Early April sees the flowering of our oldest tree peony, a white large flowered single that has been in the ground in front of the split rail fence at the end of the knot garden for eight plus years.It is the focal point at the end opposite the shed doors. Originally four of these majestic shrubs were put in the ground along the fence. All were purchased bareroot at Walmart for fifteen dollars apiece. That was an astronomical price to pay for a wad of roots in a boxed plastic bag, times four especially. Two were pink, a red and a white made up the four. The design plan for these color choices, who knows? Only the white survived the first year, but we would not know what the bloom would look like for a few more years. The growth seemed slow but by the fourth year, there were several buds. As the buds opened, the blooms were fantastical, white large silky crinkled petals surrounded a voluptuous center of red and gold that might make a lady blush. The dark red carpel and yellow furry stamens are irresistable to our buzzing garden cohorts. Although the names of the four tree peonies were written down on a diagram of the knot garden with their location noted, that piece of graph paper seems to have disappeared into the etherworld of garden papers here. There is no way it could have been tossed into the recycle, or worse the trash, intentionally anyway. But the search was on to find the correct name for the white tree peony. Combing the internet recently, using that search term brought success. Site after site of listings and photos showed the unmistakable red and gold center with white crepe paper petals to be Paeonia ostii ‘Phoenix White’, in Chinese ‘Feng Dan Bai’.
One of the best sites for plant information, , the Missouri Botanical Garden, or Mobot says of this plant:
Feng Dan Bai (White Phoenix)
This is the most widespread cultivar of Paeonia ostii. It is a very vigorous species with the most rapid growth of all the peonies that, in a former classification, were grouped together as suffruticose peonies. Plant height can reach 7ft. at maturity. It comes into flower in a relatively short time after propagation. It grows successfully under completely different climatic and soil conditions. It is the base root of our grafted tree peonies. Flowers: white, sometimes with pinkish veins; single, large, with dense fragrance; petals, very open and not forming cups, one of the earliest flowering.The flowers face upwards, floating like silk on top of the leaves. Leaves: lobed only exceptionally.
The flowers have survived wild winds and
rain snow in the last week. They do this by closing their petals to protect the pollen when precipitation comes. As long as the pollen is fresh, the flower will open again in sunshine. This pollen is looking rather fresh to these eyes. Many sites claimed this plant to be grown in China in huge crops for medicinal purposes. Diligent research could not reveal what that purpose was though. If anyone knows, we would appreciate the sharing of that information. Added: Analgesic; Antibacterial; Antiinflammatory; Antispasmodic. Thanks to Phillip(UK) for the link with this info. See his comment below to go visit that link yourself. And do visit his incredible blog by clicking on his name here.Once planted the Peony likes to be left alone and punishes those who try to move it by not flowering again for several years. Once established, however, it produces splendid blooms each year for decades.
Tree peonies are aristocratic perennials that would be a wonderful addition to any garden, growing in zones 3-9. Unlike the herbaceous peony that dies back to the ground each winter, these peonies develop woody stems that add architectural interest to the winter garden. Since they do develop woody stems, plants must not be cut back as typically done with the herbaceous peony. The woody stems can be lightly pruned to develop a good scaffold of primary stems and to promote the production of new shoots. Tree peonies do not require a great deal of maintenance to grow well. These plants are resistant to deer browsing. They like a soil that is near neutral and it should be well drained. They do not require great quantities of fertilizers, as a matter of fact, over fertilization can reduce flower production the following year. A moist soil in a lightly shaded place in the garden is ideal for best growth and flowering. While kneeling under the canopy of flowers and foliage with camera in hand, we spied these bits stuck to the woody stems. This post could have been titled “Tree Peony And White Feathers”.