A deciduous tree 20 ft high, of bushy habit; branchlets glabrous. Leaves lanceolate, 3 to 6 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide; long-pointed, finely toothed, glabrous, stalk glandular, 1⁄2 in. long. Flowers usually solitary, sometimes in pairs, produced in early April from the buds of the previous season’s growth, pale rose, 1 to 11⁄2 in. across, with stalks scarcely longer than the bud-scales. Fruits fleshy, globose, clothed with velvety down, 2 to 3 in. across, yellowish suffused with red on the sunny side, enclosing a grooved stone.
The peach is one of those fruits which have been cultivated for so long, and over so wide an area, that its place of origin is doubtful. It is generally believed to be a native of China; it was certainly cultivated there hundreds, doubtless thousands, of years before it was known in W. Europe.
Closely allied to the almond, but less robust, it differs chiefly in its fleshy, juicy fruit with a wrinkled stone; also in the thinner, shorter-stalked leaves, smaller flowers, and in flowering two or three weeks later. The flowering peaches are some of the loveliest of all trees, especially the double red varieties. They are usually propagated by budding on plum stocks, but trees so raised rarely attain to great age. Quite possibly the peach is not in any case a long-lived tree, but worked on the plum it is very subject to canker and premature decay, owing to an imperfect adaptation of stock to scion. Yet it is difficult to suggest a better. On its own roots the peach succeeds in the south, but is too tender for the colder localities, and the fine double and richly coloured varieties now so popular can only be conveniently propagated by budding or grafting. Of varieties grown for fruit there are many, but with them we are not here concerned. The following, with the exception of f. compressa and var. nectarina, are ‘flowering’ peaches; the double-flowered ones often bear fruit:
cv. ‘Alba’. – Flowers white.
cv. ‘Alba Plena’. – Flowers white, double. F.C.C. 1899, when shown by William Paul.
cv. ‘Aurora’. – Flowers semi-double, Fuchsine Pink, petals frilled. Figured in Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 76, fig. 74. A.M. April 4, 1950. Said to be more vigorous than ‘Klara Mayer’, with flowers of a clearer pink.
cv. ‘Clara Meyer’. See ‘Klara Mayer’.
f. compressa (Loud.) Rehd. – Remarkable for the flattened or compressed fruits. This was known in gardens early in the last century, and after being lost to cultivation was reintroduced from China in 1906. It is figured in Loudon, Arb. et Frut. Brit., Vol. 2, p. 680. It is known as the flat peach.
cv. ‘Foliis Rubris’. – Leaves reddish purple when young, becoming bronzy green. Fruits purplish. A.M. 1939.
cv. ‘Helen Borchers’. – Flowers Rose Bengal, semi-double. Raised by W. B. Clarke of San José, California. A.M. 1949.
cv. ‘Iceberg’. – Flowers white, semi-double. Raised by Clarke, see above. A.M. April 4, 1950.
cv. ‘Klara Mayer’. – Flowers clear pink, fully double. Put into commerce by Späth’s nurseries at the end of the last century, and still one of the best varieties. A.G.M. 1939. Gerd Krässmann, the German authority, has pointed out that the common spelling ‘Clara Meyer’ is incorrect.
cv. ‘Magnifica’. – Flowers crimson, double, up to 13⁄4 in. across; habit rather spreading and lax. F.C.C. to Messrs J. Veitch 1894.
var. nectarina (Ait.) Maxim. Amygdalus persica var. nectarina Ait.; Persica laevis DC. – This is the botanical name for the nectarine, which differs from the peach in its glabrous fruits.
cv. ‘Palace Peach’. – Flowers dark crimson, semi-double, about 1 in. wide. A.M. March 26, 1946.
cv. ‘Russell’s Red’. – Flowers large, semi-double, bright Carmine Red. Raised by Messrs L. R. Russell. A.M. February 21, 1933.
cv. ‘Windle Weeping’. – Habit pendulous. Flowers semi-double, Solferino Purple. A.M. April 12, 1949.