James H. Schutte
Plant Common Name
Bartzella Peony, Intersectional Peony
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Cultivated and hybridized for thousands of years, peonies, with their stunning spring blooms, are among the most beloved of garden plants. There are at least 30 species contained in this genus, which is the only one belonging to the plant family Paeoniaceae. Paeonia species may be perennials, shrubs, or subshrubs, and are native to northwest Africa, temperate Asia and Europe, and western North America. Ideal for foundation plantings, beds and borders, these old-fashioned favorites are very long-lived, and have been known to survive in gardens for over 100-years.
Peony leaves are borne alternately on the fleshy or woody stems, and are usually compound (composed of smaller leaflets). The individual leaflets are oval, lance-shaped or linear, and may be coarsely lobed or finely divided. Young foliage sometimes bears red or bronze tints. Large, rounded, bowl-shaped blossoms are borne singly or several per stem, and appear in shades of red, rose, pink, white and yellow. The flowers are sometimes fragrant, and bear five to ten petals which usually surround masses of attractive, cream or yellow stamens (male reproductive structures). They are followed by lobed, pod-like fruits containing large, red or black seeds.
Herbaceous garden peonies are derived from the species Paeonia lactiflora, a large, bushy, herbaceous perennial originating from eastern Asia. Bred since ancient times, its large, showy spring blooms appear in numerous form and colors, and make excellent cut flowers. Tree peonies are developed from the species (Paeonia suffruticosa), a deciduous subshrub native to China, where it is known as the “King of Flowers”. Its huge, stunning, bowl-shaped flowers appear in a rainbow of exotic colors, and bloom in mid- to late spring.
Generally, peonies prefer full to partial sun and loose, well-drained, fertile soil, and require a long period of cold winter temperatures to induce flowering. They are best planted, moved or divided in autumn. Plant the tuberous roots of herbaceous types about 2 inches (5 centimeters) beneath the soil surface with the buds facing up, and provide with a layer of protective mulch in the first winter. Double-flowered varieties may require staking to support their heavy blooms. Tree peonies should be planted with the graft union well below the surface of the soil. They may take a few years to flower heavily after planting, and should be protected from strong, drying winds.