This interesting genus contains many magnificent flowering plants, embracing at least one hundred varieties and species, all of which are desirable for the border, and perfectly hardy, standing over winter without protection. Most of the genus is herbaceous. P. Moutan, and its varieties, are shrubby; their roots are fleshy, but not so distinctly tuberous as most of the herbaceous species. All require nearly the same treatment. The time for dividing the herbaceous sorts is in September or October; the whole stool should be taken up. With a sharp knife it may be divided into as many pieces as there are tubers with buds; it is necessary that a bud be preserved on each tuber. At this season of the year the Peony is in a dormant state; the buds are just beginning to show themselves, and, if delayed long after the first of October, the new fibres begin to push, and the plant will be less likely to flower the coming spring. The Peony roots should not be disturbed in the spring, unless it be very early, as it does not succeed well when transplanted at that season, without a ball of earth adhering to the roots. The tubers should be planted in a deep, rich, light, garden soil; the crown, or bud, should be placed three inches below the surface. The species of the Peony have been so much changed by the florist, that it is difficult to draw the line of botanical distinction with any degree of accuracy; and, for floral purposes, it is not necessary.
Pceony officinallis. - This is the old Double Crimson Peony, familiar with every one as a household friend. When first introduced into Antwerp, two hundred and fifty years ago, the plant sold for twelve crowns, -a large sum for those days.
The varieties of this species are P. rosea with rose, P. blanda with blush, P. rubra with red, P. carnesens with flesh-colored, P. albicans with white, flowers. This class of Peonies flower the last of May and the first of June.
P. tenufolia, or fennel-leaved, with fine leaves like fennel; in flower the first of May; it is of a deep crimson color, and, when in bud, very beautiful. There is a double variety of this sort.
P. hybrida is a hybrid between the last and P. decora, and very pretty; flower deep red.
P. paradoxa is a double variety, or species with purplish red flowers; blooms last of May.
P. decora, grevilli, and corallina, have large, single flowers, purplish red and red; in bloom the middle of May.
P. Siberica is one of the finest species; the flowers are single, but in clusters, and very showy; white, shaded with pink; blooms 1st of June.
P. alba flora, P. Tartarica, and other Chinese and Tartarian sorts, are the parents, probably, of a splendid race of late flowering Peonies, denominated the Chinese. They are in bloom about the middle of June. To enumerate and describe all would occupy too much space. P. Whitleji has large double white flowers. P. Humeii, double lilac-red. P. rosea has large double rose-colored; rather later than the two last. P. Reeve-sii, semi-double purple. P. Pottsii, semi-double lilac-rose. These are some of the more common sorts, but all beautiful.
Among those of the more recently introduced sorts, are P. sulphurea, with pale yellow flowers. P. Duchess de Nemours, with the broad exterior petals a blush white, while the centre is filled up with numerous fine petals of a sulphur color; quite a novelty. P. prolifera-tricolor. P. triumphans. P. grandi-jlora carnea. P. festiva. P. plenissama variegata. Many other new varieties might be named, all desirable for the border, or to be planted out in a quarter by themselves.
Paeony Moutan, or the Tree Peony, and its varieties, are magnificent plants, with flowers of various shades of red, lilac, light purple and white, measuring from four to eight inches in diameter, all of easy culture; very hardy, requiring but little protection. The variety Banksiae is one of the most common kinds. I have had a plant of this with from seventy to eighty flowers upon it at one time, presenting a splendid sight. The flowers vary on the same bush : some of them are very double, of a light pink color, fading, as they open, to a faint blush, or white towards the edges, and at the base deepening to a pur-plish red; others are semi-double. Some flowers will be of a deeper pink; variations take place also in the size of the flowers, according to the strength of the plant. The shrub is rarely seen more than four feet high, but it becomes very large in circumference, bushing out from year to year, growing into a very regular, hemispherical shape. It is in flower the last of May, with all the other varieties or species.
P. moutan papaveracea, or Poppy-flowered Tree Peony, is also a splendid plant, having large, single, white flowers, sometimes ten inches in diameter. The petals are flat, with a deep purple spot at the base of each. These spots are rayed about an inch and a half long, from the centre, forming a rich, brilliant star in the middle of the flower; the bright yellow stamens add to the beauty of the flower, forming a fine contrast with the purple and pure white. It is a very desirable plant. There is a variety of this, with semi-double or double flowers.
P. moutan papaveracea rosea is a variety with fine rose-colored flowers, and one of the same color with double flowers; not very common.
A great number of new and expensive varieties of the Tree Peony have been exhibited, within the last few years, at the Horticultural Rooms. Some of these varieties do not exceed in beauty those I have described, while others are much superior. I will refer my readers to the reports of the Massachusetts Horticultural. Society, for descriptions of their new sorts. For one or more of them, two hundred francs were paid; more, I dare say, than any one else would be willing to expend for one small plant.
The woody Peonies may be propagated by seeds, suckers, .ayers, and by grafting. The common and most simple way is by suckers. These may be often found growing from old wood, when standing in the open border. The wood is very hard, and will require a sharp, strong knife; a fine saw is often useful in the operation. October is the best time to divide the plants. In the first place, take away the soil carefully from the roots so as to see how the sucker can be taken off to the best advan-tage, and not injure the old plant, and to give a portion of the root to the young plant. When detached, the sucker may be planted where it is destined to stand, in a rich, mellow loam. When propagated by layers, the outer shoots are bent down into the soil in the spring; but before they are fastened down with a hook or pegs, a longitudinal split should be made in the inner side of the bend; this should be done with great care, as the shoots are extremely liable to be broken off where they bend. It takes two years for a layer of the Peony to be sufficiently rooted to be detached. If seed is saved, it should be planted as soon as ripe in autumn. I have not raised the Peony from seed, but probably it would appear above ground the next spring, and in the course of a few years produce flowers, and perhaps a new variety. It is best to cover the crowns of all varieties and species, in autumn, with coarse stable manure; the plants flower stronger for it.
With a collection of Peonies of the different sorts, the garden will not be without some of the kinds being in bloom from the first of May to the first of July.