This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
A genus of herbaceous or shrubby plants with large alternate lobed or dissected leaves and immense showy crimson, purple, rose, pink, or white flowers. Sepals 5, not petaloid, persistent. Petals 5 to 10 in the single flowers. Carpels 2 to 5, coriaceous when ripe. Species few, but widely spread, ex-tending from Central Europe, through temperate Asia, to China, and one species to North-western America. Named after Paeon, a physician. The enormous flowers of some of the double varieties are very striking and handsome, though the single ones are preferred by some growers. All are very effective amongst shrubs and on the margins of plantations.
Fig. 17. Paeonia Moutan. (1/4 nat. size.)
Fig. 18. Paeonia Moutan. (1/4 nat. size.)
1. P. Moutan (figs. 17 and 18). - A native of China, introduced towards the end of last century, The only shrubby species in cultivation, and the parent of all the beautiful varieties called Tree Paeonies. There are double and single white, pink, crimson, purple, and striped varieties. This is a somewhat tender plant, requiring slight protection in Spring.
2. P. officinalis. - From this species have sprung many of the most familiar crimson, red, and a few white varieties. It is usually a taller plant than P. albiflora, which it closely resembles in some of its forms. The leaves are not so equally lobed as in the latter, and the carpels are hairy. South of Europe and temperate Asia.
3. P. albiflora (fig. 19), syn. P. edulis and P. Sinensis. - A native of China and Siberia, normally white-flowered. The carpels are smooth, and recurved from the base. It is highly fragrant, its perfume having been compared to that of the rose. Under cultivation it has given birth to pink, crimson, and flesh-coloured varieties. This, however, may be ascribed to cross-fertilisation with other species.
Fig. 19. Paeonia albiflora. (1/4 nat. size.)
Fig. 20. Paeoonia tenuifolia. (1/3 nat. size.)
4. P. decora. - A purple-flowered species from Asia Minor, Leaves tripartite; lobes oblong, obtuse, hairy beneath.
5. P. Wittmanniana. - Distinguishable from all the others by its bright yellow flowers. A native of the Caucasus.
6. P. tenuifolia (fig. 20). - A Siberian plant, remarkable for its finely dissected foliage. It is of smaller stature and more compact growth than the other species, and the flowers are not quite so large. They are dark crimson, either single or double, and appear in May.
7. P. paradoxa. - Leaves glaucous, ternate, lobes rather obtuse with undulating margins, hairy beneath. Flowers purple or crimson, single or double. There is also a variety with prettily fringed petals. From the Levant, flowering in May.