Peonies are very popular and there are many species of this popular genus but only three that have come into popular favor. These are Peony albiflora, Peony Moutan and Peony tenuifolia. Peony albiflora, the Chinese hardy herbaceous peony, is the section the florist is mostly interested in peony tenuifolia is interesting and can be used with good effect in the herbaceous garden. Its finely divided foliage is very distinct, with solitary terminal flowers. The typical color is scarlet or crimson, but other colors have been produced of late.The herbaceous peony sends up long, strong flower-stalks mostly terminating in four to six buds. The largest and most perfect bud should be selected and the others removed unless you wish to have some flowers later, when later buds can be left and the others removed. Peonies should be cut in the bud state and kept for twenty-four hours in a cool room or cellar. If allowed to open in the field they travel badly and soon have a wilted appearance. Their season of use is often prolonged by cutting the flower stalks and buds when quite tight, or as soon as the buds show color, and keeping them in water in cold storage, a degree or two above the freezing point.
Peony albiflora, the herbaceous peony of China, is the commercial plant which of late years has grown greatly in popular favor. It comes from China, northern Asia, and Siberia. This accounts for the extreme hardiness. The single varieties are the typical form and have wide-spreading petals with a bunch of yellow stamens and anthers in the center, making a very showy flower, but it is the double varieties that are in fashion and demand. Of these there are hundreds of garden varieties, so a list of names given today may be out of fashion in five years. All I shall say about varieties is that at least seventy-five per cent of all you plant for cutting should be white and light pink.
Peony albiflora anemoniflora striata, flower-cup rose, central petals rose mixed with .salmon.
Peony alhiflora elegans, flower-cup pale flesh, central petals yellowish mixed with carmine.
Peony albiflora Hericartiana, flower-cup purplish rose, central petals rose and salmon.
Peony albiflora lutea plenissima, flower-cup pale straw, central petals approaching to yellow when in full bloom.
Peony albiflora papaveriflora, flower-cup white tinted with yellow, central petals tipped with carmine.
The Moutan section is the so-called tree peony. These varieties are shrubby and much branched. The double forms have beautiful flowers. Most of the varieties now in cultivation have large double flowers of various colors. They are propagated by grafting the dormant eyes on strong roots of the herbaceous species. The tree peony makes a handsome subject for the lawn, or is fine in masses in a bed, and it also is much used for forcing for conservatory decorations, but it will scarcely pay the American florist to attempt the forcing of this showy plant. We have tried it. In the first place the plants of useful size are expensive, and if not large enough to give you a profusion of bloom they are not attractive. If the practice of grafting the tree peony becomes common in this country and moderately bushy plants can be purchased from specialists at a reasonable price, they would soon become popular forcing plants.
The very earliest species is the Peonia 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 onion. Peony tenuifolia latifolia and Peony 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, Peony 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 following are perhaps equal to any, they bloom immediately after Peony 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.
Peony lobata is a very distinct and pretty early-blooming species, with pale carmine flowers.
Peony 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 Peony officinalis.
Peony officinalis albicans, the double blush Peony, with large double pale blush flowers fading to white.
Peony officinalis rosea, the double rose Peony, with large double rose-coloured flowers fading to blush.
Peony 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.
Peony 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.
Peony 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.
While the peony will exist in almost any soil, it will give only poor flowers in a shallow, sandy or gravelly soil and it should be deep, heavily manured and inclined to be moist. To get the best results the soil should be not only ploughed or dug, but it should be trenched to a depth of two feet, working in thirty tons of cow manure to the acre. In the period of dry summer weather the peony blossoms suffer. I have seen them much injured at this time in a dry spell, so if planting for cut blossoms it would be well to choose a piece of ground with a slight fall to the south, so that when occasion arrives you can irrigate the plot. No other means of watering would be practical or efficient. Peonies do very well in partial shade. Bordering a plantation of hardy shrubs and shaded by trees, they are very satisfactory; but for the commercial man, give them the full sun.