Scenes from the Green Expo: Itoh Peonies for Cheap

As late as 1999, divisions of the ‘Bartzella’ intersectional (Itoh) peony hybridized by the Wisconsin Master Gardener Roger Anderson were selling for more than $1,000. But starting this spring, the same soft yellow ‘Bartzella’ (that actually smells kind of lemon-y), will be sold throughout the metro $125-$150, along with three other varities, ‘Cora Louise’, ‘Julia Rose’, and ‘Kopper Kettle’. What happened? No, it isn’t the recession coming down hard on floriculture, its Monrovia, the Azusa, California powerhouse grower partnering up with a Canadian laboratory to grow rare, intersectional peonies (a cross between a tree peony and a herbaceous peony) on a mass scale. (There’s some secret to it, but Monrovia’s not telling.) Traditionally these amazing peonies, which have been known to sport blooms 9 inches across and produce 80 flowers a season, were terribly slow to multiply, which forced prices into the stratosphere. When I toured the Monrovia booth at the Green Expo last week, the sale rep was practically being mobbed with excited questions. I just feel bad for the die-hard gardeners that shelled out a cool grand for what’s now going to be selling like hotcakes.

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