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The Book of the Peony

Reviewed by Sara Williams and Catherine McCormick for Flora Borealis, Vol 3, No 3, September 1990
The Book of the Peony, Alica Harding, Watestone, London, 1917, 1985.
This book really includes everything anyone has ever wanted to know about peonies. It begins with an appreciation of the plant, discusses the mythology and history of the peony, lists varieties and their characteristics; as well as information about soil preparation, planting, cultivation and propagation. Two chapters are also devoted to the subject of the tree peony. An appendix, written by a Professor Whetzel, looks at various diseases of this herbaceous plant.
Descriptive lists in this work are comprehensive. Information includes the following: name, year of introduction, person who introduced the variety, type, color, size of bloom, length of season, fragrance, growth habit, and use of the plant. Many of these varieties are common in Saskatchewan today, such as the 'Festiva Maxima' or 'Sarah Bernhardt'. Advise about each of the plants is just as true today as the time of publication.
Enthusiasts may find it interesting that in 1596 more than 30 improved varieties of peonies were listed in the catalogues of Chinese growers. Not many more are listed on the Prairies nearly 400 years later! Anyone who wants to learn everything possible about this garden beauty would enjoy reading this book.