History of Brothers Herbs & Peonies
When I was about 19, my Mom and Dad (Allan and Dot Rogers) offered me a work opportunity that involved digging some 20-30 year old Tree Peonies from the old Walter Marx's Garden, Boring, Oregon. It once was considered the largest perennial Nursery in the U.S. and Walter was noted for his Peony and Japanese Iris breeding.
I thought how hard could this be? I was young, strong and most important, broke. When we started, I was amazed at the size of the roots. Some were as big as my arm. I never realized that 3/4s of the plant is under the ground. I soon discovered that every one had a slightly different look and all of the roots had this almost magical scent, a very powerful musky and woodsy aroma. Even though the work was hard, I couldn't wait to get on to the next one.
We took the roots home and planted them. This collection was awarded the prestigious location of the old vegetable garden.
I learned that the most important part of the plant is underground. As in the soil and the roots, I too started out from below ground level and worked my way up.
At first, I worked part-time when I had a little time away from my job in new home construction. I worked in the spring and in fall when it is time to prepare the soil, dig the plants, wash, separate and then replant. Unknowingly, I was learning the "Art of Propagation". This practice was very straight forward in the herbaceous peonies, iris and daylilies but for the Tree Peonies it was a totally different concept. The idea was to graft by taking the top growth from healthy mature Tree Peonies (called scions) and by hand, carefully cut with a razor blade. The trick is to match the scion to a herbaceous peony root so that the growth layers connect. It is a tedious, difficult and time-consuming task. After enduring many comical moments, it was time to plant. After a long wait until spring, I was thrilled to see how many would pop out of the ground with their glistening red sprouts. It was an exciting time even though only half made it.
As the years went by and I gained experience, it got better. Even now I am happy with 60% success. It takes a long time to build up the kind of numbers you need to meet a demand that has always outpaced the supply. In 1982 I was hired full time at the nursery. In 1986, I spent a week at Dr. David and Elenore Reath's Nursery in Vulcon, Michigan where I learned how to really graft from the pros, Scott and Elizabeth Reath. By 1990 I was responsible for all outside duties as General Manager of a local nursery.
Through all of this, the Tree Peonies remained at the top of my list of favorites. In 1996, another opportunity knocked and I traded my corporate stock for the total collection of Tree Peonies which had grown to a sizeable group from North America, Asia, Europe and New Zealand. At that time, we established Brothers Herbs & Peonies. We have started with this collection and have also imported plants from Mainland China (a fantastic group). We are also working into growing a variety of herbs to compliment the peonies. As always, we stress high quality plants of the best varieties. These do extremely well in our Northwest heavy but well-drained clay loam. They will also tolerate quite cold harsh winters. Since Tree Peonies need less dormancy, they also do very well in southern climates where it is not too hot and dry. USDA zones 4-9.
We look forward to sharing our future adventures with you. Just remember, we are devoted to this industry and have the genuine desire to share our skills and knowledge of these lovely plants. They have been honored in their native homeland since 1400 AD and are gaining in popularity throughout North America and Europe. We offer our service to you as "Quality with Style!"
- Rick Rogers