By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Apr 18, 2001 at 10:52 AM

A traditional favorite for color, fragrance and history, more than 250 Peony varieties are soon to bloom at Boerner Botanical Gardens.

Scarlet Coy, interpretive educator for the Gardens, advises identifying three Peony types during a trip to the Gardens:

Herbaceous Peonies
Herbaceous Peonies, planted in mass in the Peony Garden, are the most-common type -- probably the kind Grandma would have grown. Their blossoms range in appearance from elegant "singles" to multi-petaled, snowball-like "bombs." They boom in creams, whites, pinks and deep reds. Staff recommendations include "Mother's Choice," "Do Tell," "Krinkled White," "Sea Shell" and "Red Charm." Boerner Peony Garden is in bloom from early to mid-June, depending on weather.

Tree peonies
Tree Peonies are shrub-like and can be found throughout the Gardens. Tree Peony blossoms look and feel like crepe paper and often have Japanese names like "Hatsu-Garashu" and "Shujakum." Most of the Boerners' Tree Peony collection traces back to a donation made by Charles B. Hammerlsley in 1940 as a living memorial to his wife. Of the 46 varieties donated, most were from Japan and Europe. Tree Peonies bloom in rich oranges and purples, pastels and vivid shades of red and yellow. They bloom mid-May to early June.

Intersectional Peonies
Intersectional Peonies are hybrids between Herbaceous and Tree Peonies and combine quality traits from booth. Intersectional Peony hues include sunny yellows. They bloom from early to mid-June.

For more information about Boerner Botanical Gardens' Peony collection, call the Garden House at 425-1130 to inquire about timing a visit around peak peony bloom. Free Peony maps are available.