Scarlet Silk Tree Peony or moutan (botan) in my neighborhood but I now grow one in my garden as well.

Pink Peony

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Pink peonies.

Did you know? The Chinese call Peonies the King of flowers or the Flower Fairy.

Peonies or Paeonia are herbaceous perennials. There are 30 species of Peonies (part of the larger magnolia family), but some are woody shrubs with 10 species. Peonies were named in honour of Paeon, the physician of the gods. Peonies produce large, often fragrant flowers. Blooming inlate spring and early summer,Peonies come in shades of red to white or yellow. Peonies are native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America.


Peonies are hardy flowering plants that need little care and live through severe winters. After becoming established in a garden, Peonies bloom each spring for many years. Peonies are also extensively grown as ornamental plants for their very large, often scented cut flowers. Peonies have been cultivated in China for more than 2,000 years, not only for the beautiful flowers but for also for the roots, which were used for food and medicine. The herbaceous Peonies have been cultivated in home gardens for over 600 years. Clumps of Peonies may survive for as long as 50 years, and they are reasonably free from maintenance problems.

The English name for Shakuyaku plant is very confusing – it is called the peony. But there are three kinds of plants also called the Peony. The Moutan or Paeonia suffruticosa which grows naturally in China (and also naturalized in Japan) ; red peony or Paeonia lactiflora or Paeonia veitchii; Shakuyaku or White peony or Paeonia lactiflora. They are all used in Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine. This plant is used in the medicine called shakuyaku-kanzo-to which contains white peony root and licorice root. It took me a long time to figure the three kinds out.

Below is Linda Inoki’s article about the peony or botan as it is called here.



Botan (Peony)




O peony!
Of itself the head is bowed
Before you.

by Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827)
From “Autumn Wind Haiku” (Kodansha International)
translated by Lewis Mackenzie

The sheer magnificence of peony blooms inspires admiration and respect wherever they are seen. Various species of peonies originated in Europe and the western parts of America and Asia, with flowers ranging in color from pale yellow, to pink, to white marked with ruby red. The Chinese called their silky tree peony moutan, meaning “most beautiful.” The Greeks named their species after Paeon, the god of healing. As well as bearing noble buds, superb blooms and handsome leaves, the peony is also valued for the medicinal powers of its roots — though the Ancient Greeks, fearing the plants’ resentment, employed dogs to dig them out of the ground. Once established, peonies hate to be disturbed, and since the seeds of many varieties are difficult to grow, gardeners usually increase the plant stock by grafting. Some varieties have a beautiful perfume, although the deep pink one painted above had a pleasant herbal aroma.

Japan Times : April 18, 2002
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