Less than three weeks ago I had a big ‘whew’ moment upon discovering that the baby tree peonies and their big sister ‘Kamata Fuji’ had not, after all, frozen to death in my garage. Well, Big Sis just keeps on surprising me….

 

Here’s what she looked like in mid-February. This growth is easily a couple of weeks ahead of a compatriot of hers from the same nursery which was planted last Fall in my son’s garden about ten miles away.

 

Obviously she’s on a roll, foliagewise. This picture was taken a week ago, and she’s now left any other outdoor-planted tree peony (in our area, at least) in the dust.

 

 

And as the icing on the cake, she is also sporting a big fat (and far, far too early) bud.

Now I am faced with a culture conundrum. Do I leave her in the unheated garage, near the north facing window (turning the pot on a daily basis to combat leaning) for another month or more, knowing that the available light will be woefully inadequate for proper flower development (and photosynthesis in general, probably)?

Or do I move her to the west facing sunroom in which she’ll receive plenty of light from multiple directions including overhead, and which is unheated BUT will be markedly warmer than the barely-above-freezing garage? We’re talking a temperature differential of at least 20 degrees on a sunny day, maybe even more, between the garage and the sunroom. I suspect that environment would push this already-precocious peony’s growth into overdrive… not the best thing for her inevitable reintroduction to the great outdoors.

Theoretically I could (and probably should) spend several weeks shuttling the heavy growbag between a table in the sunroom at night and the sunroom’s outside steps during the day, after the day temperatures stabilize at a minimum of 50F.  And I confess the prospect of actually seeing a flower on this young tree peony – albeit likely a good 6 weeks too soon – is very tempting, especially since there’s some uncertainty about what the bloom is supposed to look like.

This particular cultivar is known in the trade by several somewhat similar names: Kamata Fuji, Kamata-fuji, Kamada-fuji, Kamada’s (or Kamata’s) Wisteria, and Wisteria at Kamada.

This is the cultivar name as written in Japanese.

Sources do agree that it originated in Japan in 1823 and was found fairly regularly in commerce by 1927. That’s pretty much where the consensus ends, however. Some claim it’s a semi-double, others say a full double. Some say it’s an early bloomer, others say midseason (clearly this depends on where you are.) A 1940 Japanese nursery catalogue described the flower as “fair lilac purple with mauve tints.” One peony society’s description claims that it “reddens after full bloom.”  However, Osti (1999) goes in the opposite direction, saying that the flower is “mauvish pink initially, lightening later.”

 

Compare White Flower Farm’s photo of this flower with

this image, in which a darker center is very apparent. At least two sources describe the flower form as “flat”, which flatly (sorry) contradicts White Flower Farm’s image.

So I’m quite curious to see what shape and color the first bloom on my plant will turn out to be… while keeping in mind that the unusual (if not downright weird) winter growing conditions will almost certainly produce a bloom that is anything but normal!