Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, November 14, 2008

Peonies - some later flowering varieties

Peonies flower over a long time, and today, some of the mid to later flowering varieties are featured.
Firstly the lovely Lady Alexandra Duff. This is a blush-pink flower, notable for its "fullness" (the large number of petals, and their thick texture) and the delicious perfume. The original Lady after whom the flower is named was, what we would politely describe as a "minor royal" - she was named after her grand-mother, Queen Alexandra, wife of (British) King Edward VII. The plant was named in 1902, in her honour (when she was only 11 years old) by the famous English Peony breeder - James Kelway. Sycophancy has always been a feature of the naming of Peonies, unfortunately, both in France and England.
The next Peony is the sweetest perfumed Peony I know - Duchesse de Nemours. (See below for biographical notes) Named by August Calot, one of the earliest French Peony specialists, in 1856. It is a white peony, with a touch of yellow in the central petals, which fades to a pure white when open. The carpels at the centre of the flower are green, which helps add to the purity of the flower - there is no trace of pink in this Peony. According to Carsten Burkhardt's famous Peony database, this is the most popular Peony in the Dutch cut-flower market, which I can attest is a huge industry - a major part of the Dutch economy. Nobody does cut flowers like the Dutch.
This last Peony, "Bowl of Beauty" is one in the "Japanese Style" - outer guard petals surrounding a mass of petaloids. In this case the guard petals are "fuchsine-rose pink" (a colour reminiscent of tones found in Fuchsia plants). The central petaloids are creamy yellow. You can see a collection of photos of this plant, if you go to Carsten's database for the letter B and click on the blue second letter "O". Then a list of Peony names starting with BO will have opened. Scroll down to Bowl of Beauty. You will see a series of photos of different plants carrying this name.

There is amazing variation in the different plants carrying this name - some even have red central petaloids. Also the colour of the guard petals in the photographs is wildly different. Some plants appear to be red and yellow. I am pleased to say that some plants are virtually identical to mine (fuchsine pink, and cream) .

Partly this colour variation confirms a point I made several weeks ago about the difficulty of capturing the true colour of peony flowers - with the variation in bluish tones, which give the magenta tones (or the "fuchsine tone) to these otherwise pink flowers.
Finally, it would be remiss of me to not publish this photo of a lovely full flower of the Rose "Just Joey". This plant grows just outside my front door and bedroom window. I have not pruned this plant in 2 years, and it just keeps growing, and flowers from spring to summer, and into autumn. I love the colour, which is peach, suffused with pink. Its buds open a bronze colour. (The references refer to it as "peach, buff, copper"). For some reason this modern, large flowered rose appeals to me very much, and I have two "grafted standards" growing, one on either side of my front door. It was only introduced in 1973 - and it has spread around the world to be an internationally popular rose.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Duchesse de Nemours

Portrait of Queen Victoria and her cousin, the Duchesse de Nemours.
Source: "Winterhalter and the courts of Europe"
Franz Xaver Winterhalter
The Duchesse de Nemours (at the time this Peony was named in her honour), was born Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Kohary. In modern parlance, she was a German Princess, born to an important Royal family, related to most of the Royal Families of Europe. She was cousin to both Queen Victoria (of England) and to Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert.

The Princess Victoria married the French nobleman, the Prince Louis, Duc de Nemours. He was the second son of the Duc d'Orleans, later King Louis-Philippe of France. Following the Revolution of 1848 (in France) which led to the Second French Republic, the Duc and Duchesse de Nemours were exiled in England, where she died in 1867. The naming of this Peony after the exiled Duchesse de Nemours in 1856 was clearly a political statement by the peony grower Calot. This was during the reign of Napoleon 111 (during the Second French Empire).

As the title Duchesse de Nemours is a traditional French aristocratic title, there have been numerous ladies with that title over the centuries. The title is associated with the Dukes of Orleans - junior members of the French Royal Family. The biographical notes above relate to the contemporary Duchesse de Nemours in the year 1856, when this plant variety was introduced to cultivation (and named).


mick said...

Beautiful flowers and I enjoy all the details you give about them. You must have an amazing garden! Sometime would it be possible to give some wide angle shots to show something of the layout of the garden, please.

Denis Wilson said...

Good morning, Mick. You were up early. I was up late!
I will take some general shots, one day, but not yet. The yard is full of weeds. Dandelions all over the place, and Blackberries over my head, in some places. I have commenced cuttin ghtem back, and poisoning them (painting on concentrated "Roundup"). It will take months, but I hope to beat the berries this season.
I have a yard with many interesting plants in it - mostly natives, but lots of Old-fashioned Roses, and Camellias too. The rest is regenerating Rainforest, or open paddock, kept weed free by a horse.
My view (over the Kangaroo Valley and the distant Shoalhaven Valley), is the best feature of my yard.
But thanks for asking.
Incidentally, we had a huge thunderstorm here, last night (first in ages), and this morning there is very thick fog - so today, one cannot see more than 50 metres.

mick said...

Hi Dennis, thanks for the further description of your garden. It sounds like a work in progress - interesting and challenging. The photos you have previously posted of the view over Kangaroo Valley and the more distant Shoalhaven area are a fantastic view for any garden property.