Tree Peony Festival forced into early bloom

May 8, 2012

Flowering beauty

Flowering beauty

This tree peony is one of hundreds in the collection at Linwood Gardens at 1912 York Rd., Linwood, which will be open to the public May 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27 and 28. (Photo courtesy of Sue Kinney)

 
 

Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 12:09 am

LINWOOD — For three weekends every May, Lee Gratwick opens her family’s estate to the public to view the extensive gardens and rare tree peony collection developed by her father in the 1940s.

Due to the unusually early warm weather this year, Gratwick has moved her spring Tree Peony Festival up two weeks.

The estate will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and May 19, 20, 26, 27 and 28.

The 325-acre estate features eight to 10 acres of lawn and gardens, which are mostly cared for by Gratwick and her daughter Clara Mulligan.

In addition to tours of the gardens, there will be refreshments and dessert available, as well as musical entertainment.

Musicians scheduled are recorders at 1 p.m. Saturday, Alpine horns midday on Sunday, bagpipes at 10 a.m. May 20 and dulcimers at 2 p.m. May 27.

Dick Heye of Pavilion, who helps with tours during the festival and has a collection of tree peonies himself, described the plants.

They are really not a tree, but more like a woody bush or shrub, Heye said.

He purchased his first plants when he was looking for an anniversary present for his parents, the late Milford and Dorothy Heye of Albion. He said they are pretty easy to grow, but they don’t like wet feet.

The thing he likes about tree peonies is they grow in so many vibrant colors.

Tree peonies are native of Asia, and Gratwick’s father brought back 600 tree peony seeds when he went to Japan in the early 1900s.

Gratwick grew up on the estate and remembers how her father knew all the blooms by name.

In 1997, the home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and was nominated for the Heroes of Horticulture Award.

Visitors can tour the grounds at their leisure for a suggested contribution of $8, or take a guided tour for $10.

Linwood Gardens is located at 1912 York Rd., about five miles northeast of Pavilion.

More information on the estate is available at www.linwoodgardens.org.