Peonies or peony must be considered the most important of all the hardy, perennial, non-shrubby plants for gardens in these Islands, and in countries with a similar climate.The sheer loveliness of the blooms of the June-flowering varieties (as well as of the “Tree” or “ Shrubby” section) is so extraordinary that attempts to describe it are often complete failures.
The delicate suavity of the perfume of most of the Lactijlora section would alone place them in the first rank of garden flowers. In the house their fragrance is especially agreeable; for unlike that of some flowers it does not become overpowering or unpleasant in confined quarters.
Peonies may be divided roughly, from the amateur gardener’s point of view, into three sections:
(a) The June-flowering varieties of P. lactation (called until recently sinensis, albiflora or “ Chinese Paeonies” ). This is the most important section for the average kind of garden.
(b) The various herbaceous species. These flower in May or earlier; certain of them are eminently desirable.
(c) The varieties of P. suffmtkosa (P. Moutan) the shrubby or “Tree” Paeony, and hybrid varieties between it and the yellow flowered, shrubby P. lutea.
To those who have only met with May-flowering Paeonies such as the well- known “Old Double Crimson” of gaudy colouring and not very pleasing perfume, the June-flowering varieties of P. lactijlora will be an astounding revelation
Whilst Peonies are important by reason of their great and varied beauty in color and form and on account of their perfume, they have other valid claims. One of these lies in their permanence when once planted, another in their power of endurance through hardships such as extremes of climate and neglect, tinder which many other so-called “hardy” plants would fail in part or would altogether succumb.
And the importance of the Paeony as a cut flower is immense. The blooms are so beautiful, so fragrant, so large, on such long stiff stalks, and lasting so long when cut, that they are worth growing for house decoration for this purpose
And even if Paeonies bore no flowers it is reasonable that they should be given a place in the garden for the sake of their handsome foliage, which in many cases assumes brilliant coloring in the autumn.
WHERE , WHEN AND HOW TO PLANT Peonies In The Garden
Paeonies may be planted in any part of the garden where there is direct sun-shine during some part of the day and a soil of average consistency and good depth not too near the roots of large trees.
For the best effect it is probably advisable, where possible, to plant in groups of three or five or more of the same variety, rather than singly. And unless it is intended to take up and plant elsewhere every other plant in three or four years’ time, plenty of room should be given from the beginning. Paeonies are a permanent investment and individual plants will form quite large clumps with reasonable encouragement.
For this country I consider that the very best time to move and replant is in September or October or if this is not possible the first convenient date in the autumn or winter after the ground has been made ready, but not later than the end of March.
The best plants to obtain are roots of two, or at the most three, years of age. These go straight ahead and become established and flower satisfactorily sooner than old clumps or divisions of large clumps which take longer to send out fibrous roots and to re-establish themselves.
When planting herbaceous Paeonies, whether species or garden varieties, a hole for each plant should be dug one or two feet deep and one and a half feet across. Where convenient it would be well, in the summer beforehand, to have
the whole bed or border trenched, or at any rate deeply dug, and enriched by die incorporation of well-rotted farmyard manure, compost, or humus of some kind.
The herbaceous kinds should be planted so that the crown of the plant which produces the stem buds will not be more than one and a half to two inches beneath the ordinary surface level after the soil has seeded.
It is quite useless to give them a protective covering in winter; it may be positively harmful through the lessening of die aeration of the soil without the beneficial action of the frost and snow, to both of which they are accustomed in
their native habitat.
To compose a list of the most desirable of the many named varieties of herbaceous June-flowering Paeonies requires a long acquaintance with them. Not only the beauty of the flower, but the habit of growth, free-flowering quality and the consistently high standard of each individual kind in successive seasons have to be considered.
I have been fortunate in having been in actual personal touch with an immensely varied collection during a long life-time. Those I mention at the end of this article have stood the tests of time and competition.
The various herbaceous species of Paeonia which flower in May or a little earlier are many. Officinalis is the largest section, especially if we include in it P.peregrina, P. arietina, P. cretica, P. decora, P. paradoxa, all of which seem to be sub-species or varieties of it. Officinalis itself is represented throughout England, particularly in cottage gardens, by the “Old Double Red” .
Of other May-flowering herbaceous species, two are outstanding; P. Mloko- siewiczi and P. WUtmanniana. Both are imposing in leaf and flower, and they add yellow, a colour rare in herbaceous Paeonies. And there is the interesting
small-flowered species P. Veitchii and its variety Woodwardii.
It is commonly known as tree peony,The Tree Peony is one of the noblest shrubs available for beds in the garden or for the border; it is extremely hardy, being subject to at least 8o° below zero Far. in its native country. It flourishes in Britain in the open garden under the simplest treatment in almost any kind of soil. The smallest specimen will flower
in the most astonishing manner, bear magnificent blossoms often one foot across and will increase in size until it becomes a large shrub carrying a very large number of flowers.
The flowers are unsurpassed in beauty or in range of colour, from the most delicate tints to those of strongest splendour, by those of any hardy plant or shrub.
The preparation of the soil and the cultivation is that recommended for PAEONIES herbaceous Paeonies. One preference is perhaps a sandy soil well mulched from time to time, irrespective of whether it is an acid or limy one; but it must be well drained, for stagnant moisture is fatal; they do especially well in a bed raised a
foot above the surrounding level.
It is also very easy to grow Tree Paeonies in a cold greenhouse; good sized plants put into pots in the autumn will give flowers as beautiful as those produced in the open air.The following are lists of the Paeonies of the various sections which I would myself plant as being amongst the best available. The June-flowering varieties are given in color groups. Single flowered are marked S. Semi-double SD.
Japanese type J.
The rest are double flowered.
VE—beginning to flower the last week of May
E—beginning to flower early in June
M—in flower in mid-June
L—in flower late in June
VL—lasting to early in July
fr.—more than usually fragrant
T—markedly tall in growth, four to five feet.
D—not normally exceeding two and a half feet.
ac—notable for attractively coloured foliage in late summer.
The name and date in parentheses are of the raiser and the year of introduction.