Intersectional or Itoh Peonies Attempts to cross Herbaceous and Tree Peonies had been going on for many years without success, when in 1959 some crosses of the Tree Peony ‘Alice Harding’ and the Lactiflora ‘Kakoden’ germinated. These crosses had been made by Mr Toichi Itoh of Tokyo and were the results of many thousands of attempts on his part over many years to achieve viable seeds. Unfortunately, Mr Itoh died in 1956 and the results of his work were only realised when an American Louis Smirnow saw them and, with the permission of Mrs Itoh introduced them to American horticulture in 1974. There were four rather similar plants called Yellow Crown,Yellow Dream,Yellow Emperor and Yellow Heaven. The word ‘yellow’ is important, because the desire to achieve a true rich yellow herbaceous peony had frustrated hybridisers, due to the lack of a true yellow herbaceous species. The use of the bright yellow ‘Alice Harding’ in the above crosses finally achieved a yellow plant with some herbaceous characteristics. These hybrids are cut down in Autumn, just like a herbaceous peony and shoot from the base in Spring. The leaves may present a mix of herbaceous and tree characteristics and the plants have very considerable vigour. Since Mr Itoh’s sterling achievement, much effort has been devoted to creating new, vivid Intersectional hybrids and most of this effort has been in America. Such distinguished plantsmen as Anderson, Hollingsworth, Laning, Pehrson, Seidl and Smith have produced large numbers of these highly desirable plants, which in general have single or semi-double flowers with prominent flares with petal colours ranging from white through yellow, orangy tones, and red, with the occasional purplish shade as well. Some splendid images of the hybridiser’s art can be seen at www.yellowpeoniesandmore.com by clicking on the links - Registered Hybrids, New Varieties, etc - at the top of the Home Page. In the UK, Intersectionals have not yet reached the general Garden Centre and have to be purchased through specialists, and most if not all specialist nurseries now offer them. At the moment they can be rather expensive, and when planting the gardener should remember that they have the ability to form very large clumps with thick woody roots. Some images of these American plants grown in the UK can be seen on the next page. The President of the Peony Society, Dr.Martin Page has written an illustrated article, originally published in The Plantsman, which discusses the genesis and production of Intersectional hybrids. You can read the article HERE A Youtube video produced by  Cricket Hill Garden in America shows a selection of well established Itoh hybrids. You can view it HERE
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