PEONY: Peony plants bear an attractive, glossy green foliage that reaches 2'-3' in height with a similar spread. But their popularity is due mainly to their flowers. Peony plants bloom in late spring or early summer. There are peony plants that are indigenous to China, Europe and the Western U.S.
The herbaceous Peony has been cultivated in home gardens for over 600 years. Considering the beauty of the flower and the longevity of the plants, it's no wonder why they have long been a perennial favorite. Peony clumps may survive for up to as long as 50 years, so it is advisable to prepare the site very thoroughly before planting. Once they have become established in the garden, they are reasonably free from maintenance and problems.
A deciduous shrubby species has an erect stem to 5' high. One flower only grows on each stem at the apex. Ten white petals show large dark purple blotches at the base. The filaments are pale yellow and the flower disc is yellowish-white. The flowering period is in May and the seeds ripen in August-Sepember.
Paeona rockii has almost achieved cult status as a collector s plant. It is particularly expensive to buy and always is in short supply. The first western botanist to have seen it was probably John Reginald Farrer (1880 1930) a well known explorer who related some of his exploits in his book On the Eaves of the World (1917). For some unknown reason Farrer did not collect any specimens of this peony and nothing was heard of it again until Dr. Josef Franz Rock (1884 1962) visited south-west Gansu province . . . Rock spent the winter of 1925 the Yamen of the Choni lamasery, which was situated at a height of 2,600 m (8,530 ft) in an area of dense Picea meyeri forest. Growing in the central courtyard of the lamasery was a white tree peony with single flowers. Rock took photographs of it and collected its seed when it had ripened. This seed was ultimately distributed to botanical gardens in the British Isles, the United States of America, Canada and Sweden. Until very recently, all of the known specimens of this species outside China originated from this single collection of seed. Rocks visit was opportune as two years later, in 1928, the monks were killed and the lamasery destroyed by Mohammedans. Very fragrant!
Hardy in zones 5-9
Proper name: Paeonia rockii