“Back to Our Roots” – Celebrating A.P. Saunders Peonies –

2019 APS Convention, Ames, Iowa

Where: Reiman Gardens, Ames, Iowa

When: May 15 to May 19, 2019


The American Peony Society is excited to present plans for the 2019 APS Convention, May 15 – 19 in Ames, Iowa! The convention is being held earlier this year to showcase large collections of peonies hybridized by famed American hybridizer A.P. Saunders. Saunders was the first hybridizer to work extensively with species peonies to create the hybrids from which many of our modern cultivars are derived. These hybrids – both herbaceous and woody – are exquisite creations that are sure to catch your eye. Many of these stellar hybrids are featured in this year’s tour gardens. The convention program is also featuring seminar speakers that will emphasize the work of A.P. Saunders. Two days of garden tours will supply great opportunities for those who enjoy viewing gardens, landscapes, and rare plant collections. This special event promises to educate and broaden our view of peonies through this intimate look into one of the pioneers in the peony world. Get your cameras and notebooks ready for a truly unique adventure!

Convention Accommodations and Locations


Gateway Hotel and Conference Center

2100 Green Hills Drive
Ames, Iowa 50014
800-367-2637 or 515-292-8600 | Fax 515-268-2224

The Gateway Hotel is the premier conference center in Ames and is conveniently located about a mile from Reiman Gardens, where the flower exhibition and many seminars will be held. Amenities include an indoor pool, exercise rooms, and a full-service restaurant. The staff has information on local attractions and events for your perusal. When making reservations, be sure to mention the American Peony Society to take advantage of discounted room rates!

Reiman Gardens

1407 S University Boulevard
Ames, IA 5001

The mission of Reiman Gardens is to, “Educate, enchant, and inspire an appreciation of plants, butterflies, and the beauty of the natural world.” A visit to this public, teaching garden located on the campus of Iowa State University promises to do just that. Reiman Gardens has roots in a university horticulture garden established back in 1914. It moved to its present location in 1994-95 and today occupies seventeen acres that include twenty-six different specialty gardens.

You’ll want to take time to explore the vast plant collection, including the Dr. Griffith Buck rose collection and the many plant species featured in the Water-Wise garden. Another magical experience is a visit to the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, a unique glass structure that houses over 800 live butterflies. Other highlights include a tropical plant collection in the Conservatory Complex and the Trial Display gardens, where new plant varieties are tested and evaluated. A reconstructed prairie, herb and vegetable gardens, water features, and the meadow garden housing the Penkhus Campanile – a free-standing bell tower – are also noteworthy.

Reiman Gardens is the APS’s home base for the flower exhibition and weekend seminars. Located close to the hotel, the complex provides an excellent venue for our society’s activities. For entry via automobile, turn into the Jack Trice Stadium area at the intersection of South 16th Street and University Blvd.


Garden Tours


Bev and Deanne Caputo Garden

Hosts: Bev and Deanne Caputo

Bev Caputo has been gardening around her nearly century-old farmhouse in rural Conrad, Iowa since 1965, but her love of gardening began in her youth when she helped her grandmother and mother with their flowers. She started ordering peonies from the old black-and-white Klehm’s catalog, Don Hollingsworth’s hand-typed peony lists, and Al Rogers’s Caprice Farm Nursery. She joined the APS in 1988 and is a long- time member of many plant societies. At one time, Bev grew over 400 different varieties of peonies. In the early 1990’s, she operated BJ Country Garden, selling peonies, daylilies, hostas, and perennials. Recently, Bev has been joined in her efforts by her daughter Deanne, whom she credits with doing the real work behind the scenes.

Bev’s special peony interests include peonies awarded the APS Gold Medal and those bred by A.P. Saunders, making it very fitting for her garden to be included on the “Back to Our Roots” tour!

After closing her nursery business, Bev donated a selection of peonies to the Iowa Arboretum’s fall auction. Her donation included some rare Saunders goodies including ˈMagnolia Flowerˈ and ˈJaniceˈ, along with several choice heirloom lactiflora cultivars. It was these donations that helped jumpstart the Girtons’ Saunders collection. Today, Bev adheres to a new rule; she only adds peonies to her two special gardens, Gold Medal and Saunders! She has all past APS Gold Medal winners, including the elusive ˈHarry F. Littleˈ.


Image 1: Caputo Home; Image 2: Herbaceous Hybrids ‘Smouthi’ and ‘Nosegay’ (Saunders)

As you approach the Caputo home you will notice a multitude of windmills in neighboring fields, but Bev has steadfastly refused to have any placed on the Caputo property! Pulling into the driveway, visitors will first encounter an extensive hosta and shade plant collection under the mature trees west of the entrance. Bev’s collections include over 1,000 hostas, many in her shade house; hundreds of lilies, daylilies, and peonies; and a large assortment of other perennials.

The house is an imposing four-square featuring intriguing top floor dormers and an inviting front porch. But don’t linger there. Find the Gold Medal Bed south of the house. To the southwest and southeast are more large peony beds. Keeping with the architecture of the house, you’ll enter the southeast garden through a substantial arbor. Look for two very rare Saunders peonies, ˈLate Windflowerˈ and ˈPlaymateˈ. ˈPlaymateˈ (south of the arbor) came from the old Caprice Farm Nursery and may no longer be commercially available.

Lois and Jack Girton Garden

Hosts: Lois and Jack Girton

The Girtons have been gardening together since they first met, starting with a plot of vegetables. By 1995 their ornamental plant collections of Siberian irises, hostas, daylilies, and ornamental grasses filled both the front and back yards of their Ames residence. A move to the remnants of a farm in north central Ames with a house built in 1939 and 1.3 acres of land with great top soil gave them an almost blank canvas of lawns and mature trees. They transplanted many of their previous acquisitions, immediately planted their first woody peony, ˈGolden Vanitieˈ, and soon after also obtained their first herbaceous Saunders peony, ˈAthenaˈ. Lois joined the American Peony Society and still has her welcome post card from Greta Kessenich. (Sadly, her membership lapsed for more than a decade, preventing her from meeting so many interesting people she now wishes she had known.)

Losses of old shade trees and predation by rabbits made growing peonies in the sun and hellebores in the shade more attractive and practical than growing Siberian iris and hostas. With a friend’s interest in species peonies, gifts of two species seedlings from Hans Hansen, and a dozen purchases from Seneca Hill Perennials in 2009, the peony collection was underway. Enamored with the Saunders peony ˈMay Lilacˈ that she’d seen in Hansen’s Minnesota garden, Lois located and purchased it in 2010. Since 2011, it has been her goal to collect as many Saunders peonies as possible. Today, the Girtons’ collection of more than 400 woody, Itoh, and herbaceous peonies includes 118 herbaceous and 50 woody Saunders cultivars, along with three dozen different species peonies including a blooming size P. wendelboi.


Image 1: Jack and Lois Girton Home; Image 2: Herbaceous Hybrid ‘May Music’, part of the Saunders collection

The Girtons’ garden also showcases an extensive collection of roughly 140 conifers, two dozen magnolias, and many other unusual trees. Rabbit (and now even deer) fencing is shunted from the hosta beds in summer to the conifers and tree peonies in winter. Construction of a new garage and driveway in 2015 required the addition of retaining walls, which have now been planted with even more peonies, conifers, and companion plants. While many specimens have yet to reach maturity, you’re sure to find something of special interest in this garden.

Kris and Tom Jurik Garden

Hosts: Kris and Tom Jurik

Situated in the countryside just north of Ames, the garden of Kris and Tom Jurik is the pièce de résistance. Their garden spans several acres, brimming with nearly 1,000 peonies and countless other perennials. A plant lover’s paradise, this garden was toured by the American Iris Society in 2017 and the North American Lily Society in 2018.

In 1987, the Juriks designed and moved into a partially finished house on an abandoned crop field and pasture overlooking the South Skunk River. In the 1990s they started developing flower beds, with an emphasis on Siberian irises and hostas. In the early 2000s, Kris began accumulating peonies, while continuing to expand the hosta collection. Over the last decade, she continued expanding their collections of Iris, Lilium, Helleborus, and companion plants. In 2014, Tom began constructing a series of retaining walls, stairways, and terraces for erosion control, while also creating additional spaces for plants.


Image 1: Peonies in bloom in the Jurik Garden; Image 2: Hostas and lilies flourish in the terrace garden

The garden currently holds a large collection of hostas; beardless, bearded, and species irises; Martagon, Asiatic, Oriental, and hybrid Lilium; Hemerocallis; Helleborus; and ornamental grasses and complementary plants. Other highlights include an almost complete collection of APS Gold Medal peonies, a complete collection of Award of Landscape Merit peonies, and most of the cultivars currently under consideration for the Award of Landscape Merit. A large number of Saunders peonies and many of the varieties created by Don Hollingsworth and several other current breeders are also on display. The tree peonies are concentrated in a hilltop garden, while most of the herbaceous peonies are in a lower field. Large trees near the house provide partial shade for the hostas, hellebores, and Martagon lilies. The lilies and irises are distributed throughout the several habitat types.

A reconstructed prairie, a large vegetable garden, fruit trees, and floodplain and upland forests with native spring ephemerals complement the flower gardens. The diverse habitats attract songbirds, deer, rabbits, waterfowl, and many other animals.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

Host: Kelly Norris

Located on the east bank of the Des Moines River, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden provides visitors with a green oasis in the heart of Des Moines. The fourteen acre property includes seven acres of gardens and a spectacular, dome-shaped conservatory that’s home to more than 1,200 different taxa, including orchids and a stunning collection of more than 650 Plectranthus (coleus) cultivars, considered the largest collection in the world.

As you wander the outdoor paths, you’ll quickly discover the Garden’s mission of developing gardens as “forms of public art and sculpture.” In addition to garden sculptures featuring Iowa artists, the gardens also feature plants as living art forms. A prime example is the Ladany Bonsai Collection, which includes a Ginkgo biloba that has been in training since 1865.


Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens entrance garden and conservatory. Specialty plant collections abound!

Specially sponsored gardens will be highlighted by our host Kelly Norris, who is the Director of Horticulture and Education for the Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens. Be sure to visit the indoor displays and gift shop!

Meredith Test Garden

Host: Sandra Gerdes

Tucked away in the heart of downtown Des Moines is the Meredith Test Garden. This half-acre retreat is both a display and working garden designed for Meredith’s Better Homes & Gardens magazine. It is here that plants are tested and evaluated for everything from size and hardiness to flowering, pruning, and drought and disease resistance. The magazine’s staff and photographers oversee an ever-changing, living canvas of plants organized into 22 distinct areas.

The garden is designed around a central hub featuring a sunken courtyard surrounded by a collection of mature, ornamental flowering crabapples. Meandering pathways wind through the specialty plantings, inviting you to explore the mixed perennial garden, cutting and fragrant gardens, and rose and conifer gardens. Also noteworthy are the herb garden featuring raised beds, and the shade garden with its collection of Hosta and Heuchera. You’ll want to have your camera ready as our host, Sandra Gerdes, guides two tours through the Test Garden’s picturesque pathways and organized display areas.

Flower Show


The crown jewel of the American Peony Society Convention is the Flower Show, which is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday. This year’s show will be held at Reiman Gardens and will include cut flowers and artistic design and educational exhibits. APS book and seed sales, plant vendors and an author book signing event will provide shopping and learning opportunities for both members and the general public! The Flower Show will be open on Saturday, May 18 from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm and Sunday, May 19 from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.


Peony flowers at the APS Exhibition and Flower Show


Wednesday Member Training Workshops


Award of Landscape Merit Judges Training Workshop

Presenter: Lorē Sampson

Since its introduction in 2009, the American Peony Society’s Award of Landscape Merit (ALM) has recognized more than forty herbaceous and Itoh peonies for their outstanding performance as landscape plants in gardens across North America and around the world. This award is designed to recognize peonies for more than just beautiful flowers. To be selected, a cultivar needs to be grown and observed throughout the full growing season over a period of several years, with particular attention to the plant’s ability to provide multiple seasons of interest and to withstand adverse weather conditions. ALM selections offer the gardening public a guide for selecting peonies that not only produce abundant bloom, but also feature strong stems, attractive foliage throughout the growing season, and the ability to stand up through all kinds of weather.

The ALM Committee has an extensive list of nominated cultivars under consideration and is seeking additional members to join the current judging panel. To participate, APS members should either grow or have ready access to large peony collections that are available for evaluation throughout the year. Interested members are invited to sign up to participate in this two-part workshop that includes an afternoon classroom session at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, May 15th and a garden judging session on Thursday, May 16th. Space is limited so please register early!

Exhibiting Peonies

Presenter: Kent Tretheway

Preparing peonies for competition in the American Peony Society’s annual Flower Show is an exciting process, with lots of logistics to coordinate including selecting, cutting, and shipping flowers to the event; staging them in water a day or two before the show; dealing with the challenges of heat; properly classifying flowers for entry; and staging the flowers correctly on the show bench. Both seasoned and first-time exhibitors will benefit from this training workshop with Kent Tretheway as he teaches participants to navigate the complexities of peony flower exhibition on Wednesday, May 15th at 4:00 pm. Plan now to attend! See: Exhibiting Peonies For Competition Lesson




The following educational seminars, workshops and panel discussions will be held at Reiman Gardens and are open to APS members and the general public. Seminar seating is limited so you’ll want to arrive early!

“Better Peony Photography”

Presenter: Mark Stoltenberg

Mark Stoltenberg is an award-winning professional photographer who teaches numerous classes at Reiman Gardens and is the official photographer for the Perennial Plant Association. When you capture an image of a flower, all too often the results can be disappointing. It’s easy to end up with a lackluster snapshot with little artistic merit. How can you prevent this from happening? Join fine art nature photographer Mark Stoltenberg as he teaches participants the ins and outs of taking better peony flower photos. By putting exposure, light, composition, depth of field, and perspective together, this seminar aims to improve your flower photos and increase your chances of capturing the occasional masterpiece. (Please note: This seminar is open to APS members only. Please wear your name badge for admittance.)  Notes:  Better Peony Photography

“Hands-On Peony Photo Shoot”

Presenter: Mark Stoltenberg

In addition to his Saturday seminar, Mark will lead a small group photo shoot at a private garden in Ames early Sunday morning. This session is open to APS members only and is limited to 10 participants. Advance registration and an additional fee are required. Bring your camera and accessories! Continental breakfast will be served. Please check availability in advance of registration!

“Peonies 101”

Presenter: Carol Adelman

Learn about the best peonies for your garden and how to grow them to perfection. Join Carol Adelman, author, and owner of Adelman Peonies, for a fact filled program that will cover a wide range of information for both experienced and new gardeners. Carol and David Michener’s recently published book “Peony, The Best Varieties for Your Garden” is an excellent optional supplement to her presentation.

“Botanical Peony Species of Professor Saunders’ World”

Presenter: Nate Bremer presenting for Harvey Buchite

Harvey Buchite, past president of the American Peony Society, has been growing peony species for over 40 years. His extensive knowledge of the botanical species and his experience in breeding new peony hybrids allows him to speak from first-hand experience. His presentation “Botanical Peony Species of Professor Saunders’s World” is an exciting look at the wild peony species Saunders used to create some of his hybridizing masterpieces. Harvey will also share his personal insights into how to be successful growing these gems of the garden world.

Harvey was unable to attend the convention due to schedule conflicts.  Nate Bremer, close friend and fellow species enthusiast, will be presenting Harvey’s seminar and looks forward to sharing species information and meeting all that are interesting in this outstanding group of plants.  Please see the American Peony Society’s Peony Species pages for an assortment of excellent supporting information.

“Saunders’ Herbaceous Peonies”

Presenter: Lois Girton

A.P. Saunders is known as the “father of the modern peony.” He systematically attempted crosses between all available European and Asian species, growing over 17,000 plants. He ultimately introduced about 200 herbaceous and 80 woody peonies, including many no longer in cultivation. In addition to growing one of the largest Saunders peony collections in the United States, Lois has also done extensive research on this renowned hybridizer. Join her as she discusses some of the herbaceous peonies in the collection she has been amassing since 2011.

“Hybridizers’ Corner”

Facilitators: Don Hollingsworth, Tim Stanek and Nate Bremer

Join Don, Tim, Nate and other APS hybridizers as they meet to discuss the future of the peony. You’re sure to pick up some great ‘how to’ information! Selective breeding, genetics, and pollination techniques will be discussed. Other questions and observations are welcome, so you’ll want to be sure to join the conversation! Open to everyone, from beginners to accomplished hybridizers; no topic is too simple and some may be too complex!

“Lemoine’s Disease: What’s Behind the Scenes?”

Presenter: Cullen Schaffer

Learn about the latest research into the cause of Lemoine’s disease as Cullen Schaffer provides an update on his recently published graduate work in the Plant Pathology Department at the University of Arkansas. Cullen’s preliminary results suggest that Lemoine’s disease is caused by two viruses that have recently been discovered in peonies in the United States, and are suspected of being transmitted by nematodes. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about this groundbreaking work with time for questions and answers.

“Woody Peonies”

Presenter: Nate Bremer

Woody peonies are becoming more commonly available and popular among gardeners. The often large, ornately formed flowers and unique plant habits are of interest to all that have seen them. Nate’s specialty is growing, propagating, and hybridizing this unusual group of peonies in hopes that more people will consider growing them. Although woody peonies are often considered difficult subjects for the average gardener, Nate will dispel some of the myths and address some of the difficulties experienced in growing them. A careful look at each of the three major groups of woody peonies – suffruticosa, lutea hybrid, and rockii hybrid – will be presented in this image-filled program. Notes: Woody Peonies

“Ask the Experts”

Panelists: Nate Bremer, Don Hollingsworth, Jim Adelman and Piet Wierstra

Questions about peonies? This group of experts is happy to provide answers as they share their knowledge and experience with attendees. The panel is made up of life-long peony growers who are committed both to furthering their own knowledge and to sharing what they have learned with the public. Bring your questions and join in the conversation with this good-natured group for some interesting views, facts, and information about peonies. Any peony-related topic is welcome.



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We encourage you to register early (before March 15th). Standard registration rates (after March 15th) are higher. All full registrations include the welcome buffet and banquet. Please review the pdf version of the Registration form before registering online to avoid confusion about some new options we are offering this year.

Please make sure your membership is current to register as an APS member. If your membership has lapsed, register as a non APS member. Your membership will be renewed along with your convention registration.

Additional Resources

Schedules and Additional Information to Enhance Your Experience