Paeonia 'Coral Charm'

Jim McKenney
Wed, 14 May 2008 06:46:07 PDT
John Grimshaw must be a bit of a mind reader. When I posted on Paeonia
‘Coral Charm’ I too wanted to say something more about the yellow color of
the mature blossom. 

This touches on an important phase in the development of hybrid herbaceous
peonies. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century peony
hybridizers made an attempt – one never really realized successfully – to
bring the yellow color of Paeonia mlokosewitschii into hybrid garden
peonies. The person who was the prime mover in this effort, the
distinguished Canadian American Prof. A.P. Saunders, produced many hybrids
with Paeonia mlokosewitschii in their background. But none was a typical
garden peony, and few if any improved on the yellow color of P.
mlokosewitschii itself. Then, at mid-century, a dentist who practiced in
Kensington, Maryland, just across the creek from my garden, produced the
then famous hybrid ‘Claire de Lune’. ‘Claire’ created a sensation in the
peony world because it was the first undoubted hybrid between Paeonia
mlokosewitschii and P. lactiflora (the common garden peony). Peony
enthusiasts of the time were desperate for yellow-flowered garden peonies:
some of the cultivars described as having yellow highlights back then owed
their “yellow color” to the reflection of light from the stamens! When
‘Claire’ was introduced, they bent over backwards to see yellow in the
flower color: quite a few of them were convinced they saw it. As I know it,
it’s a white-flowered peony, but in cool climates perhaps it does show

So what’s the point of all this? When I observed the amount of yellow in the
several-days-old flowers of ‘Coral Charm’, it reminded me that I did not
know the parentage of this cultivar. I still don’t. In the literature it is
reported as being primarily a hybrid of ‘Minnie Shaylor’ crossed with
various hybrids and the resulting progeny then inbred. 

It’s the “various hybrids” part which pulls a curtain over the whole
business. It’s hard to believe that at least some of those “various hybrids”
did not have Paeonia mlokosewitschii in their background, but I don’t know
for sure – yet. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where various red-flowered species-like Saunders hybrids are now
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
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