These stunning peonies bloom each spring in Hamilton’s Grant Garden thanks to the hybridization talents of Arthur Percy Saunders, dean and professor of chemistry in the decades prior to World War II.

According to Ernest Williams, the William R. Kenan Professor of Biology Emeritus (who provided the following photographs), Saunders initially crossed the herbaceous Paeonia lactoflora from China with other herbaceous species to produce new hybrids. He later developed hybrid tree peonies by crossing the wild yellow tree peony, Paeonia lutea, with other tree peony species.

“Saunders’ hybrids were spectacular in size, color and how long they lasted, and became known internationally,” Williams notes. “The date that appears with each name tells when the cultivar was developed; those from the late 1940s and 1950s are mostly multiple hybrids that mix genetic contributions from up to four species.” 

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