The Japanese Type

MOST BOTANISTS are agreed that the tree peony did not grow wild in Japan but that Buddhist monks had taken it from China and Korea to Japan in the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries along with such fruits as the apple, pear, plum, peach, apricot, cherry, quince, and orange, and such ornamental plants as the Yulan magnolia and the Sophora (17). The few students who think that the Moutan peony was indigenous to Japan, as well as to the Asiatic continent, admit that all the improved kinds came from China.

The name Moutan, that came with the plant, was corrupted to Bhotan or Botan which is still the Japanese name for peony. The tree peony enjoyed great esteem as early as 724 A.D. Later authors discoursed on its medicinal value and described its colors. Some estimated that there were from five hundred to a thousand distinct

kinds. In Nara and in Yamata there was a variety called "Thousand Petals," and there were stories of plants selling for a hundred ounces of silver, and of a black peony, 'Kurobotan' (18). Wilson believed many of these stories were copied from older Chinese stories such as have been mentioned before. (There is, however, a modern Japanese deep crimson-purple variety named 'Kuro-botan.')

The first Europeans to see tree peonies in Japan were KaempferflPJ, about 1690, and Thunberg(20,), in 1775, but they mention them only briefly. Apparently no plants were sent to Europe either by them or by later travelers until about 1844, perhaps because they thought the varieties they saw identical with plants sent to Europe from China.

The first known importation of tree peonies from Japan was by Siebold

'Kintajio' (Castle of Kinuta). Flowers are pale pink



(21) in 1844. It was said to come from the Imperial Gardens of Tokyo and Kyoto and to contain forty-two of the finest varieties. They began to bloom in Holland in the Siebold Nursery and in the garden of Prince Frederic in 1848. They were entirely different from Fortune's Chinese varieties and the descriptions sound as if they covered all the types since offered in Japan. Nothing is known of their subsequent history except that the Dutch nurseryman, Krelage, cataloged a few from Siebold in 1867 at from one to twelve dollars each, but only two or three varieties seem to have survived and to have later been offered by other nurserymen. L. Boehmer, a German nurseryman in Yokohama, exported plants in 1866, but they also did not long survive. There were practically no Japanese tree peonies to be had in Europe or America until they began to come from the Japanese nurseries in the 1890's.

In 1891, Professor Sargent visited Japan and brought back a collection of a dozen or more Japanese varieties. Very soon after that several Japanese dealers (not actual nurserymen), the most prominent of which were the Yokohama Nursery Company, and the Tokyo Nursery Company, printed catalogs in English and perhaps in German and French. Kelway in England, Goos & Koenemann in Germany, and Paillet, Lemoine, and Dessert in France, offered plants for sale under elaborate English, German and French names. Of the lot, Auguste Dessert was the only one to attempt to give the original Japanese name, but that did little good as less than half of the plants he imported, like those received by others from Japan, proved true to name or description. Dessert, however, was the person most responsible

for bringing about the new popularity of the tree peony for he continued to specialize in tree peonies longer than the others and his catalogs are our best information of the first quarter of this century.

Trollope^Z,) about 1918, wrote of tree peonies in Korea, where he said the plants needed some winter protection. Shortly after that E. H. Wilson told one of the present authors that the tree peonies in Korea were the finest he had ever seen anywhere.

Conder(23), writing about the floral art of Japan, stated that the tree peony was delicate and needed great care. He said the Japanese called it "the flower of twenty days" because it stayed in bloom that long. It is not clear if he meant that one bloom would last that long, which might be possible during very cool weather. Another writer(24), in telling how the culture of tree peonies in Japan amounted to a regular worship, described how each individual plant was fed and watered and given light and shade by the use of an individual straw thatch covering. Under such care, flowers could be kept in good condition longer than if grown in the open.

Conder may have meant that all varieties together gave an extended flowering period totaling nearly three weeks, which in cool weather might easily happen. He quotes the poet Tung Po as saying, "The floral mon-archs should be visited in the morning. He who should see their splendor in the afternoon cannot be considered a good judge," which would seem to indicate that even under Japanese conditions the flower faded rapidly.

John Dunbar, a famous park superintendent of Rochester, New York, imported tree peonies from Japan about 1900. They made a sensation


when they bloomed. The plants, like all early Japanese importations, were grafted on Moutan stocks, and, like all such plants, were short lived. Dunbar had saved seeds, however, from his first flowers and so was able to continue the strain if not the original clones. J. Wilkinson Elliot, in Pittsburgh, between 1905 or 1910 and 1915, and Bertrand H. Farr, in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, between 1910 and 1920, imported from Japan and propagated plants. Thomas J. Oberlin of Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, near Wyomissing, imported plants from Japan, the first apparently in the 1890's, and began to propagate on what was then a large scale. In the 1930's and 1940's, his son, R. L. Oberlin, had a stock of approximately seven thousand plants and w'as grafting about a thousand a year.

In the 1920's, the Yokohama Nursery was still sending to this country a beautiful book of color illustrations of fifty named varieties and offering these varieties for sale. Various persons importing these received good plants, the flowers of which hardly ever corresponded to the illustrations. On one occasion, one of the present authors wrote to the nursery asking if it might be possible, by paying extra, to get an authentic set corresponding to the illustrations, this set to be used to establish the correct names of the plants in this country. He received an indignant reply from an American living in Tapan who was at that time the president or general manager of the company. The letter stated that no business was desired from and that no plants would be sent to anyone who didn't like the company's method of doing business, or their method of labeling!

About this time, catalogs reached

this country from Chugai Shokubutsu Yen, a nursery growing all, or at least a good part of the tree peonies they offered, in contrast to the earlier so-called nurseries which merely bought plants from small growers and resold them. These catalogs gave good descriptions of two hundred or so varieties, dividing them into "Choice," "Selected," "New and Rare," "Newest," and "Miscellaneous" varieties, and for good measure added "Winter Flowering Varieties." Of the last named varieties, they carefully explained they did not mean that they flowered in winter! To them the term meant that in their climate the plants would produce some flowers in the autumn until stopped by cold weather. They also explained that by crimson they often meant to convey the color that Americans called light pink, or that they meant a white flower with blotches of deep red. They were at least honest in calling to the attention of prospective customers what the English terms they used meant to them.

The Chugai varieties imported jn the 1920's and early 1930's proved to be the handsomest to reach this country. Not only that, they were true to descriptions, and re-orders brought the same variety under the same name. It is from these varieties that we had for the first time an opportunity to know what we meant when we mentioned 'Akashi-gata,' 'Dokushin-den,' 'Iro-no-seki,' or other named variety. It is unfortunate for us that the Chugai Nursery went out of business either shortly before or during World War II.

The Japanese seed and bulb firms of T. Sakata & Company, and of Henry & Lee, on several occasions and as a favor, collected from Japanese growers other fine varieties and sent them to this country. These also proved true



to description.

Just before the late war, beautifully illustrated catalogs from K. Wada, of Numaza-shi, reached this country. Many of the names of the varieties were new, but whether the varieties were really different is not known, nor do we have record of how many plants actually reached this country before the war. Several nurseries and amateurs in the Puget Sound area brought in plants, but many of them apparently did not long survive. These catalogs, by the way, offered yellow varieties under Japanese names, but Mr. Wada sent information that these were French varieties renamed. Wada is still in business and has been sending plants to this country in the past few years.

The Japanese ideal of a flower was very different from that of the Chinese, and from the same original stock they produced mostly single or semi-double flowers. Their few full doubles are not so heavy as the Chinese flowers and are held reasonably upright rather than drooping and falling under the foliage. They seed freely, which the Chinese do not. Most propagators have found them more difficult to propagate than the Chinese. Many of the varieties are not so strong growing as the Chinese sorts.

The American Peony Society Bulletin of September, 1944, published a list of all Japanese varieties then known. No one knows the originators or introducers of these varieties. Many of them have been grown in out-of-the-way parts of Japan for generations, if not for centuries. Often their names are not names at all but merely words meaning "white peony," "dark peony," or "very fine." The difficulties of transliteration from the Japanese word characters have led to many inconsistencies of spelling often in the same

Japanese catalog. There are, for instance, changes of single letters. Often g and k; j and sh, z and ts, ds, s and dz seem to be interchangeable; yet no English speaking person can be perfectly sure they are in any single instance. There are names like 'Homei,' 'Howmai,' Howmei,' which may or may not be variations of one name. Other examples are 'Hokwan' and 'Oh-kwan.' One Japanese wrote before the war that "gyoku" was simply "another pronunciation of 'tama'." How can Americans understand the ramifications of this language ? We Americans add to the trouble by hastily and incorrectly copying the labels.

Some Americans think we should translate the names into English. Who can do this when 'Ruriban,' the name of one of the finest purple varieties, may mean Lapis Lazuli Vessel, "or Ultramarine Basin, or Indigo Purple Tray?

Our troubles have been multiplied by the carelessness or unscrupulous-ness of some Japanese nurserymen. The principal exporters of the 1910-1925 era would sell a collection of fifty varieties with fifty different labels and all but two or three plants would prove to be identical. The same firm would send fifty plants of one special white variety and the flowers would bloom pink, scarlet, and purple. In dealings with many Japanese nurserymen, we know only those already mentioned who sent plants true to description and the same variety under the same name on a re-order.

All these reasons combine to cause confusion. Only through the offices of the American Peonv Society has some order been brought out of that confusion. It is now possible to buy plants of some of the best Japanese varieties in this country and get them


true to name. For this we can thank the late R. L. Oberlin, the late Prof. A. P. Saunders, William Gratwick, and many others who worked with the American Peony Society.

The color range of the varieties now available in the American nurseries specializing in tree peonies is remarkable. Many varieties have not been tested long enough in different areas to warrant conclusions as to which are the "best." We cannot give any comprehensive list of recommendations. It is not even practical to show which are the most popular as is done today with irises, hemerocallis, and other plants which can be propagated and widely distributed in a relatively short time.

It seems better, therefore, to merely quote examples of good varieties without pretending they are necessarily better than others which are not mentioned. This will serve at least to call attention to the great color range.

In white, (Class I, of the American Peony Society), there are 'Gessekai,' 'Godaishu,' 'Fuji-oe-ryo,' 'Renkaku,' and 'Yaso-okina,' which are pure white throughout, 'Ima-chowkow,' which is creamy, and 'Kogane-zome' and 'Shuchiuka,' with pinkish and purplish splashes.

In pinks, (Class II), there are the pale 'Dokushin-den' and 'Shishin-den,' and the deeper 'Iro-no-seki,' 'Doun,' and 'Terute-nishiki.'

In rose-red to vermilion, (Class III), there are 'Mikasa-yama,' 'Akashi-gata,' and 'Ukara-jishi.'

In scarlet, (Class IV), 'Hatsu-hinode,' 'Hiodoshi,' 'Nishiki-no-shi-tone,' and 'Ouchinime.'

In crimson to maroon, (Qass V), 'Koi-kagura,' 'Kasane-jishi,' and 'Kon-ron-koku,' 'Hatsu-garashu,' 'Suma-no-ichi,' and 'Kokko.'

In purple, (Class VI), 'Rimpo' and 'Ruriban.'

In magenta, (Class VII), 'Shiko-den,' 'Bclaireur,' (very early), and the common Japanese grafting stock sold under the name Moutan.

In lilac-rose and pale-rose purple, (Class VIII), 'Jitsu-getsu-ko,' 'Hana-no-mikado,' 'Nippon-zakura,' and 'Jiri-ju-den.'