The tree peony, a shrub from the remotest regions of China with the most beautiful and often highly-scented flowers, has increased in popularity in Italy in the past few years. The Centro Botanico Moutan, a specialist nursery garden near Viterbo, has over 100,000 plants from 600 different varieties on display. The shrubs flower in the spring and this is the best time to see them.

There are free guided visits to the gardens in May; the tour takes about one hour. Centro Botanico Moutan, Vitorchiano, near Viterbo. Tel. 07610300490,