Lobata of Perry and the Lobata Hybrids
Without any question the "Lobata Hybrids" are one of the two groups for which the Saunders name seems sure to live longest. [The other group, the "Lutea Hybrids," are tree peonies.] The pollen parent of this strain is a plant which came in the autumn of 1928 from Amos Perry in England under the name of lobata. It bloomed the following June. Having learned through experience the rather poor compatibility between the Chinese peonies and certain of the officinalis forms, of which lobata is one. Professor Saunders determined on a real campaign, and accordingly made this cross no less than one hundred and thirty-four times that month!
In August when he went the rounds to collect the bagged seeds, what was his astonishment to gather two thousand, two hundred and sixty-eight seeds! Now he wrote: "Contrary to the general rule in officinalis, this plant has a violent affinity for albiflora." And from these
seeds, two and three years later, one thousand, two hundred and eighty-eight little plantlets germinated! So the seed yield was nearly seventeen per cross, and the germination over fifty percentboth enormously high for hybrids. "Often there were thirty to forty seeds in a head, and in one (Primevere) as high as seventy-nine. This is utterly unheard- of in the annals of my crossings. No species cross has ever given such results. Indeed albiflora on albiflora would hardly do better. What explanation there is for the easy taking of lobata on albiflora I cannot yet guess."
The first blooms from the 1929 crosses began to appear in 1933, and from then on, every plant turned out to be either a splendid red, with many scarlet and cerise shades new to herbaceous peonies, or a vivid pink in salmon, coral, flamingo, or cherry, with never a bad color in the lot and not a one that turns mauve in old age. They simply fade off through palest peach to silvery white. Almost all are singles; there are a few airy semi-doubles. Some forty of these have been introducedabout three per cent of the total. A complete list of names will be given later; some that have proven most popular are Alexander Woollcott, Cardinal's Robe, Carina, Heritage [a reverse cross], Red Red Rose, and Your Majesty, among the reds; and among the pinks, Claudia, Constance Spry, Cytherea, Grace Root, Janice, Julia Grant, Laura Magnuson, Lovely Rose, Ludovica, Nathalie, and Queen Rose.
The cross is pretty generally sterile. The several hundred plants in the nursery yield not more than twenty-five to fifty seeds in a season. These are always planted tenderly, for a beautiful Fa has come from one of them: the unique and lovely ivory-yellow Moonrise, a sturdy plant of great substance, harking back to who knows what pallid ancestor on its Albiflora side? Here again, as often happens in many second-generation plants, all the original fertility has returned: six Moonrise set more seed than fifty first-generation plants. Those who may have lobata hybrids in their gardens would be well advised to treasure and plant whatever seed may be set.