Common name: Tree peony
These are among the most attractive of all flowering shrubs and are not to be confused with their cousins grown in herbaceous borders. The treeare attractive both in leaf and flower; they are hardy, but young growth can be damaged by late frosts. Over recent years many splendid varieties in a wide range of colours have been imported from China.
The best known is the mountain peony (P suffruticosa), with large blooms 15cm (6in) across. There are many varieties, and among recent introductions are ‘Dark Black Purple’ (also known as ‘Sheng Hei Zi’), a striking double-flowered purple;’Pink Lady’ (‘Fen Qiao’) with very large frilly double pink blooms, and ‘White Jade’ (‘Bai Yu’), a lovely double white.
Among the best of the yellow tree peonies is P lutea var. ludlowii (AGM) with large golden-yellow. A final one to look for is P rockii, with large white blooms that are highlighted by a maroon blotch at the base of each petal.
Soil type Most well-drained fertile soils, except poor sandy conditions andclay.
Planting Choose a sunny but sheltered spot. It may be necessary to protect the young growth against late frosts. The best time to plant is in the spring.
Pruning Generally nois required. Any dead wood can be removed in late winter or early spring. On some of the large double-flowered varieties it may be necessary to support heavy blooms.
Propagation Species can be grown from seed. Named varieties and hybrids will not come true from seed. Layering in mid-spring is possible; two years are usually required for rooting to take place.
Pests and diseases There are fungus and viral diseases that can attack peonies. Also, swift moth caterpillars can eat the leaves.