PAEONY (botanically Paeonia; Nat. ord. Ranunculaceae q.v.) a genus of plants remarkable for their large and gorgeous flowers. There are two distinct sets, one the strong-growing herbaceous kind, with fleshy roots and annual stems, derived mainly from Paeonia albijlora and P. officinalis; the other called the tree paeony, stiff-growing plants with half-woody permanent stems, which have sprung from the Chinese P. Moutan.
The herbaceous paeonics usually grow from 2 to 3 ft. in height, and have large much-divided leaves, and ample flowers of varied and attractive colours, and of a globular form in the double varieties which are those most prized in gardens. They usually blossom in May and June, and as ornaments for large beds in pleasure grounds, and for the front parts of shrubberies, few flowers equal them in gorgeous effect. A good moist loamy soil suits them best, and a moderate supply of manure is beneficial. They are impatient of frequent transplantings or repeated divisions for purposes of propagation, but when necessary they may be multiphed by this means, early in autumn, care being taken that a sound bud is attached to each portion of the tuberous roots.
The older varieties of P. albijiora include Candida, festa, fragrans, Humei, Reevesii, nibesccns, vestal is, Whilleyi, etc.; those of P. officinalis embrace albicans, ancmoniflora, Baxteri, blanda, rosea, Sabini, etc. The garden varieties of modern times are, however, still more beautiful, the flowers being in many instances deUcately tinted with more than one colour, such as buff" with bronzy centre, carmine with yellowish centre, rose with orange centre, white tinted with rose, etc.
The Siberian P. tcniiifolia, with finely cut leaves and crimson flowers, is a graceful border plant, and its double-flowered variety is perhaps the most elegant of its race.
The Moutans or tree paeonies are remarkable for their subshrubby habit, forming vigorous plants sometimes attaining a height of 6 to 8 ft., and producing in May magnificent flowers which vary in colour from white to lilac, purple magenta, violet and rose. These are produced on the young shoots, which naturally bud forth early in the spring, and are in consequence liable in bleak locahties, unless protected, to be cut off by spring frosts. They require to be thoroughly ripened in summer, and therefore a hot season and a dryish situation are desirable for their well-being; and they require perfect rest during winter. SmaU plants with a single stem, if well matured so as to ensure their blossoming, make very attractive plants when forced. They are increased by grafting in late summer or autumn on the roots of the herbaceous paeonies.
The yellow-tlowered tree paeony (P. lulea) was introduced from China in 18S7, but is still very rare. There are hundreds of names given to the colour variations of both the herbaceous and tree paeonies, but as these have only a fleeting interest it is better to consult current catalogues for the latest types.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)