A genus of Asiatic origin and many garden varieties.
The flowers vary in size and may be of single
or double form.
Paeonia officinalis is an old garden flower with eight-inch
flowers of crimson on two- to three-feet stems.
Paeonia tenuifolia is a miniature form with double
Paeonia molkosewitschii has sulphur-yellow single flowers.
Paeonia lactiflora (syn. Paeonia albiflora) is the origin
of many of the beautiful garden varieties; reaches
three feet with double flowers.
Paeonia lutea, three feet, from Yunnan, and Paeonia wittmanniana,
two feet, from the Orient, are good yellow-flowering
Paeonia browni, one and a half feet, with dull red
flowers, comes from California.
Paeonia suffruticosa (syn. Paeonia moutan) is
the Tree Paeony, three to six feet tall, with
Paeonies of all kinds should be planted in September
A deep soil rich in humus and a position in full
sun is essential, as well as ample moisture but
perfect drainage during growth.
Propagate by division in October or from seed.
The flowering season is in May and June.
Eighteen inches to three feet.
Flowers of various colours (chiefly white, and
shades of rose and crimson), in May and June.
The Paeonies treated of here are the Herbaceous
or deciduous kinds; the Tree or Mountain variety
being omitted as properly belonging to the order
The herbaceous Paeony is beyond question the most
impressive of the early summer flowers; the size
of the double blooms, which have a sort of pompous
affluence, and the grace of the singles, their
range of colour and characteristic scent, the
noble habit of the plants when well established,
each covering two or three square yards of ground
with vigorous bronze or green foliage and heavy-headed
blossoms, all join to make the Paeony-time one
of the best in the garden year.
The Paeony is entirely hardy, and probably owing
to the strong aroma of root and top alike, it
escapes the attentions of most garden pests. The
roots are hard and fleshy, somewhat like those
The leaves begin to push early in the year, and
the knob-like buds soon follow them, and expand
about the end of May.
The foliage remains green all the summer, and
should not be cut away until it is brown and sere
Established plants are gross feeders, and require
plenty of moisture.
An abundant top-dressing of old manure, wood ashes
and leaves should be spread amongst the crowns
and a yard round them in November.
If the soil is naturally dry, or a droughty summer
pinches the borders, copious waterings should
be given to enable the plants to perfect their
growth for the following summer.
Once planted, the roots of Paeonies should be
left absolutely to themselves.
It takes two or three years for a newly-planted
clump to settle down, and makes itself at home,
and it may stand undisturbed for a dozen years
and, perhaps, in good soil, for half a life-time.
Good ordinary garden mould is sufficient to grow
the finest, and the plant will thrive among the
grass in meadow loam. But in making preparations
for planting, it is worth while to “mend”
the ground thoroughly, breaking it up as deep
as practicable without bringing up raw subsoil,
and working in plenty of half-decayed manure.
The site must not be arid and shallow, or too
much sunburnt; on the contrary, Paeonies will
flourish under the shade of trees, so long as
there is no deficiency of root moisture.
Perhaps the best place is a large herbaceous border,
where they may get their turns of sun and shade,
with full exposure to dew and rain and free-moving
air. New plants should be put in for choice about
the end of February.
Take care to plant with the crown-eyes just at
the surface of the soil, not buried too deep.
In planting from one’s own stock, raise
a plant, or if possible, part of it, carefully
with a fork, and cut off with a sharp knife a
good sound piece of root with one or two of the
stumps of last year’s stems on it, and at
least one bud-eye visible beside them.
Paeonies need no thinning out or disbudding, and
no tying up to sticks.
Their half-recumbent habit, with the great flowers
lying about among the foliage, is one of their
peculiar charms; but if any one wants to see a
pet bloom to full advantage, the flower-stem may
be unobtrusively tied to a light hazel or green-painted
The summer routine comprises the destruction of
weeds, hoeing of the soil, and water in very dry
weather, followed by a mulch of short manure.
In October cut off the leaf-stems with a sharp
knife, taking care not to bring away any part
of the roots; prick the ground over lightly with
a fork, and spread the top-dressing among the
The main classes into which herbaceous Paeonies
are divided are the single and double Chinese
and the European or May-flowering, also single
The first of these comprise the great majority
of the recent “improvements”, the
very beautiful varieties which have been produced
during the last few decades.
In shape they vary from the crumpled disc of the
single, with its central tuft of gold anthers,
to the loose-leaved semi-double forms with broad
outer guard-petals, and the close-packed full
The range of colour includes pure white, cream,
sulphur, flesh pink, various shades of rose, crimson,
purple, together with the somewhat indeterminate
hues, salmon, peach, chamois and cherry.
The Paeony suffers at present, like most other
popular flowers, from a plethora of names; in
the many hundreds contained in growers’
lists there are plenty of distinctions without
It is of little use to give a selection of sorts
which are being superseded every season.
The intending grower should, if possible, visit
a nursery ground in Paeony time, and make notes
of his particular fancies.
Failing this, he will not go far wrong if he look
through a catalogue and mark a selection of different
Giving his vote to any characterised as “vigorous!
The European Paeonies are a much less numerous
and more old-fashioned race than the Chinese.
Their habits and culture are the same as those
The best of the doubles are the old Double Crimson
and Double Rose, and tenuifolia plena.
The first two have very large full globular flowers,
fading after a few days, the Crimson to pink,
and the Rose to a blush that is almost white.
There are also purple and white varieties of this
All these are delightful things in the fortnight
or so which joins the later spring to the full
summer; they are indispensable in “old-fashioned”
gardens, and ought not to be left out, though
one possesses a hundred of the choicest new kinds.
Tenuifolia has very finely-cut foliage, resembling
fennel; the flowers are deep crimson.
Among the single sorts of the European Paeonies,
the best are decora, crimson-purple; lobata, salmon
red; officinalis splendens, crimson, gold anthers.