Another awesome gardening year has passed (2023) and we wish all of our customers and friends a prosperus 2024!
Although bloom season was beautiful last year and our plants did well in the fields, there were challenges. Bloom season was spectacular for almost all woody peonies and probably the best we’ve ever experienced in more than 20 years of growing. Reasons for this appear to be linked with climate change, but a single factor cannot be assigned to the tremendous plant growth and resulting bloom. The winter of 2023 was not particularly warm and certainly not cold. Snow cover was variable and poor for most of the winter season and appears to not have played much of a role in plant health. However, nighttime temperatures were very stable and did not fall below below -10ºF and were seldom below 0°F. As we move forward, more attention will be given to nighttime temperatures and their possible impacts on our beloved peonies. Herbaceous peony bloom was very good in late May to early June, but later flowering hybrids and Lactiflora group cultivars were heavily damaged (often not opening) due to extremely warm temperatures, UV and low humidities. Add to those conditions, smoke from Canadian fires produced poor air quality and made garden work difficult at times. The remaining summer temperatures were quite warm and rainfall was scarce. Fortunately, we did receive enough precipitation to keep our own gardens looking good. All said, we gardeners love to talk about weather and climate, and this topic will become a greater focus in the future. Our successess and failures will likely be quite dependent upon prevailing conditions and new plants may be neccessary in our gardens to meet conditions.
“Change” may be the word of the year at Solaris Farms. After much deliberation, we decided to remove Hemerocallis (daylilies) from our propagation and sales programs. This was a difficult decision, but one that will allow us to enjoy the most pleasant time of the year in Wisconsin – summer. Nate is also getting older and some time off during the summer months will be appreciated by his overworked body! Additionally, Hemerocallis perform best when ample water is available during their bloom/growth season. Drought accompanied by high heat during this period have become the norm, causing us to rethink how these plants are used in our gardens and our ability to harvest quality material for our customers. Irrigation would solve this issue, but is an environmenally unsound practice which we will not partake in. We’ll continue to hybridize these plants for personal enjoyment.
Solaris Farms has now moved to a “Mail Order” only model for the plants we sell. We certainly enjoyed the days when we were open to the public for onsite digging and appreciate the support through those 20+ years! That said, the farm will continue to be a beautiful place, but no plants will supplied for pickup or onsite digging. The farm sports a very large peony collection and propagation program which feeds our mail order offerings and we encourage shopping via our online catalogs. We no longer offer periods of time to visit the farm, but will provide tours for plant societies who have made prior arrangements.
Our business has continued a focus on hybridizing new high quality herbaceous and woody peonies. Expansion of our woody (tree) peony program is something that we have enjoyed immensely and is internationally recognized for its high quality introductions. These plants are not widely available to gardeners in the United States (or elsewhere) and are wonderful candidates for gardens which have droughty periods (rountinely seen in the midwest and elsewhere). Additionally, many are proving to be wonderful landscape plants which require little attention. We believe that peonies are a good fit (at least at this time), for a changing climate and woody peonies should certainly be more widely grown. If you don’t grow peonies, the new cultivars that are now reaching specialty grower outlets are not “your grandmother’s peony”!
Lastly, the American Peony Society has become a large part of Jordan’s and Nate’s life. Much of our spare time is donated to this wonderful society and we’d like to encourage anyone interested in peonies to join the Society. To make things very interesting for midwesterners, the next American Peony Society Convention will be held in Bloomington, Minnesota; and in 2025, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin will host the Society’s Convention. These are outstanding opportunities for Society Members, but also the public to become more involved with this extremely diverse genus of plants. Conventions offer a large flower show and seminars which are open to the public – mark your calendars and become involved! For more information, visit APS’ comprehensive website at: https://americanpeonysociety.org/.
Warmest regards for an outstanding 2024 gardening season,
Nate Bremer – Owner
Jordan Kabat – Operations Manager