum is tropical; over a single summer in Maine it will become huge and gorgeous and then at least in theory I will either give it away or let it die. The sweet this-time-it-IS-pink species clematis, bought at Trade Secrets from Loomis Creek Gardens is hardy, and will grow larger and lovelier each year ( in the Hudson Valley) with minimal attention from me.

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