DESCRIPTION: These popular, gorgeous hardy perennials are commonly called Peony. The herbaceous Peonies are the most popular. They are mostly natives to Asia Minor and Europe. They are valued for their beautiful flowers, usually colorful foliage, and decorative seedpods. The blossoms are ordinarily very fragrant and may be single, double or anemone form (with broad, outer petals and a pincushion-like mound of central petals or flowers - modified stamens). The foliage is often tinted bronze when new and takes on reddish tones in the fall. The leaves are large, alternately arranged on the stems, and divided into oval to lance-shaped linear leaflets. There are other types of Peonies, less well known, called Tree Peonies. These are cultivars of P. suffruticosa and are natives to Japan and China. They are open shrubs usually growing over 6 feet. P. lactiflora 'Cornelia Shaylor' grows up to 34 inches high and has double flowers with ruffled petals thickly and neatly arranged, from early to mid-summer. They open with a rose-pink flush and gradually fade to blush-white. P. lactiflora ' Sarah Bernhardt' has very large, fully double flowers, with large, slightly ruffled petals, in early to mid-summer. They are rose-pink fading to soft silvery-pink at the edges. This variety grows up to 3 feet high. P. cambessedesii grows up to 18 inches high and has single, deep rose-pink flowers in mid-spring. The leaves are very dark green with purplish-red stained veins, stalks and leaf undersides. This frost-tender variety needs a warm, sheltered location with protection from late spring frost and excessive summer rain. It can be grown in a greenhouse. P. lactiflora 'Auguste Dessert' bears semi-double flowers in early to mid-summer. They are carmine-pink tinged with salmon-pink with ruffled silvery-white edges and a central disk of yellow stamens. The foliage colors beautifully in the fall. This variety can reach a height of 30 inches. P. lactiflora 'Chocolate Soldier' has semi-double, dark purple-red flowers with yellow-mottled stamens. The foliage has a bronze-red hue when young. P. Mlokosewitschii has large, single, bowl-shaped flowers with pale-lemon to creamy-yellow petals and golden stamens. The leaves are divided into rounded leaflets. They are bluish-green sometimes edged with reddish-purple and when new, are mottled with red-purple. P. suffruticosa is the main Tree Peony. It bears large, single or double white flowers blotched with crimson in May and June. There are many more varieties that will be mentioned below.
POTTING: Peonies must be planted in deep, fertile, humus-rich soil that will not dry out quickly in the summer. Before planting, enrich the soil by adding well-rotted manure or garden compost. They can tolerate light shade, but will do much better in full sun. Tall growing Peonies should be provided with grow-through support early in the season. It is beneficial to mulch the soil around your plants with decayed manure in the spring. This feeds them and helps to keep the roots moist. If mulch is placed over the roots in autumn, it should be light to allow the circulation of air; salt hay or evergreen branches can be laid lightly over the ground. Rotted manure, peat moss, or other material likely to hold water will encourage disease. When Peonies are planted, they should be set so that their crowns are 2 inches under the soil. Peonies need plenty or room to grow so they should be spaced 21/2 -3 feet apart. Peonies will produce larger flowers if all the flower buds, except the terminal one, are removed early. If the Peonies' shoots wilt, shrivel and turn brown, it could be a sign of Peony wilt. This fungus lies dormant in the soil until prolonged wet weather, when it starts as a gray mold on the stems. The best method is to cut out the affected shoots to below ground level, and dust with a commercial fungicide. Tree Peonies need loamy soil that has good drainage. Light land can have old turf added and clayey ground can be improved with old turf, leaf mold and sand. They should be placed in a location sheltered from the east. Tree Peonies can be grown in pots for the decoration of the conservatory. They should be potted in the fall, in loamy (turfy) soil with an addition of leaf mold and sand. They may be left outside during the summer and brought in before harsh weather.
PROPAGATION: Peonies are long-lived plants that resent disturbance. If it is necessary to split the clumps, lift and divide them in the fall or early spring. Each piece of roots that has a bud will grow and produce a plant of the same variety. Named varieties are reproduced this way because propagation by seeds will not exactly reproduce its parents. Wild species can be increased by sowing seeds as soon as they are ripe, though it can take up to 3 years to germinate.
VARIETIES: Descriptions are of the flowers.
P. emodi (single, white); P. Cambessedesii (single, deep rose-pink); P. mascula (single, carmine, purple-red or white w/ golden stamens & purple filaments); P. veitchii (small, single, purple-pink); P. Smouthii (single, dark crimson w/ yellow stamens); P. tenuifolia (dark crimson w/ golden stamens - very attractive & delicate, bright green foliage); P. wittmanniana (single, pale primrose yellow w/ yellow anthers & purple filaments); P. Mlokosewitschii (single, pale lemon to creamy yellow); P. suffruticosa (Tree Peony - white blotched w/ crimson); P. anomala (rose); P. humilis (rose); P. lutea (Tree Peony - yellow).
P. lactiflora & var. White Wings (semi-double, white, ruffled, sometimes tinged w/ light yellow), Whitleyi Major (single, ivory white w/ golden stamens), Baroness Shroder (double, globular, flesh pink fading to white), Krinkled White (single, white sometimes stained w/ pale pink w/ golden stamens), Duchesse de Nemours (double, green tinted outer petals fade to white, white inner petals w/ yellow base), Alice Harding (very lg., double, white), Cornelia Shaylor (double, ruffled, opens flushed rose pink turns to blush white), Shirley Temple (double, ruffled, outer whorls of pale rose pink fade to buff-white with smaller inner petals), Mother of Pearl (single, rose pink petals paler edges w/ golden stamens), Sarah Bernhardt (double, ruffled, rose-pink fades to silvery pink on edges), Kelway's Supreme (double, blush pink fade to cream white w/ golden stamens), Avant Garde (single, pale rose pink with darker veins w/ gold anthers & red filaments), Ballerina (double, ruffled, more compact inner petals, pale blush pink, lilac tinted at first, fading to white), Bowl of Beauty (anemone-form, pale carmine pink w/ ivory white stamens), Globe of Light (anemone-form, pink w/ golden stamens), Kelway's Gorgeous (single, bright carmine stained w/ salmon pink), Magic Orb (double w/ several whorls of ruffled, cherry pink outer petals & pale blush white inner petals shaded w/ carmine), Silver Flare (single to semi-double, carmine pink fade to silvery margin), Auguste Dessert (double, carmine pink tinged w/ salmon pink w/ ruffled silvery white petal edges), Instituteur Doriat (anemone-form, carmine red outer petals & pale pinkish-carmine tipped w/ silvery white inner petals), Defender (single, satiny crimson), Knighthood (double, deep, rich burgandy-red), Chocolate Soldier (single, dark purple-red), Sir Edward Elgar (single, crimson tinted w/ chocolate brown), Laura Dessert (double, blush white outer petals, lemon yellow, ruffled inner petals).
P. officinalis & var. Alba Plena (double, ruffled, white tinged w/ pale pink), China Rose (single, dark salmon-rose w/ golden orange anthers), Rubra Plena (double, bright pink-crimson).
P. peregrina & var. Sunshine (single, vermilion tinted w/ salmon rose).
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