Since retiring from Eli Lilly 10 years ago, Carmel’s Kwan Hui has been hard at work.
Each day the Carmel resident spends eight to 10 hours in his four-season garden, carefully cultivating everything from magnolias to Concord grapes and even a banana tree, although it doesn’t last long in Indiana’s climate.
But the highlight of Hui’s garden is the 60-plus tree peonies scattered throughout the 1.5-acre lot in the Woodland Springs neighborhood. Hui estimates that his collection of the bushes is among the largest in the area.
“Some of my gardening friends do have a couple in their yards, but to my best knowledge no private home garden has so many in number and varieties as I do, perhaps not even in public gardens in the Indy vicinity,” said Hui, who moved from Hong Kong to the U.S. approximately 50 years ago.
Hoosiers may be familiar with the peony, Indiana’s state flower, which has some similarities to the slower-growing tree peony. Native to China and a popular theme in traditional Chinese paintings, tree peonies grow on a woody shrub and bloom much larger than garden peonies.
Hui’s tree peonies hit their peak around Mother’s Day, the same weekend he held an open house for fellow gardeners and friends to admire the bushes and many other plants and structures carefully laid out in his garden on Woodland Lake.
Its blooms are gone now, but Hui is hoping for a cold winter, as long periods of freezing temperatures lead to better blooms when warm weather arrives.
“Once frozen, next spring they’re so happy to pop out like fireworks,” Hui said.