Glancing out of my kitchen window and into the garden beds that surround the brick patio, I see the pink, fuchia and white mop heads of enormous peony (Paeonia) flowers and buds bowing down to the ground under the weight of their own "frilliness" and the onslaught of raindrops. It was a good week of peony watching last week with the rain holding off until yesterday so the peonies have remained somewhat sturdy thanks to their strong stems. The sunny May weather has produced a bevy of blooms now almost to their peak in my gardens and their sweetly scented appearance, as always, has been a gift from mother nature. Their rich and colorful history make them such a wonderful and imaginative addition to the garden landscape.
However, for now, I'll just enjoy the vivaciousess of the peonies blooming right now and hope the rain will continue to fall fairly softly as to not pummel these vibrant and spirited flowers. In anticipation of these rainy days, I cut a few bouquets to bring into the house and their sweet "tangyness" fills the air in the dining room, kitchen and living room reminding me that the sun will shine again soon and the peonies will rise to their fullest potential before their bloom time is over for the season. Along with their heady aroma, the peonies also boast a few ants crawling through their petaled crevices. Attracted by the flowers' sweet scent and, as bothersome as they are inside your house, particularly in the kitchen and especially on the dining room table, ants and peonies are in an ongoing co-dependent relationship so, grin and bear it. As much as I don't like having ants in my house, they are a small price to pay for the beauty of a peony bouquet.
Did you know that peonies have been around for at least 2000 years. Native to China, Asia, Southern Europe and even Western North America, they were named by the Greeks after one of their gods, Paeon (physician to the rest of the gods) because of the plant's medicinal qualities. Peonies have long been regarded as useful in relieving pain from toothaches, headaches, seizures and even chiildbirth. In China, peonies were cultivated in the gardens of the Chinese emperors through the ages because of their extravagant beauty and delicate fragrance and the peony is still considered China's national flower.
Since ancient times, peonies have been the symbol of wealth, luck and happiness. They also represent elegance and poise, something always welcome when your having a sort of "bad hair day" like the peonies are having today, due to rain...kind of like grace under pressure. With their lush, full and rounded blooms, peonies embody romance and prosperity and are often thought of, in gardening lore, to be an omen for a long and happy marriage and good fortune. Peonies are the traditional gift to give for a 12th wedding anniversary.