This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
In a season like the present, when the general run of bedding-plants are at this date (15th July) no bigger, but in many instances actually smaller, than when they were planted out, certain herbaceous plants come out in splendid contrast to these draggled denizens of warmer climes. A very considerable number of herbaceous plants is to be found in full flower at the present time, bidding defiance to the weather, bad though it be. But the most conspicuous, and certainly the most showy of all in bloom, now nearly a month behind their time, are the Pseonias whose name stands at the head of this paper. These stand unrivalled for effect in the distance; and really, in such weather as we have experienced during this strange blending of spring and winter which has usurped the place of our summer, it becomes a point of some importance to consider and keep in view that flower-garden effects which can be noted and enjoyed under the protection of a roof are just such as only could be enjoyed out of doors by none except the most robust; for who, besides, would dare all the risks of rheumatism or endless colds certain to attend on exposure to the unseasonable weather which has prevailed all over the country for months past? These Paeonias are not only amongst the best plants for distant effects on the margins of masses of shrubs, but they are grand and effective objects when viewed by themselves singly or in masses made up solely of the different sorts that may be drawn together.
They take the highest place amongst the grander types of herbaceous flowers. Improved as they have been during recent years, there is a very great variety of beautiful colours, as well as ample form and size and substance, to be obtained by careful selection from the lists of raisers and dealers who make a speciality of them. In the matter of colouring they rival the Rose itself, in so far at least as Hybrid Perpetuals are concerned. Indeed they present some colours, such as white, in greater purity than are to be found in any H.P. Rose; and nearly every other shade of colour presented by that class of Rose is splendidly exhibited in one variety or another of the Peeonia. There is also a very considerable range of duration of the flowering period of the different varieties: some are early, some late, and some are more enduring or persistent than others. Many also are little less fragrant than the Rose itself.
The following varieties are among the best and most distinct in cultivation:-
Pure white, the base of the petals sulphur-yellow, very fine double flowers, and a profuse bloomer.
Beautifully formed, very double; splendid flowers, with pink guard-petals, the centre ones white, shaded with blush and flaked with crimson.
Large, brilliant, purple-red flowers, finely formed; a very free bloomer.
Splendid bright crimson, flushed with purple; one of the most distinct and showy of the dark-coloured sorts.
Dark purplish-rose, enormous flowers, very double, and fine in form.
Pure white, the base of central petals primrose, giving a pale creamy tint to the centre of the flowers; a very effective sort.
Pink of a delicate tint, changing to white; splendidly-formed large flowers.
Grand petals, rich satiny rose, central ones bright lustrous pink, edged with a lighter shade of the same colour and white.
Brilliant purple-rose, enormous flowers, of beautiful form, and very double.
A semi-double of very effective character, purplish crimson, with the yellow anthers in centre very conspicuous.
Guard petals deep pink, centre chamois.
Bright purplish-crimson, a very double and free-blooming sort.
Warm purplish-rose, enormous double flowers of excellent form.
Outer petals rosy pink, centre ones white, a very free flower.
Delicate peach, finely-formed double flowers.
Guard-petals white suffused with rose, centre ones pure white, large finely-formed flowers, and an abundant bloomer.
Fine satin rose, shading at the edges to lighter rose; a very double, finely-formed flower, and an abundant bloomer.
Creamy white, flushed with chamois; finely-formed, very double flowers.
Petals pure white, shading into delicate primrose at the base, somewhat flaked with carmine; flowers very large, double, and of fine form.
Outer petals rich purple-rose, centre ones bright deep rose, flowers splendid in size and form; a very free bloomer.
A very distinct and beautiful variety, with deep pink outer petals, the inner ones more delicate or paler in colour, flaked with carmine.
A very fine pure-white variety, flowers extra large and very double.
One of the oldest but yet one of the best in its particular colour, flowers very large, deep crimson, well formed, and early.
Rose-pink, very bright, and shaded to delicate rose on the margin of petals; a very double, free-blooming, fine variety.
A very distinct and beautiful variety; one of the most effective and showy ; rich crimson-purple, very large flowers, a free and late bloomer, which will help to prolong the season of this useful genus of flower.
Very fine, rich, lustrous rosy-pink, tinted on margins of petals with white, flowers very large and double.
This is distinct in every respect from any other Paeony. The foliage is deeply and finely cut into elegant filaments; habit dwarf and compact; the flowers very double, medium sized, compact, and handsome, deep crimson or blood-red.
Very fine, large, double flowers, rich purplish-crimson; a very free bloomer.
A species the blood of which has contributed much to the improvement of the now very numerous varieties. The flowers are single, pure white, with a mass of golden-yellow anthers in the centre, which give a striking and pleasing effect along with the broad white petals. It is remarkable for its fragrance, and is altogether a very desirable border plant. W. Sutherland.