Visit Cricket Hill Garden
Join Cricket Hill Garden in Thomaston, Connecticut for their annual peony festival from May 10th to June 22nd, 2014. Cricket Hill, a six-acre display garden, was founded by Kasha and David Furman in 1989, with a focus on Chinese tree peonies. Kasha and her son Dan now run the nursery. Upon visiting, you’ll discover right away that Cricket Hill is not your typical nursery. In addition to perusing their garden of 400 unique varieties of peonies (yes, 400!), you can enjoy their new edible orchard, purchase a high-quality plant, or just relax at a picnic table and listen to the bullfrogs. Kasha and Dan look forward to sharing their beautiful space with thousands of visitors every year.
Visitors are wowed upon visiting Cricket Hill Garden for the first time. “Hidden away, down a hill off a nondescript country road, one would be hard-pressed to imagine what's below,” explains Dan. “There are plants in every available space.” In fact, Cricket Hill has been dubbed ‘Peony Heaven.’ Pictured here are just two of the many beautiful varieties of peonies you can admire at Cricket Hill’s annual peony festival. The ‘Blue Jade in Three Colors’ Chinese rockii tree peony (left) was introduced by Chen Dezhong of the famous Peace Peony Garden, in Lanzhou, China. The ‘Pink Dragon Claw’ (right) is an intersectional hybrid peony with a striking flower form.
In their 25th season, Kasha and Dan are especially excited about this year’s festival because of their new addition. Last year, they planted a half-acre display orchard with an array of edible landscape plants. Over the last few years, Cricket Hill Garden has begun to diversify into offering fruit trees. Dan explains that the benefits of the new orchard are numerous: “Not only is it beautiful, you can also harvest nutritious fruit from it.” Pictured here is the 'Tsu Li' Chinese pear. This ancient pear cultivar produces large, sweet and juicy fruit, which ripens in late September.
Décor with a Purpose
These lovely parasols perched atop the peony trees are charming, but they also serve a purpose. As Dan explains, “Peonies grow vigorously in the full sun, but the flowers are pretty sensitive to sunlight. So by putting the umbrella over the trees, you get the benefit of all-season vigorous growth while still protecting the delicate flowers. They also keep the rain off during the spring.” The inspiration for this comes from a practice observed at Chinese peony festivals at which canopies cover the ephemeral flowers.
Chinese Tree Peony Specialists
When most think of peonies, they picture the big, pink, double herbaceous peony. There are plenty of those to see at Cricket Hill, but they specialize in Chinese tree peonies. Co-founder David Furman was always interested in China, and eventually earned his master’s degree in Chinese history. Peonies are everywhere in China, so, naturally, David became fond of them. After much effort (through writing lots of letters to nurseries in China), David acquired some authentic Chinese tree peonies. You can see numerous varieties of these elegant peonies at Cricket Hill today. Pictured here is a ‘Black Tornado’—a deep, velvety, reddish-purple 8–9 inch flower with ebony flares—a spectacular introduction by Chen Dezhong of the famous Peace Peony Garden in Lanzhou, China.
In addition to visiting, you can also purchase stunning peonies with confidence that you will receive a quality plant. They’re planted in root-control bags, which allow for better air circulation and drainage than plastic pots. Cricket Hill even ships dormant peonies for the early spring and fall planting seasons.
Cricket Hill’s dedication to teaching about how to properly care for peonies is just one of the many characteristics that makes them unique. A misconception is that peonies are difficult. Dan explains, “If you purchase a peony tree when it’s blooming and beautiful, and then you go home and plant it when it’s 85 degrees, that’s a sure way to kill it.” Dan and Kasha strive to explain, in simple terms, the basic requirements for successfully maintaining peonies. They even have a YouTube channel which anyone can use as a resource. Pictured here, Dan, nursery manager, takes a group of enthusiastic gardeners on a tour. The garden is open to the public, and there are regularly scheduled tours on the weekends during the Peony Festival.
Cricket Hill Garden’s Annual Peony Festival
May 10, 2014 – June 22, 2014
670 Walnut Hill Road
Thomaston, CT 06787
Do you enjoy reading about garden-related destinations in your area? In every issue of Garden Design magazine, you’ll find the section In Your Zone where we explore local topics and events that are interesting to garden-conscious readers in the United States and Canada. Learn more about the content that is exclusively available in the magazine and how to subscribe.