January 22, 2020

Woody and Wonderful

Tree peony

Janine Pineo Photo - Tree peony

Garden Maine has a sweet book collection, including a reprint of “The Flower Garden” from 1851, written by Joseph Breck: seedsman and florist, former editor of The New England Farmer and The Horticultural Register. What boggles Garden Maine’s mind, however, is reading about gardening 161 years ago and feeling envy. Such is the case with the tree peony. Breck writes: “… the Tree Peony, and its varieties, are magnificent plants, with flowers of various shades of red, lilac, light purple and white, measuring four to eight inches in diameter, all of easy culture; very hardy, requiring little protection. The variety ‘Banksii’ is one of the most common kinds. I have had a plant of this with from seventy to eighty flowers upon it at one time, presenting a splendid sight.” Sigh. The difference between a tree peony and a herbaceous peony is that the tree peony’s woody stem remains over winter and should not be cut back in the fall. It actually is a shrub. Pictured above is a no-name variety found at Bangor’s Windswept Gardens a few years ago. It truly had no name, just a number. Beautiful would be our suggestion.

Peony Fact of the Day: The tree peony is a “Chinese native, also commonly referred to as Moutan,” It is thought to have been first discovered in an eastern province in the sixth century.” – From the University of Vermont Extension System