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Garden Candy® ITOH Peonies

The Garden Candy® Series of ITOH Peonies

IMG 9427 2Don in his backyard breeding field.

Former atmospheric research physicist, Donald (Don) Smith, had a dream. In his retirement, he would take on his most challenging project yet. He would breed ITOH peonies. He knew it would not be fast or easy, but he was determined. His dream was to add new and more exciting colors and color combinations to the Itoh group, including creating outstanding double-flowered, red, and pink intersectional peonies, and to spend a lot of time with his grandchildren. 

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Don's grandchildren. 

We have deemed Don the Willy Wonka of peony breeding. Don’s great passion for creating the best itoh peonies reminded us of Willy Wonka's passion to make the best candy in the world. His genius, inventive crosses, and relentless pursuit for more perfect flowers and plants matched with his science-based approach to breeding, all added up to make this a gratifying project and has resulted in a collection of new plants that are extraordinary in so many ways. As they say in the latest Willy Wonka movie, “Every good thing in this world starts with a dream.” 

The Garden Candy® series is named after all things sweet, from candies to sweet fruits to sweet grandchildren. One of Don’s first introductions was ‘Scrumdidlyumptious’. If you love the book and movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you will recognize that name as the first Wonka Chocolate Bar—the one Charlie bought to find the Golden Ticket. 

We had so much fun naming his selections and finding inspiration in several children’s movies about sweet things. See if you can identify them all. We also included sweet fruit and candy names. There is nothing sour about the Garden Candy® Series! These new selections will be the apple of your eye and the candy for your garden beds, causing onlookers to drool over each introduction. 

Many ask - What is an intersectional peony?  That’s a great question!

Intersectional or ITOH peonies are a cross between an herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora) and woody-stemmed tree peony hybrid. P. lactiflora are super hardy, but they will not flower in milder areas, they die back to the ground, and often have fragrant flowers, and a mounded habit. The tree peony hybrids (P. lutea x P. suffruticosa) have woody stems, and thus, grow like deciduous shrubs. They have huge flowers in a wide range of colors, including bright yellow, and bloom several weeks before the herbaceous types. 

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Some of the Garden Candy® selections. 

The American Peony Society (APS) has adopted the ITOH name to honor Dr. Toichi Itoh, a Japanese botanist who was the first person to successfully cross the two species. The plants are deer-resistant and highly resistant to most foliage diseases. They have huge flowers in many colors and a compact mounded habit with strong semi-woody stems that die back to the ground each fall. They will flower in locations from Alaska to North Carolina. 

Plants Nouveau dreamed of making these desirable and useful hybrids widely and consistently available to the public at affordable prices for the average consumer. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful 3' compact plant that needs no staking, is practically disease resistant, is not eaten by deer or rabbits, but does have huge, brightly colored flowers, and is hardy in most parts of the world? Oh, and I forgot that they also do not attract those annoying ants or fall in the mud after a hard rain. 

Fast-forward to Spring 2024, when our first new introductions will finally be available for sale. It took more than a decade of hard work and a lot of research from a great group of cooperators (Walter Blom Plants, Compass Plants, Holtex Enterprises, Monrovia, Heritage Seedlings & Plants Nouveau) to bring this project to life. 

We are forever grateful to everyone involved for making our (and Don’s) dream a reality. 

The Garden Candy® series brings color, joy, and easy growing to gardeners. Their deliciously named, beautifully formed flowers will be eye and garden candy for all to enjoy. The colors, the shapes, and the exceptional consistency make this the first series of ITOH peonies offered to the world with high-quality plants and a dependable supply. 

All Varieties are 2.5- 3’ tall by 4’ wide

Zone 3-8a

Click on the pictures below to visit a page about each plant in the Garden Candy® Series.