Something bizarre happened this year. As I was wandering through my fields of blooming peonies, I passed at a row of some 20 Rozella plants. In between the row of dark pink flowers were three pale pink ones, obviously a rogue division had gotten in. This doesn’t happen often here, but is alas unavoidable from time to time when you work with large numbers of roots and it’s difficult to tell one variety from the other by the roots alone. But upon closer inspection something remarkable was noticed: these three pale pink blooms came from a plant that also had dark pink flowers! Hence it was clear that we had here what from time to time, though not often, can happen to a plant: a mutation. The stems with the pale pink flowers are completely identical to the ones with dark pink flowers except for the color. Same foliage, same height, same flowering period, same bud form, same flower size, same number of petals and so on. All exactly the same but for the pale pink color. The pale pink color is very attractive to my eyes and has larger market potential than the usual dark pink ones. Especially since Rozella itself is a very fine plant with very strong upright stems, very healthy foliage, good bud presentation and very large flowers in large numbers. It was registered by David Reath in 1991 and is said to be a hybrid. The ancestry is not given in the registration details and it looks very much like a lactiflora to my eye, at the very least it increases like the latter. The mutated stems were labeled and in Autumn I carefully divided the plant hoping to cut apart the mutated part and let it grow into a normal pale pink Rozella. Whether I was successful, only time will tell, but at the very least we have something to look out for the following years.
This isn’t the first mutation that can be seen in peonies, although I don’t know of many. The well-known variety Mister Ed, introduced by Klehm nurseries, is a mutation of Monsieur Jules Elie. Whereas Monsieur Jules Elie has dark pink flowers, Mister Ed has both pale pink ones and dark pink ones, sometimes the two colors mixed in one flower. This is quite bizarre and many visitors to our peony fields are fascinated by it. Another one was introduced by Don Hollingsworth, he found a white mutation from the yellow Itoh Prairie Sunshine that goes by the name Love Affair.
The nice thing about mutations is that you immediately know it’s weaknesses and strengths (at least if you know the original variety) and that they can be very nice in a mixed planting where you will have uniform plants flowering at the same time but with different colors.
Of course there may be far more mutations, but many small changes may simply go unnoticed. If only the height is different, then one might think this simply has to to with the soil for example. A different color like Rozella has shown this year is of course hard to miss, but a nice surprise it was 🙂