Today's beauty is Paeonia mascula, a very ornamental, widespread native of southern Europe: into north-central France and into Austria, around to N Africa (in the mountains): around the Mediterranean. It comprises a complex (or grouping) comprising several subspecies formerly considered of species status. The "type" is native to S Italy, Sicily, Greece and Asia Minor. Populations are somewhat disjunct so it is quite variable. A number of references consider it hardy only to USDA zone 8 but it is happy enough here so is good to Zone 5 or colder; to some degree it may depend on the area of origin of the seed. The true species has 5inch purple flowers, with purple filaments; large sharply-pointed handsome leaves. (Apparently a hybrid often masquerades as mascula? I lack the ability to count leaf hairs and interpolate colour shades sufficiently to say if mine are the true thing or a hybrid.) I have a couple of pinker flowered plants which are not quite open yet, you'll see a pic of them here later in the week.
First flower opened 2 days ago.
My plants of mascula are about equally vigorous in all of my 3 growing regimes (or areas, if you prefer) although shorter in the open field, but are not as vigorous as those of tomentosa. This photo is of the group (4 plants) in part shade; you can see a bit of variation in flower colour.