Paeonia mairei SEH#058
This is an herbaceous (dies back to the ground each autumn) species native to the mountains of SW China which is where I found it in the autumn of 1995 while exploring a deep ravine full of wondrous plants. These included giant trees of Rhododendron argyrophyllum with huge, thick trunks, masses of interesting ferns, and the ground-covering Primula moupinensis. We were in the Daliang Shan of southern Sichuan, and I was amazed to see healthy plants of an (at that time) unidentified peony growing in the deep shade of the ravine. Peonies generally prefer full sun for best growth and flowering. These were loaded with fruit so obviously they had flowered well the previous spring.
A few years later, at the RSBG, the first flowers appeared on our young plants, and I was able to key them to the rare Paeonia mairei, a species I had never seen before (and I am a species peony aficionado). We were all thrilled with the large, deep pink flowers, each sporting a boss of golden stamens in the center. The flowers appear in mid-spring, much earlier in the season than most of the commonly grown hybrids. In addition to the beautiful flowers, the foliage is quite remarkable, glossy with deeply impressed veins.
We are growing them in shaded parts of the Garden, including in the Upper Woodland Garden and the Stumpery, much as I had seen them in the wild. They never fail to reward us with their magnificent floral display.