Carsten Burkhardt's Web Project Paeonia - The Peony Library
The Manual of the American Peony Society
EDITED BY JAMES BOYD
Copyright 1928 by American Peony Society
DESCRIPTIVE LIST OF CHINESE PEONIES
By G. A. Stevens
COLOR is not an inherent property of a flower, but is wholly dependent upon the quality of light reflected from its petals. A change in the light profoundly affects the quality of the reflected color, as anyone may see by looking at flowers in the greenish light preceding a thunderstorm and in the golden light of sunset, when their colors are so strangely different that they look unreal. To prove this fact, one needs only to take a flower into a photographer's darkroom where the only light is that transmitted by red glass.
Serious attempts have been made to set up arbitrary color standards for describing flowers. One of the latest provides a means of isolating each color and shade for comparison by an aperture in a sheet of black paper. So far none of these "color charts" has proved really satisfactory, for all such devices rely upon the reflection of light from opaque surfaces covered with pigments, usually of mineral origin. The flower petals which they are supposed to match are stained with nature's finest vegetable dyes, distributed upon surfaces of limitless variation smooth, rough, translucent, opaque, grained, crystalline, silken, velvety, mealy, metallic, and so on through an unending range of textures and thicknessestheir shades and intensities being modified by infinite interrelation.
It seems to be impossible to mix paints or inks which can show, by reflected light only, those tints and shades in flowers whose translucent petals glow and shimmer with colors seen by both transmitted and reflected light.
Worst of all, for determination by a printed or painted color chart, is the fact that no two petals are precisely the same in hue, alike on both sides, or of uniform color even on one side. With each square quarter-inch differing from every other square quarter-inch, how can accurate comparisons be made with a surface covered by any uniform, opaque pigment?
Colors vary in flowers of the same variety, not only from one bloom to another, but also from morning to afternoon or the next day; from sun to shade; from varying exposures and effects of moisture of heat from succeeding maturities. Comparing living flowers with dead pigment is therefore only a guess, an approximation, an average.
Pending the probable preparation of better color scales, which
MANUAL OF THE AMERICAN PEONY SOCIETY
recognize and attempt to meet these difficulties, the color of peonies in this list is described in the simplest manner possible by using well-known color-names, modified by understandable words.
Thus, white means just that, the absence of color. Flesh-white, Hush-white, cream-white explain themselves. Such expressions as French white, Chinese white, etc., mean nothing to nine-tenths of us, and while it may be objected that cream-white is equally indefinite, meaning one thing to a fortunate person who was brought up in proximity to a Jersey cow, and another and wholly different thing to the city dweller who gets his cream from a milkman, cream-white describes with fair accuracy white which is yellowish, not greenish like a goose-egg, bluish like bathroom enamel, or pinkish like a strawberry ice-cream soda.
Pink, when used in these descriptions means pink, the color of the old-fashioned clove pink Dianthus plumarius, a clear, pure shade, somewhere between white and crimson, with little or no hint of yellow and no taint of lavender.
Rose, or rose-pink, has a distinctly bluish or lilac tone, but is not grayish like the much more strongly lavender-tinted old-rose. Flesh-pink is a very light pink with a faintly yellow tinge. Shell-pink is the same much intensified. Salmon-pink is a still stronger color, with the yellow predominating so that it is not far removed from orange.
Red is a broad term embracing both scarlet and crimson and all intervening shades. Crimson is a red more or less inclined to blue. Scarlet is red which tends toward orange and yellow. Carmine is an indefinite term which stands for so many things that it means nothing, so it is not used in this work. Maroon is a very dark crimson with a hint of brownish purple. In peonies, the effect of sunlight on maroon is most peculiar. It gives an almost lavender sheen very difficult to describe.
Yellow means the clear color seen in the evening primrose, CEnothera biennis; golden yellow the color of the center of a dandelion blossom; lemon-yellow a light greenish yellow approaching the generally conceived color of lemons. Buff is a flat, whitish, golden yellow with a hint of pink; canary a light shade of lemon-yellow.
Other descriptive terms are used, but an effort has been made to make them as clear as possible, and wholly self-explanatory.
[Pronunciation of Peony Names]