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Code Breaking

This page is your tool to decode and understand the historical information given for each cultivar in the Peony Database and if you wish, find the published citation by year, publication, and page. Peony enthusiasts and breeders constantly compare and judge peonies as worthy or not, and this literature is a rich window into more than a century of opinion.

The historic literature extracted here focuses on key descriptive terms and comparisons specifically used for each cultivar. These citations are highly condensed and include journals, bulletins, miscellaneous publications, commerical catalogs and trade lists.

  • For copies of the original documents you will need to consult with a specialty / reference library, archive, or on-line resource.
  • If you have staff/faculty library privileges in the 'Big Ten' or any other major research university in the world, your reference librarians should be able to help you find most through interlibrary loan or on-line tools as the Hathi Trust Digital Libary.
  • Some terms are discussed below in more detail than given in the Glossary. These terms are potentially misleading since the "obvious" modern meaning may not be how the term was understood in years gone by.


Historical Significance

Regardless of era, some peony cultivars became informal but widely accepted standard-bearers so that readers could compare their own plants across time and space with the opinions given in the printed word. Similar-appearing cultivars were sources of both pride and confusion, and could become centers of opionated exchanges. Careful reading of the literature allows one to deduce the aesthetic standards that were sometimes only partially expressed, especially when not universally shared. For contemporary breeders, this was valuable information for their own work to develop improved selections that they, and the mass-market, would find meritorious.

Citation Parts

Each historical entry follows the pattern below:  All entries have item 1 and 4.

  1. YEAR - Literature Citation Code: This code is further explained below.
  2.  (Breeder): Optional information on who developed the cultivar
  3. #.## (Sym. YEAR if given) APS Score (and YEAR)
  4. Descriptive text


APS Rating and Source

#.## (Sym. YEAR) is the American Peony Society Rating. This is a discontinued decimal-based ranking system for floral excellence based on cut flowers alone. The score is the average from a judging event. When it is from a formal Peony Symposium, the year links to the literature. In some casese, the number of votes is recorded, too.

Literature Citations Decoded

This list is courtesy of Reiner Jakubowski in 2012. Mr. Jakubowski serves as Registrar for the American Peony Society in its role as the International Cultivar Registration Authority, and is a member of our Peony Advisory Board. Included in many entries are his notes about the reference’s context and thus significance. Click here for a printable pdf of this as a six page document.


Example and how to break it down:

1923-018:27 — Taking the generalized form "YEAR-NNN:Pg", these are references to the original "Registrations" as published by the American Peony Society in the APS Bulletin under various headings including "Department of Registrations", "Nomenclature", "Registrations" and similar, all serving to indicate "official" registered status. YEAR is the year of introduction, NNN is the Bulletin number, and Pg is the page on which the information is found.

List begins here:

1896-GF450: — Garden and Forest: A Journal of Horticulture, Landscape Art, and Forestry. Volume 9, Issue 450. [October 7, 1896] pg. 410 (Garden and Forest was the brainchild of Charles Sprague Sargent (1841-1927), founding director of the Arnold Arboretum. Published 1888-1897).

1916-Cat-Farr: — Bertrand H. Farr, Wyomissing, PA. (1916). Farr's Book of Hardy Plant Specialties. (Catalogue).

1918-B006-I: — Saunders, A.P. (1918) List for Symposium Two. (Insert) APS Bulletin No. 6, May 1918. The Symposiums were the formalized procedures initiated by A. P. Saunders for rating peonies on a scale of 1 to 10. The results were much used by the APS in their attempts to cull the less desirable peonies from commerce. However, since the peony of the day was predominantly a cut flower crop, the process favoured exhibition qualities over garden and landscape effect. The last symposium was conducted in 1939 and any attempts at subsequent ones met with very little success.

1921-B014: — Saunders, A.P. (1921). Symposium II, on the General List of Peonies (Results). APS Bulletin No.14.

1923-SPN: — Olmsted, F.L., F.V. Coville, and H.P. Kelsey. (1923) Standardized Plant Names. American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature, Salem, Massachusetts. SPN is included here for completeness, but little credence should be given when the names differ from APS sources. A.P. Saunders provided the list for this publication, but protested the final result which changed some names to conform to a pattern desired by the publisher. Translated names are in some cases erroneously given as established, with the original ones appear as synonyms.

1924-CHC-FR027 — Canadian Horticultural Council, Plant Registration & Ornamental Plant Committee. Registration records. FR denotes File Record number. Dates as indicated. The Council’s methods and procedures were somewhat onerous and thorough, but ultimately unworkable.

1925-CHC-FR062 — see 1924-CHC-FR027

1928-B: — Boyd, J. ed. (1928) PEONIES: The Manual of the American Peony Society. 1928-B refers to the basic list of peonies, some of which are fully described in a descriptive list (see 1928-B-d).

  • 1928-B-d: — Boyd, J. ed. (1928) PEONIES: The Manual of the American Peony Society. 1928-B-d refers to the descriptive list.
  • 1928-B-t: — Boyd, J. ed. (1928) PEONIES: The Manual of the American Peony Society. 1928-B-t refers to the list of woody peonies.

1929-Cat-McD: — 1929 Catalogue. Kenneth McDonald & Sons, Market Square, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Established 1876. In operation until at least 1949).

1929-Cat-Row: — Rowancroft Gardens, Meadowvale, Ontario, Canada. Dates are approximate since catalogues weren't dated, but Miss Castle, wrote the date in most of her own copies. No.5, 1929; No.6, 1932; No. 8, 1938; No.10, 1946; No. 12, 1952. Nursery established in 1913 by Miss Mary Eliza Blacklock (1860-1956). Joined in business in 1917 by Miss Minerva S.Castle (1890-1976). The nursery was in operation until about 1970.

1932-Cat-Row: — see 1929-Cat-Row:

1933-Sup: — The 1933 Supplement to PEONIES: The Manual of the American Peony Society.

1934-B056: — Brethour, F.G. (1934) Some Peony News from Canada. APS Bulletin No. 34, pp. 16-18. A garden report on the previous season.

1934-Cat-MHPN: — Manitoba Hardy Plant Nursery, Dropmore, Manitoba, Canada. (Catalogue). Proprietor - Frank L. Skinner.

1935-B060: — Peyton, George W., Descriptive List of the Newer Peonies. APS Bulletin No. 60, pp.3-14. (1935).

1935-Cat-Row: — see 1929-Cat-Row:

1936-CHC-FR171 — see 1924-CHC-FR027

1937-B068:20 — Arras, E. (1937) Peonies in Tallinn, Estonia. APS Bulletin No.68, pp 19-21.

1937-B070: — Brethour, F.G. (1937) A few Peonies that were especially attractive in my garden. APS Bulletin No. 70, pp. 23-25. A garden report covering the past season and some good seedling peonies.

1938-B073: — Peyton, George W., A Journey Through Peonyland. APS Bulletin No. 73, pp.7-25. (1938).

1938-B074: — Brethour, F.G. (1938) A Communication from Canada. APS Bulletin No. 74, pp. 26-27. A short garden report relating the visit of George Peyton and John Bongers, and their tour of Brethour's garden.

1938-Cat-Row: — see 1929-Cat-Row:

1938-W&D: — Weinard, F.F. and H.B. Dorner, Peonies: Single and Japanese in the Illinois Trial Garden. Univ. of Illinois Agr. Exp. Stn., Bulletin 447. (1938).

1939-B076: — Brown, William. (1939) First Annual Show - District 11, Guelph, ON, June 22-23, 1939. APS Bulletin No. 76, pp. 17-23.

1939-CHC-FR194 — see 1924-CHC-FR027

1939-RL: — Peyton, George W., The 1939 Rating List. (Distributed to all members in 1939 as an enclosure).

1943-B091: — Peyton, George W. 1943, List of Recent Peony Introductions. APS Bulletin No. 91, Sept. 1943, pp. 4-36. This is the backbone of part three, Introducers of Peonies and Their Introductions, found in 1976-K.

1943-CHC-FR213 — see 1924-CHC-FR027

1944-B093: — Peyton, George W. 1944, List of Recent Peony Introductions (Additions, Changes, Corrections). APS Bulletin No. 93, March 1944, pp. 21-23.

1944-B094: — Peyton, George W. 1944, The 1944 Peony Shows. APS Bulletin No. 94, June 1944, pp. 11-16. Mostly a report of the various shows attended by Peyton that year, and the peonies that made an impression on him.

1944-B095: — Wister, John C., 1944. Tree Peony Supplement. APS Bulletin No. 95, pp 3-54. This entire issue of the Bulletin, with the exception of about 5 pages, comprises a supplement to the tree peony list found in the 1928 Manual of the Peony.

1944-CHC-FR217 — see 1924-CHC-FR027

1945-B098: — Lins, E.H. (1945) Advertisement in APS Bulletin No.98, pg. 33.

1946-Cat-Row: — see 1929-Cat-Row:

1948-B109: — Christman, W.F. (1948) A List of Mr. Kelsey's Originations. APS Bulletin No.109, pp. 4-13.

1950-B117: — Lins, E.H. (1950) Advertisement in APS Bulletin No.117, pp. 43-44.

1952-B127: — Peyton, George W. (1952) Peony Notes, 1952. APS Bulletin No. 127, December 1952, pp. 13-20. Mostly a report of the various shows attended by Peyton that year, the gardens he visited along the way, and the peonies that made an impression on him.

1952-Cat-Row: — see 1929-Cat-Row:

1953-B129: — Peyton, George W. (1953) News Items. APS Bulletin No. 129, pp. 43. A quick overview of newsworthy items, each consisting of only a paragraph. One of the items was the report that Mrs. Xanda Jett was presented with a brand new peony seedling named 'Xanda', by its originator, George Peyton.

1953-B130:31 — Peyton, George W. (1953) The Brand Peonies. APS Bulletin No.130, pp 29-35.

1953-Cat-GHW: — Gilbert H. Wild & Son, Sarcoxie Missouri, USA. (Catalogue). Nursery established 1885 and run as a family business until about 1991 at which time it was sold. It continues operation under the Gilbert H. Wild & Son name.

1954-B133: — Lins, E.H. (1954) Advertisement in APS Bulletin No.133, pg. 40.

1954-B135:10 — Wild, Dale E. (1954) Charles M. Wild. APS Bulletin No.135, pg. 10.

1954-Kelway: — Kelway, James. (1954) Garden Peonies. Eyre & Spottiswoode, London.

1957-B144: — Peyton, George W. (1957). Keagey Originations. APS Bulletin No. 144, March 1957, pg. 34.

1957-B145: — Lins, E.H. (1957) Advertisement in APS Bulletin No.145, pg. 32. Ad titled "New Lower Prices on Lins Originations for Fall, 1957".

1957-Cat-Gro: — F.J. Grootendorst & Sons, Boskoop, Holland. 1957-58 Catalogue.

1959-Taylor: — Taylor (1959). Ornamental Plants Raised in Ontario. A Report issued by the Sub-committee for Research in Ornamental Plants for the purpose of compiling a record of Ontario (Canada) plant breeders and their introductions.

1961-Cat-GHW: — see 1953-Cat-GHW:

1962-B165: — Auten, Eward Jr. (1962) Advertisement - "Top quality introductions, 1961 and 1962". APS Bulletin No.165.

1962-W: — Wister, John C.  ed. (1962). The Peonies. Washington, D.C.: American Horticultural Society. The herbaceous peonies only. The edition used for this work was the 1995 American Peony Society reprint. Page numbers used may therefore vary from the original.

1962-Wist: — Wister, John C.  ed. (1962). The Peonies. Washington, D.C.: American Horticultural Society. Tree peonies only.

1963-B169: — Buckley, A.R. (1963) Peonies at Ottawa. APS Bulletin No.169, June 1963, pp. 30-37. (Horticulturalist, Plant Research Institute, Ornamental Plant Section, C. E. F., Ottawa, Canada). This report is included for its first-hand independent descriptions of peony cultivars.

1963-H-B: — Haworth-Booth, Michael (1963) The Moutan or Tree Peony. 106 pages. St. Martin's Press, New York.

1964-Cat-Gay: — Gaybird Nursery, Wawanesa, Manitoba, Canada. 1964 Catalogue. Edward Robinson, proprietor. In operation about 1950 to 1990.

1965-B177:19 — Hovland, Carrie (1965) Letter to APS re: 'Le Charme' (Eliason). APS Bulletin No.177, pg. 19.

1965-Cat-DSC: — Dominion Seed Catalogue, Canada. A mail order establishment long in operation. At one time they had their own propagation fields but the land was sold a number of years ago. 1965 Catalogue.

1967-Cat-Lins: — Lins, E.H. (1967) Catalogue. Mr. Lins died in August 1967, which helps explain why several of his later originations were not registered, and also why they are now so little known.

1968-Cat-Fern: — Ferncliff Gardens, Mission, B. C., Canada. (Catalogues) Dates as given. (Nursery established 1920).

1969-B194: — Show Report, Mansfield, Ohio, 1969. APS Bulletin No. 194, pp. 9-13. Listed here to better establish dates for 'William Cousins' and 'Ann Berry Cousins'.

1970-Cat-Fern: — see 1968-Cat-Fern:

1974-B211: — Landis, Henry. (1974) Fiala and Bockstoce Hybrids, New Introductions. (Advertisement) APS Bulletin No. 211, pg. 51.

1974-B212: — Landis, Henry. (1974) Fiala and Bockstoce Hybrids, New Introductions. (Advertisement) APS Bulletin No. 212, pg. 47. (List includes some of, but is not identical to B211 reference.)

1974-Cat-Fern: — see 1968-Cat-Fern:

1974-Cat-Landis: — Landis, Henry. (1974) Selected Bockstoce Hybrids, and Introducing Herbaceous Hybrids by John Fiala. (Typed descriptive lists sent out by Landis in 1974 and 1975, perhaps longer.)

1974-RBG: — Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Garden records. The 5 digit number following "1974-RBG:" is the accession number.

1975-B214: — Skeiviene, Ona. (1975). Peonies in Lithuania. APS Bulletin 214, pp. 38-40.

1975-Cat-Gil: — Gilbert's Peony Gardens, Elora, Ontario. (Catalogue). Year as indicated. Walter Gilbert bought Brown's Peony Gardens from William Brown, also of Elora, about 1963 and operated it as Gilbert's Peony Gardens until the early 1990's. The last catalogue issued is dated 1985-86.

1976-K: — Kessenich, Greta M. ed. (1976) History of the Peonies and Their Originations. American Peony Society.

1977-B223: — Reath, D. and S. Saunders. (1977) Botanical Descriptions of 40 Saunders Lutea Hybrids. APS Bulletin No. 223, September 1977, pp. 18-23. (Also reprinted in The Best of 75 Years. APS, 1979 , pages 58-60).

1980-Cat-Fern: — see 1968-Cat-Fern:

1984-Pae-15#3 — Krupke. (1984) Letter to Paeonia. Paeonia Vol. 15, No. 3. Chris Laning, ed.

1986-K: — Kessenich, Greta M. ed. (1986) American Peony Society Nomenclature, 1976-1986. American Peony Society.

1993-Cat-McC: — McConnell Nurseries, Port Burwell, Ontario, Canada. Established in 1912, it was sold in 2006, and no longer exists.

1996-Hashida: — Hashida, Ryoshi (1990) A Book of Tree and Herbaceous Peonies in Modern Japan. Japan Botan Society. (2nd printing (1996) was used for this work.)

1996-K: — Kessenich, Greta M. ed. (1996) American Peony Society Nomenclature, 1986-1996. American Peony Society.



Historical Color

The historical color terms used in this website, and the related Reiner Cloud, are indexing tools to the color concepts as used in any given era. Peony colors are complex, and attempts to standardize color terms show the limits of words alone to convey a visual sense. The format here is:

YEAR linked to the literature above - color term

Color Controversy in the early 20th Century

Adding nuance to color discussions is that the same peony cultivar may vary subtly among different parts of the country due to soils, and the weather at each site any given year can influence fleeting tones. Just two articles from the American Peony Society Bulletin in 1926 illustrate the effort to establish consistent color terms (and implicitly, rank distinctivness and quality) at the time the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden was being established.

  • Auten railed about the difficulties inherent in "pink". He felt it was too imprecise, covering the entire range that was "not red or white".  He listed specific cultivars to anchor his arguements about terms for pink tones, so even today we can understand his color sense.
  • Jackson attempted  to define "predominant" colors as white, cream, yellow, pink, and red. His gradated color terms are just one example of the terminology quandry, and even he had to introduce additional concepts as "blush" where the flower quickly fades to white. Contending with spots of other colors on the petals also posed problems. Specific cultivars are listed for each color term or example he used; we can match his use where we have the same cultivars.



Scent - Historical

The notes are by YEAR in the citations above. Authors tended to rank colors (as X, XX) or provide their opinion. Statements as "Poor fragrance" are ambiguous. It could be the fragrance strength was poor (but pleasant) OR that the strenght was adequeate (but the smell unpleasant.)  Matching with living specimens helps decode the meaning.