Herbaceous Peonies These are the plants that most people recognise as Peonies. They have been in cultivation in the West for the best part of two thousand years and in China for much longer than that. In the medieval period thay were used for their medicinal properties, although by then only two types were in general Western cultivation, P.officinalis and P.mascula. As the modern era approached, Western paeoniaphiles began to import more varieties from China (particularly forms of P. lactiflora) and the process of cross fertilisation to generate ornamental garden plants began. In the meantime, Chinese breeders continued to produce many attractive varieties but until recently, political upheavals have tended to prevent Chinese plants reaching the West. In Europe, the French were first off the mark in 1836 when Baumann in Bollwiller established his Nursery, whilst in 1851 Kelways began business in Somerset selling plants to the landed gentry. Unfortunately, following the Great War, British interest waned and most European activity migrated east. Having said that, there are now at least five specialist Peony Nurseries in the UK, selling a wide range of plants. The main herbaceous Peony breeding since the Great War has undoubtedly taken place in the USA, with an enormous number of varied and highly attractive plants being produced buy a series of distinguished plantsmen, an activity that continues almost unabated to this day. Many of their best Peonies have been exported all over the world, and there can be few Peony collections without representatives from this superabundant source. A more detailed discussion of the different types of Herbaceous Peony can be found by clicking on ‘Herbaceous Peonies’ -> ‘Lactiflora Peonies’/’Hybrid Peonies’/’Species Peonies’
The Peony Society