Couple enjoys challenge, patience of raising peonies
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 6:55 AM
Patience and planning propagate picturesque peonies. It may seem like a silly sentence full of alliteration, but it truly describes the journey that Harvey and Brigitte Buchite have taken to begin Hidden Springs Flower Farm.
Harvey and Brigitte Buchite stand amongst some of their peony plants; most of their plants are done flowering for the season.
Harvey and Brigitte Buchite have had to practice a lot of patience as they began their flower farm in rural Spring Grove - patience in finding the location, patience in planting the thousands of peony roots and patience in waiting for the plants to grow and mature in order to be able to sell them.
The Buchites had a nursery in an area in Blaine, Minn., that was rezoned from agriculture to commercial industrial thus making their nursery non-compliant so they needed to move.
"We got out a map and made a 50 mile radius around Blaine to see if there was property available for purchase where we could move to," explained Harvey.
"But we couldn't find anything, so we kept expanding our circle. We came across some options, but many communities were not interested in a small business that wouldn't employ hundreds of people, so we kept looking.
"Then one day, I found an ad in a Minneapolis newspaper for 43 acres for sale plus a pond and beautiful woodlands. I thought, 'What do I have to lose?'
"So, I drove down to see it. As I came around the curve, I saw the way that the land sloped, and I could just imagine the slope filled with peonies - it would be like a stage!" he said with a big smile.
He walked the land and then called Brigitte and told her about it including the detail that there were hills! Brigitte is originally from Austria, a mountainous country, and where they had been living in the Cities area it was very flat.
The decision was made to purchase the land with future plans of opening a nursery and to build a home on the site.
"Many local people helped us work and prepare the ground," said Harvey. "In 2006, we moved 23,000 peony roots to our flower farm. We hand-placed them and then covered them with soil. We completed getting them in the ground in November, and the day after we finished we got one inch of snow!"
Finding a buyer for their nursery property in Blaine proved to be more challenging and a longer process than they expected.
Once that hurdle was crossed, they were able to focus even more on their flower farm and nursery in rural Spring Grove.
Growing process begins
Growing peonies from seed to when it is introduced is also a process that takes a lot of patience.
"It takes two years for a seed to germinate after it has been planted and then it does not flower until five years after it has germinated," explained Harvey.
"The first flowers that appear on the plant are not necessarily typical of the plant so we wait a couple more years to see the true flower shape and color, and we want to make sure it stays that way.
"So by the time the plant is ready to first be divided, it is 7 to 10 years old. When we divide the plant, we split it into three. We must then wait five more years until we can split it again.
"We continue the process of splitting and waiting until we have about 100 plants before we officially introduce it and sell it. It can easily add up to 25 years!
"It also depends on how vigorous the plant grows; if it isn't very vigorous, then we can only split it into two instead of three.
"Some of the plants that I have begun hybridizing someone else will have to introduce because of the lengthy timeframe."
Currently, there are about 7,000 different varieties of peonies in the world. When a grower hybridizes a plant, they are looking to introduce something that is better or different than what is out there already; there is a lot of competition.
Hidden Springs Flower Farm has more than 600 varieties of peonies that it grows. Each is carefully identified.
What's special about peonies?
Their varieties include those from the highly collectable and proven heirloom peonies to the new Itoh Hybrids.
"We offer a wide selection of peonies including, large-blossomed fragrant garden varieties, new yellow intersectional, botanical peony species, the red fern-leaf peony, and hard-to-find and much sought after hybrid peonies in vibrant true red, coral and unusual colors," according to its website, www.hiddenspringsflowerfarm.com.
Most peonies in the wild grow in rocky well-drained mountain habitats or on sandy slopes where there is always good drainage. They only grow in the northern hemisphere; none are in the southern hemisphere explained Harvey.
"Peonies do well here [in our zone] because they are tough and can survive adverse conditions and really don't take too much care. They grow in zones three through eight which covers the prairie provinces of Canada to just north of Atlanta, Georgia.
"Some peonies were brought to the United States by immigrants that came over on ships. The plants had to last for months on the ships and then also until the immigrants got to where they were going to live.
"Peonies were hardy enough to make this journey. In fact, peonies can be found all along the Oregon trail where settlers planted them at their homesteads."
The oldest known peony is the red Memorial Day Peony (Paeonia officinalis rubra plena) that is still grown in gardens today. It is recorded to be from 1581 making it 432 years old and one of the longest lived of all garden perennials.
What is Hidden Springs about?
Hidden Springs Flower Farm is truly a working farm with tractors, weed control and crops that they rotate. They are inspected yearly by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Peonies will be the main focus of Hidden Springs Flower Farm although they will also offer Itoh Tree Peony hybrids and hardy Asiatic Maples, a hardy double flowered summer blooming Magnolia, Wisteria Blue Moon and more unusual and rare plants like Martagon lilies. More perennials will be added as they mature next season.
"We wanted to find our niche and not compete with other nurseries in the area," added Harvey.
With a sturdy stem, peonies work nicely as cut flowers. In the future, Hidden Springs hopes to be able to supply florists with peonies for flower arrangements.
Because of the unusually cool spring, the peony bloom was pushed back three weeks. Then the temperatures warmed significantly and they all bloomed at once followed by heavy rains making it hard on the blooms this year.
Line up your peonies now
Peonies are best planted in the fall when they develop 90 percent of their new roots. Bare root peonies should be planted from mid-September to the second week in October.
This makes September a very busy time for them as they hand-dig thousands of roots that have been purchased. In August, they will start marking plants that they will be digging.
They begin digging on Sept. 1 and ship the orders on Sept. 16. A great deal of their orders are from their website.
They will also be having a bare root plant sale on Saturday, Sept. 21, and Sunday, Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They will have 150 to 200 plants available due to the rotation of the growth.
The peonies that they offer work very well for the new or casual gardener to those that are looking for a very unique plant.
More about the couple
"We are excited to have our home built and to be open for business," remarked the couple.
"We still have work to do, but are looking forward to calling Spring Grove home. We've been invited to different activities and events in the area and are happy to be welcomed this way. We look forward to meeting more people."
The Buchites have two grown children, Markus (20) and Sophie (23).
Hours and directions
Hidden Springs Flower Farm is located on County Road 4 just west of Spring Grove. July nursery hours are Friday and Saturday only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; they are closed Sunday through Thursday.
The nursery closes for the season on Sunday, July 28, until the local peony root pick up and bare root sale in September. Thursday, Aug. 15, is the last day to order peonies for this planting season.
Contact the nursery at (507) 498-3020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit their website, www.hiddenspringsflowerfarm.com, for more information and to see photos of the peonies that they have to offer.