Monday, May 23, 2016

Tree Peony 'Shan Hu Tai' in 2016

'Shan Hu Tai' means "Coral Terrace" or "Coral Altar" in Chinese.

Tree peony 'Shan Hu Tai'

You can see where the peony got its name when you look at the stunning color of the blooms. The petals are an indescribable purplish-coral-reddish-pink, with deep purple-black blotches at their centers and silvery pink fading along the ruffled outer tips. The color is so bright it fairly screams from across the garden, yet it has an airy lightness and does not appear harsh or glary. It's actually a very hard color to photograph - these pictures don't do it justice!

Tree peony 'Shan Hu Tai' - 6 year old plant

The bush tends to have a low, flattened shape, thus the "Terrace/Altar" part of the name. It generally grows to only about 3 feet tall, but 4-5 feet wide (unlike most tree peonies which tend to be taller than wide). Despite its dwarf size, the plant grows vigorously, and is a very prolific bloomer. This is the fourth year for this specimen in my garden, and I purchased a two-year old division, so overall it is only a 6-year old. Just a baby - it will get much larger than this and have many more flowers in a few years!

Tree peony 'Shan Hu Tai'

The blooms have a delicious spicy-sweet fragrance, exotic and almost cinnamony. It is currently the earliest of my tree peonies to bloom, generally coming in a few days to a week before the other Chinese tree peonies in early May. It also holds its blooms for an unusually long time.

Tree peony 'Shan Hu Tai' - kingfisher headdress flower form

The blooms are not overly large (I'd say about 6-7 inches), but very full and double - simply packed with silky salmon petals. The shape of the flowers varies from semi- to fully double, but especially on mature bushes, many of the flowers will have the highly-prized "Kingfisher Headdress" flower form. You can see an example of this in the picture above. Inside the main flower there is an additional "tuft" of taller petals that stick up at a jaunty angle, apparently resembling a fancy Chinese hair ornament.

Tree peony 'Shan Hu Tai' - red stems and leaf outlines in spring

The foliage is a good mid-green, complementing the color of the blooms perfectly. In early spring, the plant has red stems and the leaves are attractively outlined with red as well, but this color usually fades by bloom-time.

Tree peony 'Shan Hu Tai'

The bush has a naturally attractive shape, and the blooms have a nice presentation, nestling just slightly into the foliage at the top of the plant.

Tree peony 'Shan Hu Tai'

It would of course be impossible for me to pick just ONE favorite tree peony, but this one would certainly be a contender!


  1. Very nice Peony - very nice. I can only imagine what a great color it is if seen in person. Thanks for the posting. JC

  2. Wow! this is Amazing! Do you know your hidden name meaning ? Click here to find your hidden name meaning


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