PAEONY, PEONY or PAEONIA

P. There are two groups of paeonies, the herbaceous varieties and the tree or shrubby kinds which are rather more exacting in their requirements. The herbaceous paeonies are the more popular and flower during May and June, growing to about 3 ft. They are very long-lived (50 years is by no means unusual) and do not generally bloom for a year or two after planting. Always leave undisturbed for as long as possible. Deep, rich soil is best — ground which is light and sandy, drying out rapidly in summer seldom produces either quantity or quality of bloom. Dig the soil a full two spits, working in plenty of well-rotted farmyard manure, compost etc. Paeonies prefer land which is not deficient in lime. A border or plot of ground facing south, southwest or west should be chosen, as in a position facing east the buds may be injured by early morning sun following on a night frost. As they resent disturbance they are often planted among flowering shrubs. Plant between September and the end of February, the earlier the better and not less than 3 ft. apart. At all costs avoid deep planting, otherwise flowers will be few. The crowns should be covered with about 2 in. of soil. Mulching with compost, peat, hop manure etc. in spring is always helpful, and during really dry spells the plants should be watered freely. Herbaceous paeonies may be increased by division in September.

Choice of Varieties:

The following list includes some of the best varieties available. All have some perfume, those markedly fragrant being noted. Paeonies make excellent cut flowers, especially varieties like Duchesse de Nemours and Sarah Bernhardt. Note that blooms cut when open do not last. Alice Harding: creamy-white. Double. Argentine: pure white. Very fragrant. Double.

Border Gem: shrimp-red and green. Shorter grower than most. Double. Bowl of Beauty: light pink with prominent yellow stamens. Single. Duchesse de Nemours: an old but still popular creamy-white with very rounded double flowers. Very fragrant. Useful for cutting. Felix Crousse: bright red. Double. Globe of Light: rose-pink with golden centre. Single. Kelwafs Brilliant: carmine-red. Single.

Kelwafs Glorious: A superb pure white double, which should be included in any collection, however small. Very fragrant. Kelwqfs Lovely: bright rose. Double.

Lady Alexandra Duff: pale pink, passing to white. Very large, double blooms. Marie Crousse: salmon-pink. Double.

Mons. Charles Leveque: flesh-pink. Very free flowering and highly fragrant. Double.

Philippe Rivoire: rich crimson. Very fragrant. Double. Sarah Bernhardt: apple-blossom pink. Very fragrant. Double. The long firm stems make this variety admirable for cutting. Solange: white with amber flush towards the centre. Double. Vogue: rose and silvery-white. Double. White Wings: large single white.

Note: the old double crimson, white and rose paeonies often found in cottage gardens are also worth planting. They bloom in May.

Tree or Shrubby Paeonies (including species):

These make somewhat taller plants, although certain species are shorter, e.g. the redPaeonia humilis which grows to about 18 in. They start into growth early in the year and are consequently very liable to injury by spring frosts and cold winds (winter frosts do not matter as they are basically very hardy).

Bracken or similar protective material is always helpful. The stems are often weak and some staking is advisable. Most species and varieties usually flower when quite young, unlike the herbaceous paeonies. Paeonia delavayi reaches 5 ft. The rich crimson, single flowers have conspicuous yellow anthers, followed by large blackish seed pods.

P. obovata Willmottiae is a plant of great beauty, rare in cultivation but by no means difficult. The white, cup-shaped flowers again have prominent yellow anthers. The stigmas are a vivid red, the seed pods blue-black and highly polished. The foliage colours well in the autumn and spring. Chromatella is a double sulphur-yellow, Dorothy a deep rose-pink, and Oriflamme a vivid cerise-red.

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