Paeonia lactiflora ‘Delâchei’ – Herbaceous Peony
‘Delâchei’ is a beautiful herbaceous peony that produces rich, purple-shaded crimson double blooms. This brilliant grower produces blooms that are smaller than average but numerous. Stems reach up to 90 cm high, holding the blooms proudly as they open in midseason.
- Height: 90 cm
- Prolific bloomer
The history of this peony is muddied somewhat, being sold under several different names early on, and also confused with other varieties from the same breeder once it was imported to America. We have done our best to disentangle this web below.
‘Delâchei’ was nominally released in 1856, according to many sources, but appears to be synonymous with ‘delachii’, introduced six years earlier. We believe they are indeed the same, indicating that ‘Delâchei’ was actually introduced in 1850.
Delachii appeared in the 1849 publication Annales de la Société royale d’agriculture et de botanique de Gand (Vol. 5), hence referred to as the Annales, where it was listed with an intended release date by Delâche of 15/11/1850 at the price of 25 francs each. This publication is also the source of the beautiful historical illustration we have used for this product.
The Annales elaborate on the parentage of ‘Delâchei’, stating that Delâche fertilised Paonia lactiflora var. pottsii* with Paeonia lactiflora var. reevesiana* to obtain it.
*These botanical names have been modernised somewhat, as the originals use species that are no longer recognised. Paeonia lactiflora var. pottsii is a Chinese-bred hybrid lactiflora introduced to European cultivation in 1822 by John Pott following a collection expedition for the Horticultural Society of London (now known as the Royal Horticultural Society). Paeonia lactiflora var. reevesiana is also Chinese-bred hybrid lactiflora introduced to European cultivation prior to 1831 by John Reeves.
By the time of the 1849 publication of the Annales, Mr. Alexandre Verschaffelt of Belgium was already registered to receive two lots, which would allow the variety to be introduced to that country soon thereafter.
In our research we have found several other names associated with ‘Delâchei’:
- ‘Madame Delâchei’, which we believe this variety of peony was sold as in 1856 (possibly as a tribute to François’s daughter) by Monsieur Ernest H. Krelage in Holland. Krelage was a well-known peony collector and flower seller at the time.
- ‘Emperor of Russia,’ but that name has long been discarded.
- The names of other cultivars released by Delâche, which were confused when importing to the US.
About the Breeder
This peony was bred by François Delâche at Saint-Omer in the Pas-de-Calais region of Northern France. François was born in 1808 in Cambrai, Nord, and married Dauphine Grattepanche. He became the owner of a property near a convent at Saint-Omer, where François started his nursery/florist shop. It was described as unquestionably the most beautiful with the richest displays of flowers. He was also a horticulturalist in his early career, releasing about 10 varieties of peonies.
His daughter later worked at his shop, which eventually became a seed merchant in addition to a nursery/florist.
In 1867, Delâche went bankrupt, leading to the sale of all his furniture. He died on Friday, the 29th of April, 1904, in Lille, Nord, in the north of France.