The Moutan Botanical Centre in Viterbo, in the Lazio region of central Italy, is devoted to the collection, study and cultivation of Peonies. The collection counts more than 250,000 peonies of many different species, varieties and dimensions, all originating from China. Shining out in the collection are over 300 varieties of the Suffruticosa group, 150 varieties of p.rockii, the p.ostii species, the many different p.ludlowii species and a great number p.lactiflora. The autumn season is very important for those who decide to create a new garden, new flower beds or simply to plant a new plant in their already formed garden. In the 1990s, Carlo Confidati, businessman and garden lover, first took interest in the fascinating world of peonies. His passion for gardening and the incredible history surrounding this rare flower prompted him to deepen his botanical knowledge.
Beyond making a selection among the Collection varieties, the Moutan Botanical Centre has started the production of new varieties that have been generated from the crossbreed between species present at the centre: hybrids of p.rockii and p.ostii, with their own peculiar characteristics. These hybrids show the characteristics of both parental species, which make them much more interesting from a botanical and landscape point of view. They are generally very vigorous plants, outspread and sturdy, with an intermediate blooming time; the single flowers are considerably big and with a dark mark at the base of the petals, not as strongly defined as in the Rocki peonies, but fading softly towards the tip of the petal. Likewise, leaves can differ from those of their parents: they can be wider and darker than those of the rocki peony, and in Autumn they can turn to lively colours. These plants are obtained by spontaneous hybridization of the parents, with a long and painstaking propagation work carried out through the seed and an accurate selection of the offspring which leads to a unique and exclusive plant that expresses its originality even just only by one single detail on the leaf or on the flower. The blooming season at the Moutan Botanical Centre is a surprising experience. Peonies vegetative cycle starts at the end of February, when all plants, at the end of the winter rest, produce new gems. A couple of months later, during springtime, hefty and turgid buds open up in monumental corollas with golden stamens. Their magnificent blossoms can reach up to 20 cm in diameter with their single, semidouble and double flowers. The colours are amazing, each one of them unique in its thousands of nuances: from pure white to pink, from violet to deep purple. Sometimes the corollas are so full and heavy with petals that the plant itself seems to be bowing. At times the shrub can be so strong as to uphold a great number of lavish splendid flowers. A stroll among the park pathways amidst the delicate spring scent and the bright colours of the peonies is a unique experience. Every year the park is open to the public in the months of April and May, to share its astonishing sight.