The first Paeony (tree Paeonies) to be seen in Europe were introduced from China in 1784 and their huge thornless ‘roses’ wowed everyone.
Pre 1800’s English and French nurseries were growing and selling herbaceous Peony sourced from China.
Native species that had been crossed in Eastern Mediterranean also appeared and these were the forerunners of the modern hybrids. In the early 1900’s, American Paeony growers started cross breeding in earnest and raising new cultivars from seeds, some of which are still popular choices in gardens today.
The dedication and love for Paeony of these gardeners and many others through the 20th century has given us a vast selection of colours and varieties to choose from. There are thousands of varieties of Peony, with many different flower types; simple singles, doubles, bombs, soft blousey blooms with collars and beautiful rose forms. Colours range from deep reds to the lightest pinks and whites through to cream and yellow. Blooms can be quite small, or the perfect size for a vase, up to huge single cups and those breathtaking doubles the size of dinner plates.
PRONUNCIATION Pæonia, Pæony, Peony, Peony Rose are all names used for this lovely flower. Named after PÆON a physician of ancient Greece who used the plant medicinally, it would follow that the correct way to say it is PEEON – EE However, many people prefer to call them PEE – OWNEE and it seems to be purely a matter of preference with both being acceptable. Plurals are PÆON – IES or PÆ – OWNIES.
MYTHS ABOUT PEONY
Peony not flowering and sulking after being moved is a commonly held belief. Whilst they may well be sulking, it would be more correct to say they are just unhappy because they are not being given what they need to grow well.
They need FULL SUN
One of the first mistakes people make is to put them under a tree. Peony HATE the shade. Even over-hanging branches or crowding by tall shrubs will make them unhappy and stops them flowering well.
They need an OPEN COLD spot
Along with the “under the tree thought” is the belief that they are delicate. Pæony are herbaceous and one of the hardiest plants you will find. To flower well, a Pæony needs 80 days of cold on the ground above its tuber. This cold does not have to be hard frosts, but the temperature needs to get down to single digits for a couple of months. (This is the main reason that they do not fare well in the top of the North Island and yet do so well in the lower South Island).To ensure they get cold, NEVER cover with hay, pea straw, bark or any other medium.
They need SHALLOW planting
They also will not flower well if planted deeply. Nice shallow planting is required as this allows the tuber to receive the cold it needs. Place the tuber with the flower buds just 5cm (2 inches) below the surface.
Tuber pieces MUST have 3 – 5 fat flower buds in the tuber piece for the plant to have flowers.
The main reason Peony do not flower is due to insufficient flower buds on the piece of tuber being taken from the plant.
To help your young Paeony plant to get a really good start, resist the temptation to to pick the flowers for the first couple of years, and try not to pick all the flowers off the plant, even when it is older.