These make great background plants for borders

Lauren Bonar Swezey,  – October 30, 2004

The early varieties start blooming in October or November, the midseason ones in January or February, and the late-season ones in March (in colder climates, plants start blooming in winter and continue into May). Flowers are 2 to 6 inches across.

Specimen plants. Lush foliage makes C. japonica a striking background plant for borders. Most grow 6 to 12 feet tall. Of the dozens to choose from, the following are fanciers’ favorites. Early to midseason: ‘Debutante’ (light pink peony), ‘Nuccio’s Gem’ (white formal double), ‘Silver Waves’ (wavy white semidouble). Midseason: ‘Kramer’s Supreme’ (red peony). Mid- to late season: ‘Pearl Maxwell’ (pink formal double). Late: ‘Elena Nobile’ (red rose-form double).

Multitrunk trees. Old upright specimens of C. japonica are particularly suited to pruning, which you may want to do if the shrub is leggy or blocking a window. To create a multitrunk tree, identify three to five main trunks (stems) that have the best position and form, then prune off the rest of the lower trunks and branches.