Early Development of Hybrid Peonies
previous pages have told the story of the remarkable rise of interest
in the peony in Europe and America during the later half of the 19th
Century and the first quarter of the 20th Century. The great part
that the American Peony Society has played, and is still playing, in
the development of the peony in this country was particularly
of this interest has been centered on the garden varieties or forms,
what we are now asked to call "clones" or "cultivars,"
of the Chinese peony, Paeonia albiflora. These new varieties
were usually produced by sowing seeds of particularly attractive
forms which presumably had been cross fertilized by bees, and then
selecting from the resulting seedlings those that seemed superior.
There had been little hand crossing between the different named
varieties of the Chinese peony and still less hybridization between
few attempts at producing hybrids between different species had been
begun in Europe in the 1880's or 1890's. The great Victor
Lemoine, who was later to raise the famous Le Cygne,
crossed albiflora with wittmanniana, and among the
resulting hybrids were Avant Garde,
Le Printemps. Mai
Fleuri. and Messagere.
Georg Arends of Germany is
credited with crossing peregrina [the identity of the plant
called peregrina is open to question] with wittmanniana to
produce the variety Alpha. The
Peony Manual also reports, without particulars, a cross wittmanniana
is also probable, but not definitely established, that Peter
Barr of London may have made species crosses on Paeonia
officinalis (for he introduced some fine seedlings under the
names Ceres, Charmer,
Otto Froebel, and Sunbeam)
and on Paeonia arietina, from which a superior cultivar was
obtained which he named Northern Glory.
Our geneticists, cytologists, and morphologists may some day shed
light on the parentage of these plants, but whatever records Barr may
have kept were lost in a fire in his office long after his death. We
know little or nothing of the means by which these hybrids [if they
were really hybrids] were produced.
the time of World War I three members of the American Peony Society
began to make crosses, unknown to each other, between Paeonia
albiflora and P. officinalis. The first of these was A.
P. Saunders, then secretary of the Society; the second,
Edward Auten, Jr., of Princeville, Illinois, and the
third, Lyman Glasscock of Elwood,
Illinois. Later through the meetings of the Society they came to know
each other and to inspire half a dozen other peony growers to make
the same crosses.
a later section will be devoted to A. P. Saunders and his remarkable
work in crossing many species, it will be sufficient to note here
that the first results of the albiflora X officinalis
crosses were introduced to the garden public at the 1928 Boston
Peony Show. He called them the Challenger Strain and they included
the cultivars Challenger, Buccancer, Defender, and others.
Auten had originally entered the
real estate and insurance business. His love of the peony caused him,
early in life, to start a peony nursery.
a period of about forty years he issued descriptive catalogs offering
his peonies for sale. In addition to the general commercial varieties
which he grew by the acre, he raised, named and introduced about two
hundred and fifty varieties of Chinese peonies and about fifty
hybrids between albiflora and officinalis.
numbers of gardeners knew him as a creator of these beautiful peonies
and most of all admired his fine non-fading reds. In his own opinion
his finest Chinese varieties were Auten's Pride, Mary Auten, Carolina
Moon, Nippon Brilliant, and White Delight. A few of his most famous
hybrids are Auten's Red, Chocolate Soldier, and John Harvard. Many of
his varieties will be described in a future chapter.
Glasscock began life as a bricklayer and later became a
building contractor. He made a hobby, as well as an occupation and a
business, of growing flowers and hybridizing. During his thirty-five
years of breeding peonies he named about a dozen Chinese varieties
and some fifty hybrids. Since his death, the nursery has been carried
on by his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Glasscock Falk.
Glasscock is perhaps most famous for his variety Red Charm, which is
a double red hybrid bomb which has won many of the top prizes
wherever it has been shown. Among the other fine varieties are:
Little Gem. Golden Glow, Flame, May Delight, Sunbright, Bright
Knight, Mahogany. Gay Cavalier, and Black Monarch, all of which are
albiflora-officinalis hybnds. In addition, from a cross
between officinalis and tenuifolia
apparently not attempted by anyone else, he produced another hybrid
which he named Laddie. This has the narrow and very lovely
fern-like foliage of tenuifolia and is entirely distinct. Many
of the varieties will be described in future chapters.
these three men, to whom we owe the great majority of American peony
hybrids, there are several others whose work should not pass
Walter Mains of
Belle Center, Ohio, taught grade school and was a transport postal
clerk before he entered the peony business. He has been breeding
peonies for over thirty years, but his varieties (40-41)
not yet been widely distributed. His finest is probably Frances
Mains. This is an albiflora of which we shall probably hear a
good deal more in the future. Among his hybrid varieties are Ann
Zahller, Belle Center, Buckeye Belle, and Walter Mains.
Benjamin P. Guppy, of Melrose, Massachusetts, made a good
many officinalis crosses in the early 1920's which were
frequent prize winners at the shows of the Massachusetts
Horticultural Society. Among his varieties were Eeples, named for two
of his grandchildren or nieces, and Passadumkeag. While these were
fine varieties for their day, he evidently did not feel they were
important enough to introduce and they are probably no longer
S. Bockstoce, of Pittsburgh, has worked for many large
companies and was for a time in the building contracting business. He
has also long been a building and loan association official. He is a
member of many horticultural societies, in addition to the American
Peony Society, which he joined in 1916. His greatest interest has
been experimenting with foreign plants, growing wild flowers, and
hybridization. In addition to peonies, he has done interesting work
with ornamental flowering crab-apples.
his splendid hybrids between albiflora and officinalis are
Jean E. Bockstoce, Mary E. Hall, Diana Parks and Howard R. Watkins,
all doubles in red and pink shades.
Mary E. G. Freeborn, of Proctor, Vermont, attended Vermont
Academy and Cornell, and the Women's Medical College of New York. She
worked in research laboratories in New York City and taught
bacteriology and chemistry. She has a fifty-acre wild flower preserve
and has done experimental farming with fruit trees. During the past
forty-five years she had grown a great variety of plants. Her best
known peony hybrids are Angelo Cobb Freeborn, Red Signal, Sunfast,
and Garden Sentinel.