Portrait of a Peony


Portrait of a Peony

Paeonia 'Silvia Saunders'

  • Posted November 4, 2014

Origins

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.

Personality

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.

Earthly Delights

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.

Curiosities

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.

Related Pages

Garden Peony, Chinese Peony (Paeonia lactiflora)

Garden Peony, Chinese Peony (Paeonia lactiflora)

Large, lush blooms bring grace, beauty and often fragrance to the late spring and early summer garden. Varieties are available that offer single, semi-double or double blooms in a range of shades. Garden peonies are best planted in autumn and extra care should be taken not to damage…

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Japanese Peony (Paeonia hybrid)

Japanese Peony (Paeonia hybrid)

An exotic-looking variation on this perennial favorite. An outer “bowl” of single petals surrounds a dense center of narrow petals. The large, lush blooms bring grace, beauty and often fragrance to the late spring and early summer garden. Garden peonies are best planted in autumn…

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Brian Barth
About the Author

After 15 years as a professional landscape designer and horticulturalist, Brian Barth embarked on a second career to share his passion—and the knowledge he's accrued—through writing. His love of plants is all-encompassing, but he has a particular soft spot for culinary crops.


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Portrait of a Peony

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