Peonies with provenance .

Klehm - Song Sparrow Farm & Nursery 

Where do our peony varieties come from? 

Many years ago, Roy Klehm invited me to the nursery and peony fields. Visiting Roy’s garden, I had my first and unforgettable encounter with Daphnis’ tree peonies which made me realize there was much more to come. A generous flow of information, hints and tips continued at the nurseries. He gave me his field book and I was ready to roam the peony fields. They even cleaned the red truck for me, talking about a royal welcome!

It was a wonderful time trying to take pictures and notes on what I remember were very windy, cold but sunny days. The cold had postponed the season. But the early flowering herbaceous hybrids; my colorful faves; and tree peonies were in flower. Returning to the office several times for a coffee my nose was always covered in pollen. Not to hybridize peonies, but to find scent!  José Velazquez was always around to answer my never-ending stream of questions and it turned into a friendship, which unfortunately was too way short.  

Jose

Roy Klehm

ROY.jpg

The Klehm Family - A bit of history

Imagine taking your two teenage sons to America. Only it is 1851, you are Catherine Klehm a widow. Unaware of what the future would bring, she left Darmstadt in Germany for Arlington in the US. Not a luxury cruise, but a two-week ship voyage in dire circumstances, brought them to their destination. Her sons started bricklaying to make a living but John soon found out that grafting fruit trees was much more profitable and enjoyable!

 

A leap of faith!
On the land purchased to grow potatoes they planted thousands of grafted fruit trees instead and Klehm’s nursery was off to a flying start. 
1874 - The next generation. At the age of 12 Charles, Catherine's grandson, started to work alongside his two brothers in the nursery of his father John. He developed a love for flowers and peonies in particular. As one of the first members of the American Peony Society, he judged peonies and contributed to the establishment of this over a century old Society. 

Breeding and propagating peonies

As the years passed the peony collection became very impressive and with the knowledge and varieties at hand breeding new varieties was the next logical step. The first peonies were registered in 1951 by Carl Klehm, son of Charles. This seems a long time off, but breeding a new variety for distribution can take between 10 to 30 years. Many lovely and innovative varieties followed. Carl was in charge of the nursery, until the reign was transferred to Roy and Sarah Klehm.

Peonies and more 

Not only herbaceous and sturdy tree peonies were propagated and hybridized. Magnolias, lilacs, hemerocallis, clematis, hostas and many more varieties of plants and shrubs were cared for, packed and shipped at Beaver Creek and Song Sparrow Nursery and Farm. Now they adorn gardens, not only in the US but worldwide.

 

A lasting legacy

Roy and Sarah Klehm retired recently, they left a lasting legacy of peonies and plants to gardeners and growers. Their retirement is well deserved and we hope they enjoy their garden now. 
We are grateful for the opportunity to grow and enjoy many of their peony varieties at our farm in Belgium. 

There are 34 peonies.

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