The Alaska Botanical Garden hosts a beautiful and interesting collection of Peonies, from very cold-hardy “anomala” varieties from Russia and China, to modern winners of the American Peony Society’s annual “Gold Medal” award.
Alaska’s peony industry has been developing rapidly in recent years, due to an increasing world-wide demand for cut flowers. Peonies grow well in many parts of the world and are popular at weddings – but by the middle of the prime summer wedding season, most peonies have finished blooming— except in Alaska. Alaska now has over 60 peony farms which supply about 200,000 flowers to markets from Taiwan to England. Farmers can bring in as much as $4 for a flower (as compared with 28 cents for a peony grown at the height of the season further south).
Much less common than modern varieties are the Paeonia anomala species, which originate from a broad range of wild habitat, stretching from the Ural Mountains of Russia to the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia, to the Mongolian Gobi Desert and the Tien Shan Mountains of Kazakhstan. P. anomala bears large magenta-red flowers in early summer and has deeply divided foliage. The divided foliage turns a deep rust color in the fall. These magnificent peonies require full sun and rich, well drained soil.