Kathleen Gagan, of Peony's Envy, to Speak at Jan 24, 2015 Membership Meeting
"It's such an easy flower," says Kathleen Gagan
, of the peony.
"Deer don't eat them, they get very few diseases, they don't need irrigation, and they are drought and pest resistant.
They're also sustainable and can even withstand a fair amount of neglect."
That resilience-paired with its simple beauty-is what led Gagan
to launch a peony nursery on the few acres attached to the house she
husband bought more than a decade ago in Bernardsville, NJ. She'd recently traded a career as a globetrotting corporate communications expert for life at home with her
two children, and she
was looking for a new venture.
"The land that came with the house was part of the Farmland Assessment Act, which meant that if we farmed it, the land would not be taxed," she
went about trying to be a farmer.
previous corporate experience in China, she
Mandarin language skills to connect with peony nurseries there and imported 10,000 roots to get started.
Sure enough, she
says, the peonies "didn't fail!"
So began her
booming nursery business, Peony's Envy
, which now houses a display garden and nursery on the original property, and another 12 acres nearby where Gagan
grows the plants that she
ships to customers nationwide.
"Peonies are a long-term commitment, " she
"It takes years for plants to be ready to harvest.
So you plant out a little and harvest a little, and eventually get into a groove.
says peonies have a cult status, and she
often hears stories from customers about moving away and regretting not taking their peonies with them, or of plants being passed down through generations of families.
"Everyone seems to have a peony story."
As the featured speaker at the MGA Membership Meeting, on Saturday (January 24, at 9 a.m. at Swan Hall on the URI Kingstown campus), Gagan
will be talking about "all things peonies" to help you start or improve your own love affair with peonies.
In addition, Gagan
will be bringing plants to sell-some of which will be exclusive to the meeting and not available through her