Growing from seed has fascinated me since childhood. My first attempt germinated dad's tomato seeds on paper towels. It still amazes me so completely, I am willing to start over every winter with old favorites and new species. The paeonia pictured in the header, P. handel-mazzettii, is grown from seed collected by Josef Halda around 2000.

Paeonia handel-mazzettii
See the description of this naturally occurring hybrid (P. delavayi and P. lutea) in Halda's book The Genus Paeonia. My plant was germinated by mentors Norman Singer and Geoffrey Charlesworth, seed-aholics extraordinaire. They would sow several thousand species (mostly alpines), each, during the winters, for the seedling sales of the North American Rock Garden Society as well as their magnificent gardens. It was upon their inspiration and support that I spent a couple of years as the Seed Exchange Director. (Do not miss the LIST www.nargs.org which is available on December 15th.)

Norman Singer & Geoffrey Charlesworth
I acquired this seedling from one of their legendary rock garden seedling sales and waited patiently. Since it had such tender parentage, I placed it next to a giant rock (the whale). During the wait- paeonia need years to grow to flowering size- I ordered a division of P. delavayi for a nearby micro-climate sanctum. It has not yet flowered, but probably this is due to lack of sun as well as incorrect climate. Of interest- P. handel-mazzettii rose like a heron unfolding, and proceeded to flower before delavayi put out its first leaves this year. The flowering was just about in synch with P. obovata alba, which resides nearby. The habit of P. handel-mazzettii is very loose. The flowers are reminiscent of a an old-fashioned rose. The color is unique.

Outdoor gardening season is about over here. Now comes the greenhouse and the armchair, as well as the kitchen. And now, there is a blog to share my learning adventures, html and seed, with you. Please join me.

The Rock Garden in Fall


Joyce Fingerut said…
Hi Elisabeth -

Grazyna directed Laura Serowicz and me to your excellent blog, and is planning to link to you from the NARGS website (with your permission, I assume).

What caught my eye, and prompted this response is the Paeonia that you (and Halda) label as P. x handel-mazettii (yes, it was originally considered a hybrid).

I have grown that plant from the same seed source (Halda) and found it produced some interesting traits. First, it flowered from seed a bit sooner than expected (2004), but not in the expected color: it was a dark, deep red-black. The flowers were single and small, but still packed a punch with their off-beat color.
Then, in their third year of blooming, a few flowers appeared with the Halda-described bronze color - just a few, on maybe two branches. It has done the same thing for the past couple of years, the only change being that the flowers have increased somewhat in size - and I think I detect a fragrance.

So, I went to the source with my question. No, not Halda, but Jim Waddick, who wrote THAT book with Josef Halda and has since investigated the genus in greater depth with Chinese botanists. His comment:
"P x handel-mazzetti is an oddity. At the time it was named and through Halda most people separated P. delavayi from P. lutea. Hong De Yuan and his students have done extensive field studies and made some sense out of the complex of flower color forms, leaf shapes, heights, distribution. Seems very likely he is correct in calling them all the same highly variable species. Flowers can be white-yellow-pink-red-maroon-orange-near black: basically all the peony colors and combos available with mixes in many populations. They now go under one name. He still excludes P. ludlowii, but I am not so sure. It may just be a tetraploid form.

So now P. h-m is no longer considered a hybrid, but a local color variant. Some one should probably select a good form with large flowers or other good characters and register a cv name (another story)."

So, I have donated seed of this shrub (it produces seeds prolifically - and some seedlings) to the NARGS seedex under the name of delavayi, with the color description of red-black (as that is its main color) changing to bronze. According to Jim and his sources, P. delavayi now includes x francheti, potaninii, ludlowii, lutea - all as color variants.

No one, it seems, is content with anyone else's names. Tam Hartell (of the DelVal chapter) used to maintain that all botanists/taxonomists, upon receiving their degrees, also received a quota - of name changes they had to effect ;-)

May your peony continue to produce flowers in your favorite color - under your favorite name.
Thanks Joyce. I agree with Tam. In fact, I have given up changing labels around my garden to reflect most taxonomic changes. One noted botanist in the old CT ARGS chapter always prefaced announcing such changes as due to "lumper" and "splitter" type differences among the powers that be. I see Aster is now broken out to Ampelaster, Eucephalus, Eurybia, Ionactis, Oreostemma, Sericocarpus, Symphyotrichum, Xanthisma and Xylorhiza. Whew!

The Flora of China Vol 6 seems to have come out 3 years before Halda (Czech) with Waddick (American) published the Paeonia monograph in the US. It lists Paeonia delavayi var. alba Bean; P. delavayi var. angustiloba Rehder & E. H. Wilson; P. delavayi var. atropurpurea Schipczinsky; P. delavayi var. lutea (Delavay ex Franchet) Finet & Gagnepain; P. delavayi var. lutea f. superba Lemoine; P. franchetii Halda; P. handel-mazzettii Halda; P. lutea Delavay ex Franchet; P. potaninii Komarov; P. potaninii f. alba (Bean) Stern; P. potaninii var. trollioides (Stapf ex Stern) Stern; P. trollioides Stapf ex Stern--- all as synonyms of P. delavayi. Of course it begs the question as to why Halda with Waddick and Timber Press did not accept this change before proceeding to print the book.

From the point of my own observation about P. h-m: it does *not* seem to have the same growth habit as what I am currently growing quite close by as P. delavayi. One is striking with its symmetrical wood, the other rises zig-zag. One is flowering before the others leaves finish unfurling. They look different. It will be interesting to see if P h-m runs true to seed.

I do hope your submissions to the exchange are kept distinct. At least one knows the heritage of the parent. It might be worth putting some further distinction in the NARGS seedlist, i.e. P. delavayi (syn P. handel-mazzettii form) or the Halda collection number. Maybe a Chinese "splitter" will be graduating soon.

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