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Garden Talk

'Dojean' tree peony

Horticultural Highlight: 'Dojean' tree peony

In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection. This week, Paul J. Kramer plant collections manager Beth Hall Hoffman connects 007 and tree peonies.

Botanical name: Paeonia Dojean’
Common name: 'Dojean' tree peony
Family name: Paeoneaceae (Peony Family)
Plant type: Shrub
Location in Duke Gardens: Culberson Asiatic Arboretum
USDA Hardiness Zones4 - 8
Site requirements: Part shade in North Carolina due to our hot summers.


What do James Bond and a tree peony in our collection have in common? Sir Peter Smithers was a British politician, diplomat and spy during World War II. He worked for the writer Ian Fleming and, although it has never been confirmed, may have served as inspiration for 007. Smithers also had a lifelong passion for gardening and plant breeding that wasn’t undercover. In 1990, he bred a hybrid tree peony and named it ‘Dojean’ for his wife.

Unlike herbaceous peonies, which are more commonly grown, tree peonies have woody stems that do not die back in the winter. They flower earlier than their herbaceous counterparts, and here at Duke Gardens we look forward to their bloom  every spring.

Paeonia ‘Dojean’ is a vigorous woody shrub growing up to 7 feet tall. Beautiful semi-double flowers have bright red flares in the center of pristine white crinkled petals. This peony caught my eye because of the large flowers (6 to 8 inches across!) that cover the whole shrub. It's located near the Kathleen Smith Moss Garden in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum.

Source: American Peony Society

Please note: Duke Gardens is closed until further notice, including both indoor and outdoor areas, in keeping with Duke University’s COVID-19 health and safety policies. Our on-site horticulture staff are sharing photos, videos and information about the Gardens’ plant collections in the meantime, through Garden Talk and social media. We hope you like these features, and we look forward to enjoying the Gardens together once again in the future.

Photo by Beth Hall Hoffman.

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