I had the most wonderful grandmother any person could have wished for. I am sure that my love for gardening and florally blooms in particular, is a direct result of spending countless hours in her rose garden with her while she lovingly tended her beloved florals. I can still see her with her apron, gloves and rose prune shears in hand, with a wide brimmed sunhat and her gorgeous smile. She always smelt of flowers too. Like the garden was part of her, her own piece of living art. She taught me (and my mum, who loves her garden with equal passion) all about caring for our own flowers and to respect nature. She hardly ever used chemicals to fend off pests, instead, we were paid a couple of cents for every rose beetle we caught and put in a jar which she fed together with other grubs and crumbs to the large array of wild native birds that loved visiting her garden as much as we all did.
She had many favourites, Dahlias, Alstroemeria, Gaillardia, Roses and of course the stunning Peonies, which have become my gorgeous daughter's most favourite bloom of all.
In honour of her, I thought to dedicate the next couple of blog posts to learning more about a particular flower. Once the story of each of these blooming beauties are known their presence in an arrangement hopefully continues to inspire us to appreciate the wonderful precision to which they have each been so purposefully created.
THE GRAND PEONY
I visited China last year and was amazed to see the gorgeous varieties of this amazing flower and how much it is revered and loved. It features in their art work, on gorgeous silk scarves and as their unofficial national flower it stands as a symbol of spring, female beauty and reproduction. It also represents richness, honour and high social class. Peonies grown in China were once a luxury item, selling for the equivalent of thousands of dollars for one flower stem.
Few other garden plants go back in history as far as peonies, which in China have been used and cultivated for over 4000 years. There are hundreds of cultivars, of which only a few can be found in gardens in Central Europe.
In ancient times the peony was held in high esteem as a medicinal plant.
In Christian symbolism the peony flower represented wealth, feminine beauty, and healing power. In the Middle Ages peonies were often painted with their ripe seed-capsules, since it was the seeds, not the flowers, which were medicinally significant. Usually the roots and seeds of the plants were used to treat all kinds of ailments.
Peonies (sometimes referred to as Peony Roses - Peonies are however not related to roses at all) are challenging plants that most good gardeners would like to grow and most florists ADORE using in arrangements! Of all the peonies, tree peonies are the most difficult plants to grow.
The genus name Paeonia is derived from Paion, the physician to the gods in Greek mythology, implying praise for something of exceptional quality.
Peonies are desirable because:
Like people, Peonies have different likes. These include:
The variety featured in my bouquet is called "Paula Fay". They bloom heavily in late Spring to early Summer, make excellent cut flowers with excellent vase life (over 7 days) and have won the American Peony Society's gold medal. As a garden plant, the "Paula Fay" Peony is rabbit and possum resistant but butterflies love them! Let's all be butterflies then......