When I first started working with roses and discovered I was going to need to distinguish between 30 or 40 pinks and know their names, I resorted to flash cards: the kind young children use to learn words. In no time at all I was well on the way to a lifetime of floral nitpicking. Is a the shape of a double flowered rose technically a shallow cup, recurved, a pompon or a chalice? That kind of thing.
So I often notice when people mistake a peony or a camellia for a rose, even if I’d have to concede that the colours and forms of their flowers can be essentially the same.
I wish I could get the colours even more similar to better illustrate my point, but that’s just me nitpicking again, isn’t it?
So there you have it. Variations on a theme. All glorious, to my eyes, each with their own particular character: with perkier or more demure petals; with equal, decreasing or ruffle-style petal lengths; with smooth petal edges or wriggly ones.
If you’re not 100% sure which is which, you’re in good company. I’ve seen a cut rose mistaken for a peony in several of Britain’s leading magazines, which I’ll not name, to spare their blushes.
An easy way to tell peonies, camellias and roses apart is by their leaves. Peonies are the easiest to distinguish: they have elegant and deeply lobed, compound leaves, rather like spread fingers.
Camellias have the simplest leaf form of all: the classic, single, oval leaf shape, tapering to a point. They are thicker than a rose’s leaves and are arranged alternatively on the stem, rather than opposite each other, as roses’ leaves are. Camellia leaves often feel waxy or glossy and they are thick, almost leathery.
Rose leaves are thinner and more delicate. Usually there are five leaflets in each group of rose leaves, but you can also find roses with three, seven, nine or eleven leaflets per group:
If you have a closed bud before you, peony buds are plump and round; rose buds taper into pointed, sometimes feathery tips; and camellia buds are oval. Hope this helps!