Perhaps the most revolutionary of all peony developments has been the breeding of intersectional hybrids a.k.a. Itoh hybrids. These crosses between the tree peony and the herbaceous peony have brought us plants with a wide range of flower colors. They have peach, yellow, and orange colors in their flowers and are stunning! The plants are herbaceous in form and much easier to grow than the traditional tree peony.
Another major innovation in recent years is the availability of large blooming peony plants in containers. No longer are peonies only available as bareroot divisions or in #1 container sizes with a few struggling shoots popping out of the pots. Blooming plants are now available in large #5 containers that add instant impact to the landscape. This is a major improvement in peony growing and marketing.
The upper Midwest is a major area for the production and development of peonies. Two local people who are revolutionaries in this regard are Roy Klehm and Roger Anderson.
Roy, who is a fourth-generation nurseryman from the famous Klehm family of Barrington, Illinois, has been responsible for introducing countless peony cultivars, some of which are amazing breakthroughs in the development of the genus. His ‘Coral Charm’ was the first true coral-peach-colored herbaceous peony. Roy has helped numerous breeders get their plants into the market by supporting their work and introducing the plants through his nursery. The biggest part of our peony inventory is Roy’s introductions. I don’t know if he’s a George Washington of the peony world but certainly a Ben Franklin.
Roger Anderson of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin is a world-renowned Intersectional peony breeder. His fabulous yellow peony, Bartzella, developed in 1986, is just now becoming available in garden centers. You can see much of Roger’s work by visiting The Roger F. and Sandra L. Anderson Intersectional Peony Garden at the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson.