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Posted on: May 14, 2019

Bigger Family Peony Garden to be dedicated at Ward-Meade Botanical Garden

For release: Immediately Contact: Mike McLaughlin, 785-251-6880
Date: May 7, 2019

Bigger Family Peony Garden to be dedicated May 21 in Ward-Meade Botanical Garden

TOPEKA, KAN. – Topekan Myron Bigger hybridized 53 varieties of peonies, earning him international fame. In 2015, the Bigger family donated 50 varieties of peonies to Old Prairie Town’s Ward-Meade Botanical Garden. At 1 p.m. May 21, the family will be on-hand for the dedication of the “Bigger Family Peony Garden” featuring the Myron Bigger Peony Collection.

The peony garden is just inside of the sound wall of the Ward-Meade Botanical Garden. A plaque will be unveiled as part of a ceremony involving members of the Bigger family, local government officials and Friends of Ward-Meade Garden Committee members.
Speakers will include:

• John Bell, recreation leader, Old Prairie Town
• Bob Saathoff, chairman of the Friends of Ward-Meade Garden Committee
• Bob Bigger, grandson of Myron Bigger

Myron Bigger registered his first peony hybrid in 1936. He was a member of the National Peony Society beginning in 1924 and remained a member for 72 years, serving as president twice. His plants grow worldwide including in Japan, New Zealand and Canada.
According to Saathoff, peonies’ colorful blooms range from red and dark red, to pink and dark pink, to white and white with red or pink. Some have a single set of petals while “doubles” bloom with multiple pompoms.
Saathoff said that Bigger’s red “Kansas” peony is probably the most popular in the world. Others of his hybrids such as “Westerner” and “Hillbilly” are quite rare according to Bob Bigger. Myron Bigger created four gold medal winners and several Best of Show winners. The very last
peony Bigger hybridized is named for his son, Calvin. Several peony varieties represented in the garden are named for Bigger family members.

At one time, there were five peony gardens in Topeka, according to Bob Bigger. Myron Bigger planted his first patch at the family’s original home at 21st and Wittenburg. The family then moved to a location on Croco Road, but their farm was displaced by the Oakland-Billard Airport. As Bob Bigger explains, the family then dug plants for hours a day for a month to move them to their current farm on Rice Road where Calvin Bigger and his wife now live.
Myron Bigger even invented a custom digger that goes underground to cut the roots of the plants and then plow them from the ground. The family is donating the machine to the Ward-Meade Botanical Garden.
Bob Bigger said his grandfather developed even more than the 53 peony hybrids for which he is known. He discarded some, said the grandson, including a purple one, even though he studied at Kansas State University.

About Shawnee County Parks Recreation

Shawnee County Parks Recreation includes nearly 60 miles of trails, 2,625 acres of parks and 320 annual days of sporting activities. In addition, the department offers recreation programs, educational programs and golf. A combination of tax dollars, user fees and private donations enables Shawnee County Parks and Recreation to offer parks, sporting and aquatic facilities with state-of-the-art features, and beautiful, nationally recognized gardens.
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