Sweet May peony at the Central Experimental Farm

Sweet May

Photo credit: Anne Besner-Johnston

Lovebirds peony at the Central Experimental Farm


Photo credit: Anne Besner-Johnston

Earlybird peony at the Central Experimental Farm


Photo credit: Anne Besner-Johnston

Chalice peony at Central Experimental Farm


Photo credit: Anne Besner-Johnston

Arthur Percy Saunders had a close and lengthy connection with the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa: his father, the first Director, lived on the Farm from 1886 until 1911, and Percy worked at the Farm as a summer student. He continued to visit, and is thought to have collected seeds and pollen at the Farm for his peony hybridizing.

Saunders was a university professor, with hybridizing as a sideline. He introduced 165 varieties of peonies, many of which are still available. His reputation rests specifically in two areas: by using species peonies in this breeding program, he produced many early-blooming peonies that extended the bloom period for peonies; Saunders also pioneered new colours and shades of peonies through his hybridizing.

The Central Experimental Farm’s peony beds have over 100 of Saunders’ peonies, one of the largest collections of his work in the world, thus celebrating the important and close connection between his family and the Farm.


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