Paeonia 'Luella'

type: [tree peony] – [suffruticosa group] – [rockii-hybrid] – [European Rockii]

LUELLA (Sir Peter Smithers, Switzerland), Feb. 7, 1994. Seedling number 30353. Open pollinated P. Rockii, probably by a Japanese purple T.P. First bloomed 1989. Mauve/purple, paler at the edges, dark almost black flares, capsule white. Single, good substance, stamens, pollen, seeds, reliable. Good stem strength, grows five feet, blooms mid-season. A vigorous plant, no red line on the leaf petiole. A very attractive single bloom, fringed petals, and an unusual pretty color. Bulletin #290.

Sir Peter Smithers:

Sir Peter Smithers on yahoo!groups message #452

The position of this peony has become fairly clear following the researches of
Professor Hong Tao in the wild in China.

The so-called Rock's Peony was introduced from cultivated plants in a lamasery
garden. The Arnold Arboretum in the USA and the garden at Highdown, England
(the late Sir Frederick Stern) were the principal centres of distribution.

The Arnold Arboretum plants proved to be nearer to what is now thought to be the
type than those at Highdown where numerous other Tree Peonies were growing.

In hybridisation the two 'strains' (they are not real strains) tend to produce
somewhat different flowers. the US origin plants tend to have smoother rounder
petals closer to the wild plant. The UK plants have larger flowers with frilled
petals and are perhaps more spectacular. Both are very vigorous growers and I
have never seen botrytis on either in my garden.

When Professor Hong Tao came to my garden a couple of years ago he at first said
that my plant of the US family looked like the right thing. But on taking a
magnifying glass to the flower parts he decided that it showed signs of
hybridity. This probably confirms the notion that other types of Tree Peony
were growing in the lamasery garden from which Rock collected his seeds before
world war II.

It is a fairly safe bet that the true plant is not in cultivation though it is
likely to be introduced from China in the very near future.

However all of that may be, the UK form of this plant is a magnificent parent.
My plant was growing amongst a very large collection of japanese and American
Tree peonies, and I simply collected and sowed the seeds, leaving the choice of
parents to the bees. In due course these produced some magnificent plants, all
with the characteristic brown blotch on the petal bases. Of these several have
been registered with the Registrar and all are illustrated in my book
'Adventures of a Gardener'. They vary in colour from a fine dark red self with
the darker blotches, to lavender mauve, clear pink and a mixture of pinks and

A few years ago I sent some of this bee manufactured seed to the chairman of the
Japan Peony Society who distributed it in Japan. Some years later again I was
surprised to hear from him that one of the seedlings resulting, a lavender mauve
similar to my registered 'Luella', had won 'best seedling of the year' in Japan.
I cite this as one is normally reluctant to claim anything for ones own
products. However, in the light of that event I can certainly reccommend
anybody who has a good form of what is called Rock's Variety, particularly if it
has nicely frilled flowers which are not typical of P.rockii, to use it as a
parent with good Japanese or American plants.

Looking at some of the modern American hybrids I have no doubt that their
breeders have used the Arnold Arboretum plants in their breeding. I think,
however, that the UK plants give better results, though my US type plant has
given some very elegant smooth rounded flowers.

My own parent plant os both forms are now at the Riviere Nursery in France,
along with 104 of my Japanese and American Tree Peonies, and all of my named
hybrids from 'Rock'. Old age is closing in and I was anxious to preserve my
work. The Riviere firm has been breeding Tree Peonies since their first
introduction from China in the last century and is now in its sixth generation
in the family. As I have no financial interest in this matter, and as the
plants were a gift to Riviere, I can with a clear conscience give the address
for anybody interested in them:-

Pivoines Riviere, La Plaine, 26400-Crest, France
Fax:- 33 (04) 7576-7738

They put out a very beautiful illustrated catalogue and sell nothing but
peonies. However not all of my 'Rock' hybrids have yet been propagated in
sufficient numbers to be available for sale.

Peter Smithers

Sir Peter Smithers

Mauve-purple blossoms which are paler at their edges. The inner flares are dark, almost black. Vigorous plant with good stem strength.

Carsten Burkhardt's Web Project Paeonia - The Peony Database


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