Monday, June 1, 2009

Tree Peonies

' Kamada Fuji' is one of my favorite tree peonies. I love purple, soI guess this would be no surprise. I love the tree peonies because the flowers are just so 'over the top'. They are typically larger and often resemble crepe paper. They are big but delicate at the same time.
The next photo is 'Souvenir de Maxime Cornu'. It is a creamy yellow, very double, with rosy pink edges on all of the petals.

Yellow is a color that is pretty much missing in herbaceous peonies, but more common in the tree peonies. This one is 'Golden Bowl'.

This last photo for today is 'Leda'. The color s a lovey pink, fading a bit over the time the flower is out. Always lovely.

Tree peonies are not as common as the herbaceous types, but have become more readily available in recent years. They are almost always more expensive to buy because in most cases they are grafted rather than being divisions from the parent clump. Tree peonies are native to a small area in China and Tibet. They were discovered in 1884 and the first flowers were shown in France in 1892. Now I'm sure the Chinese would find it odd that we would say they weren't discovered until then since they had been growing them for thousands of years at that point, but because of the small area in which they were found and the remoteness of the area, they just hadn't made it to the west until then. Until the techniques for propagation improved, they didn't become very popular and weren't commercially available until the later part of the 20th century.
Tree peonies aren't really trees, but shrubs. They don't die back each year, but keep their woody stems and just grow larger each year, though slowly. Since they live for hundreds of years, they really aren't in any hurry.
There are 3 types of tree peonies that you will generally find available - European, Japanese and Lutea hybrids. Other species exist - delvayi and potanini - but these are not commonly available. The European and Japanese types are from the same ancestry, Paeonia suffruticosa. The European type has very double blooms and broad foliage. The Japanese types can be single or semi-double, nearly always with a cushion of yellow stamens in the center. The foliage is much finer and thinner.
The color of the European and Japanese range from pure white through pale pink, rose, salmon, cerise and deepest red. The Japanese types have a wider range of colors.
The Lutea hybrids are a cross of Paeonia lutea and Paeonia suffruticosa. These are the yellows and yellow and red combinations. Many have red flares.
Flowers on tree peonies can range from the tiniest at 4 inches up to an amazing 15 inches in diameter. I've personally never seen one like that, but the oldest of our bushes is only about 25 years in the garden, so I guess there's time. I know we have had blooms that were at least 10 inches, and those are pretty spectacular.
Tomorrow - how to grow tree peonies. A lot of the information comes from 'An Introduction to Tree Peonies' , a wonderfully informative pamphlet put out by the American Peony Society back in 1978, in addition to my own experience growing tree peonies for a number of years.

1 comment:

Debbie Lyda said...

These are the most beautiful of all
trees. I would love to learn more
about these beautiful creations.

Debbie Lyda