This regional category of hybrids is well established in China, but seems to be completely unknown in Western gardens. These cultivars tend to be tall, sturdy and little branched, with large leaves and shallow roots. Like the Gansu varieties, they have long flower stems and dark blotches at the petal bases. The majority of cultivars have double flowers of one type or another (Wang 1998; Li 2005).
Woody peonies are quite widely grown as ornamentals in southwest China, but Pengzhou in central Sichuan is a famous centre of cultivation. Peonies have been grown here since at least the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), with 100 varieties recorded in the year 1178 (Wang 1998). Historical records and inference from morphology, taken together, suggest that their ancestors were were plants derived from P. rockii (presumably domesticated forms or early Gansu hybrids) brought from further north, and Central Plains cultivars (Cheng 2007). Other species that grow locally, such as P. decomposita, may also have been involved, but their influence is less apparent (Li 2005).
Pengzhou cultivars are distinctive for being adapted to a subtropical climate. The city is situated on the edge of the mountains at around 500 m altitude. The climate is rainy and humid with warm winters and hot summers. In our area they must be worth a try in the southeastern United States. However, climate varies widely across southwestern China, and peonies grown away from the Pengzhou area have been less explored (Li 2005).
Li (2005) describes and illustrates 18 major contemporary cultivars.