Peony is a hardy perennial bush extensively grown in temperate climates around the world. The genus name, Paeonia, honors Paion, physician of the gods of Greek antiquity, who is supposed to have discovered its medicinal properties.
More than 30 peony species have been identified, and at least 3000 cultivars created. Many of these are registered and available for purchase by the home gardener. Peonies are noted for their longevity, attractive foliage, variety of flower color and form, and their hardiness. They are particularly useful because of their versatility. Uses for peonies include specimen planting in borders, as hedges, and as cut flowers. Florists often use their foliage in flower arrangements.
The best-known herbaceous or bush species are lactiflora, officinalis and tenuifolia. The last is a small fern-leaved species. Growing in popularity are the spectacular tree peonies, which are actually large shrubs with fascinating blooms of many petals in a variety of intense colors. Tree peony species most frequently encountered are delavayi, lutea, rockii or suffruticosa.