This section is from the book "The Florist And Garden Miscellany". Also see: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!.
Peonies ! what old-fashioned spring-flowers ! reminding one of the cottage-gardens in our rural districts, where they seem to grow like wild flowers; surely nothing can be written about them but what is known, - no mysteries of culture, for they grow without it; what, then, can be said about them to make an article for the Florist? Let us see, or rather think. It is just probable that some of your readers may not know that, in common with all our flowers, very many new varieties of Peonies have been raised from seed, prolonging the blooming season till June; these I propose to describe, not forgetting our old spring friends, too often neglected to be planted, - all they require; for in all soils and in all seasons they will, with a constancy rare among garden-flowers, gladden our eyes in April with their rich and gaudy blossoms.
The very earliest species is the Pseonia tenuifolia, with its beautiful hair-like leaves, each stem crowned with a crimson globe; for such is the appearance of its flowers before expansion, nestling as it were anion"; its leaves. P. tenuifolia latifolia and P. tenuifolia ful-gida bloom in succession; the latter is remarkable for the extreme brilliancy of its flowers. So hardy are these species, particularly the first, and so durable in tenacious soils, that a root will endure for fifty years, and bloom constantly every season without cultivation. I say this on the authority of my father and grandfather. The variety of this Rose with double flowers, P. tenuifolia flore pleno, is as yet rare; its flowers are too double to be beautiful, as they are crowded with petals, so as to be irregular in shape.
The single Peonies, with purple flowers of different shades, succeed the above. Some years since a large collection of varieties or species was sent out by the Horticultural Society; Mr. Sabine, at that time an officer of the Society, took much interest in their culture: some of these are interesting, but merely as early bloomers, for they are too much alike in their flowers to be worth keeping distinct. They all bear seed freely; and many varieties, with slight distinctions in colour, may be originated with but little trouble among these single purple Peonies. The following are perhaps equal to any; they bloom immediately after P. tenuifolia: Andersoni, Baxteri, compacts, decora, foliosa, pubescens, splendens, Russi. There are many others in catalogues; but a bed of seedlings will supply varieties without end, quite equal in quality; the difficulty will be to find names.
* A peculiar monstrosity of Lastrea filix mas is growing in Kew, with all the pinnee multifid at the apex throughout the whole frond: it was received from Cornwall.
Pa?onia lobata is a very distinct and pretty early-blooming species, with pale carmine flowers.
P. paradoxa fimbriata, with double flowers, is also distinct and pretty; very dwarf in its habit, and one of the first double Peonies that blooms; then follow the common double Peonies, varieties of Pseonia officinalis.
P. officinalis albicans, the double blush Peony, with large double pale blush flowers fading to white.
P. officinalis rosea, the double rose Peony, with large double rose-coloured flowers fading to blush.
P. officinalis rubra, the well-known double crimson Peony, than which no flower in cultivation is more gorgeous. P. officinalis car-nescens proves here identical with P. officinalis rosea.
P. officinalis anemoniflora is, as compared with the above, a new variety from the continent, and really very beautiful; its stamens form themselves into narrow riband-like petals edged with gold.
P. peregrina anemoniflora is equally beautiful, but differs a little from the foregoing; they are well named, for they remind one by their filament-like inner petals of large double Anemones.
Thus far I have noticed in succession a few of the most desirable of our earlv-flowering Peonies. No sooner have the double Peonies commenced fading, than our more modern Chinese Peonies (Pa?onia albiflora) begin to unfold their charming flowers of the most varied hues, from crimson to almost yellow. These differ from all the above, not only in their flowers, but in the colour of their leaves, which are of deep glossy green tinged with purple. The earliest blooming species of this Peony are: P. albiflora siberica and P. albiflora vestalis, with single flowers of the purest white; P. albiflora tatarica, with single rose-coloured flowers: then follow P. albiflora Whitleii, with large double white flowers; P. albiflora lleevesi, with pale rose-coloured flowers, large and double; P. albiflora fragrans, with large double flowers of a deep rose, and slightly rose-scented; P. albiflora Humeii, also with large rose-coloured flowers; P. albiflora Pottsii, a distinct and beautiful variety, with large double flowers of deep crimson; P. albiflora grandiflora carnea plena, a variety from France, with immense flower-cups, of a delicate flesh-colour. P. albiflora grandiflora nivea plena, flowers of equal size to the foregoing of pure white, central petals pink; the central petals of these varieties are not too much crowded, and are very elegant.
P. albiflora anemoniflora striata, flower-cup rose, central petals rose mixed with .salmon.
P. alhiflora elegans, flower-cup pale flesh, central petals yellowish mixed with carmine.
P. alhiflora Hericartiana, flower-cup purplish rose, central petals rose and salmon.
P. alhiflora lutea plenissima, flower-cup pale straw, central petals approaching to yellow when in full bloom.
P. albiflora papaveriflora, flower-cup white tinted with yellow, central petals tipped with carmine.
The seven last mentioned are from the continent, and, with the preceding varieties of this group, are well worthy of culture. This is not by any means difficult; but these Chinese Peonies require a soil more light and rich than the common species and varieties. A light sandy loam suits them admirably; they are easily propagated by parting the roots in April, when the young shoots are about two or three inches above ground; this, however, will prevent their blooming the succeeding season.
In addition to some of the above quasi yellow Peonies, a new species, P. Witmanniana, has been recently introduced from the Caucasus, described as being really yellow , in habit it is very distinct, but its flowers are of a greenish yellow only, much to the disappointment of many, who hoped to have from that interesting locality something rich and rare.
Nurseries, Sawbridyeworth. Thomas Rivers.