American Gardener: Styer's Peonies

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While exploring the history of American horticulture this month, we couldn’t resist including Styer’s Nursery, the century-old garden center that became terrain at Styer’s in 2008. Founded in 1890 by Jacob Styer, the nursery was expanded by his son, J. Franklin Styer, who took over in 1924. The business actually began as a mushroom farm-- located near the “Mushroom Capital of the World” in Kennett Square, PA-- but soon became known for its peonies, including several varieties cultivated by Styer himself. Though many people grew peonies in their home gardens, they weren’t yet common in florist’s selections; Styer marketed the eye-catching blooms to New York's top florists, and their popularity quickly grew. On farms from New York to North Carolina, he grew the unique varieties of peonies developed in his Pennsylvania nursery, using different locations and climates to lengthen the selling season. His hard work paid off and his flowers became famous; today, Styer’s peonies remain a signature flower at White House State Dinners, have been delivered as far away as Saudi Arabia, and once arrived at a Cold War summit on Air Force One with President Reagan. 

Above: Some historic photos of the nursery and a 1950s brochure from our archive.

Throughout the month of July, we’re exploring the history of our nation’s gardens with the American Gardener series. 

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