Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Peony 101 -3 Types

By Mary Pratte
Taken from The Peony C to C August 2005 Volume 8 Issue 3

Most peonies in our gardens are of the herbaceous form - the more common lactifloras and hybrids between two or more different species.  The former usually produce multiple blooms per stem in various shades of white, pink, and red, while the latter also offer coals, cherries and a few pale yellows, mainly with one bloom per stem.  These hybrids also bloom earlier in the season than the lactifloras.  All have stems which die back naturally in the fall.  Herbaceous peonies have five flower forms - single, Japanese, anemone, semi-double and double.  If carefully chosen as to early, mid and late varieties.  It is possible to have a succession of bloom over seven weeks.

Tree peonies are shrubs with woody stems upon which the leaf and flower buds sit exposed through the winter.  This can make them somewhat tender in colder parts of the country, necessitating protection where there is not reliable snow cover.  The buds and huge crepe paper flowers are very elegant, and bloom in a wide variety of colours.  The suffruticosa tree peonies include all of the traditional Chinese and Japanese tree peonies as well as 19th century European introductions.  They have all of the colours found in herbaceous peonies.  Hybrids between the suffruticosa and the yellow-flowered wild Paeonia lutea originally bought yellow into the colour palate, but more modern hybrids, mainly bred in North America, offer an even wider range, including dark reds, pinks and exquisite blends.

Crosses between herbaceous and tree peonies - Itohs or Intersectional hybrids - are still quite rare, and this is reflected in the cost of their roots.  With time, prices will decrease, and their wonderful habits will be much appreciated in Canada.  While firs hybridized by Mr Itoh in Japan, one might think that they were especially developed for our northern climate!  They have herbaceous stems which should be cut back in the fall, but leaves and flowers similar to those of tree peonies.  Because the buds are buried underground in the winter, the are much hardier than tree peonies.

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