Peonies hail from the dappled edge of forests across the northern hemisphere. They are not of the wild and unkempt tribe of short-lived sun-loving perennials; rather, peonies live a life of restraint, retaining their graceful form for decades, punctuated each year by an explosion of color celebrated the world over.
There are few things in the natural world that bear such a sense of immanence as the tightly curled ball of a peony bud. Though it is only a few weeks from when they appear to the moment of blossoming, it seems like an eternity. Then the whole patch of peony blooms with such fervency that it exhausts itself and returns to its green slumber for the remainder of the year.
Peonies ooze nectar copiously, which explains why they are always covered in ants as they enter their flowering period. The petals are entirely edible for humans, as well, and are a traditional tea-time snack in China.
Paeon was the name of a great healer in the Greek pantheon, who was known for treating the injuries of Apollo and Hades. Asclepias, his teacher and the god of medicine became jealous of Paeon’s burgeoning powers and threatened to kill him. He was saved at the last minute by Zeus, who turned him into the plant we now know as peony to escape a vengeful death.