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Japanese Garden Plants
This is where to find details on plants. We don't have a lot of images, but we'll be providing articles and details as we are able. If you have materials to contribute or gaps to fill in, please let us know.

Japanese Name:botan 
English Name:Tree peony 
Latin Name:Paeonia suffruticosa 
Family:Paeoniceae 
Sub Type:Deciduous 
Native Habitat:moutains in NW and SW China 
Light:partial shade 
Soil:rich, well-drained, rich, ph 6.5 - 7 
Flower Color:white, pink, fuschia, maroon 
Bloom Time:Mid-May - early June in temperate areas, earlier in the south 
Width: 
Height:3-6 ft. 
Uses:medicinal uses for root 
Last Updated:8/15/2001 
Details: The tree peony is a common garden plant in Japan and one of the only traditional plants that produces prominent flowers. It is a very ancient plant in China and was brought to Japan with Buddhism in the second part of the 8th century to be planted on temple grounds. It was used mainly for medicinal purposes (and the root is still used in Chinese medicine) and for decorating court gardens. They frequently appear in paintings after the 9th century. The plant was heavily hybridized in China and an by the 10th century, already 39 varieties were on sale. There are now more than 600 cultivars. Propagation, then and now, was primarily through root stock grafting. New varieties are developed by sowing large numbers of seeds and then selecting desired samples after 8 years. There are 20 species in Europe, Asia and North America but only two are cultivated. In North America, the plant does well from Zones 3 to 9.

To get the huge, fragrant blooms, they need deep, rich soil, good mulch and plenty of moisture during the spring. They are usually transplanted in the fall, when the success rate tends to be better. If purchased as ball and burlap during the spring or summer, they should be left in this state, shaded and well-watered, until the autumn. When ready to transplant, a well-drained site should be chosen with pH between 6.5 and 7.0 and not near a large tree that will sap nutrients and water from the peony. These plants also do best in a partly shaded location. This allows the flowers to last longer without their color fading. Dig a whole 2ft x 2ft x 2ft. Make sure the roots are extended and fill the hole half way with rich garden soil. Water and then fill the rest of the hole with the same soil and water again. Mulch with leaves or straw during the first winter. Water heavily for the first year.

Peonies do quite well in containers as well. However, be warned that they quickly girdle themselves and become rootbound, so you'll either have to repot frequently or use a root control bag (a plastic-like fabric that drains quickly and exposes the roots to enough air that they don't girdle themselves). They should be allowed to get at least 4 hours of sunlight and prefer full sun. You can then move them into the shade during the bloom season to prolong the flowers.

Botan are supposed to prefer a good, cold winter to produce the best blooms, but many growers say this is not the case (though it is true for some herbaceous varieties.)

The plant is quite sturdy, once established, and is subject to few diseases. Botrytis is one exception. If you plant becomes infected with this disease, you can control it by removing all leaf material at the time of the first frost. This will break the parasite's life cycle and the plant shouldn't become reinfected in the spring.

For further reference:
Cricket Hill Garden, Thomaston, Connecticut

Japanese Garden Society of Oregon. Oriental Gardening. New York: Pantheon Books, 1996, p. 139,142.

Kitamura, Fumio and Ishizu Yurio. Garden Plants in Japan. Tokyo: Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai, 1963, p. 95.

Betty Richards and Anne Kaneko, Japanese Plants, Tokyo: Shufunotomo, 1988, p. 140-141.

 




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