Cultivation of the Tree Peony in China dates to the seventh century. As a favorite subject of decorative design, they were known to the West through Chinese art and the descriptions of missionaries long before the flower itself was brought to Europe. Double forms arrived first in Kew gardens by the late eighteenth century and single forms followed by 1804. The British plant hunter Robert Fortune obtained thirty to forty varieties during his expedition to China sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1834. These varieties were evident in American gardens by the 1840s and 50s. Joseph Breck of Boston noted the availability of "several beautiful new specimens . . . introduced by Mr. Fortune direct from China" by mid century.
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