Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Paeonia - A Love/Hate Relationship with Peonies

somewhere in the garden, 2007

I love peonies. Who can resist these gorgeous, full flowers, the bushy foliage and the wonderful scent? I adore them, and I have a lot of them. But yet, for all their glorious properties, they have the potential to totally piss me off.

I have a dozen or so, scattered about the yard, which all came from another yard. I hit gardener's pay dirt a few years ago. A relative's relative, who was a plant collector was moving out west, and her house and yard were being turned into a gas station. I don't know how many trips I made, but I wish I had a picture of my Explorer filled to capacity, with leaves hanging out the doors and windows and sunroof. The peonies were one of the payoffs from the plant gathering expeditions.

I think it was July, a point in the season where the best option was to cut back the foliage and put them all in my little nursery until the next spring when they found their permanent positions. Planted along the tree line, and as accents in beds, they quickly grew to produce some nice, bushy foliage. Flowers, of course, didn't come until the next year, and I was lucky if maybe two buds per plant developed into one of the beloved flowers.

Now having a son, who is fascinated by ants, is like a death sentence to what would be a potential peony flower. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've said, "Do NOT touch the ants on those!" And then gone onto some lengthy explanation that they only send out a few flowers and if the precious buds are bent or ripped off in the interest of ant study, I would be pissed. Needless to say, I have found countless potentially fragerant huge blossoms on the ground, victim to random acts of ant collection and unfortunate magnifying glass violence.

External forces have subsided this year, and now that I've entered into the fifth year for these beauties, what a promising year it was. The ones with the most light opened first, and I was treated to maybe seven or eight blooms on each plant. Only a few days later the others began to open. What a show. For a day, anyway.

Of course, we couldn't have had a few nice sunny days. It had to rain. Rain hard, for hours.

There is not much of a more pathetic sight than a shitload of peonies laying on the ground. Everywhere people have them it is the same, bent over pathetic blooms laying in the grass, sad giant flowers that don't have the power to stand after the added weight of a few hours rain. Freaking wimps. Even worse are the blossom's that still had a few more day's bloom left who are totally stripped of their petals.

At least mine are all part of something greater, scattered around with my other perennials. The most pathetic sight I see when I drive around is the lone peony or group of peonies, planted somewhere in the middle of a yard collapsed to the ground. The promise of could have been good lying in ruins.

Thanks a hell of a whole lot for that one, mother nature.

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mmo' said...


Peonies are my number one favorite plants of all time; my love for them began at a defining moment in my life and has proceeded to build in importance continually throughout time, and takes me back spiritually to the loveliest place of all....just before adulthood; minus the responsibilities that being an adult brings, and when all my loved ones still surrounded and offered some protection still. Yet not still a child.

My first real appreciation of this fine species was when my parents bought a farm in the country in 1976. The first time they took me there I was in awe of all things country: the long, tree lined gravel lane; the creek with an ole wooden bridge, the open grasses that would later lead Mac (a quarter horse) and me, over the river and thru the woods....

But the beauty I found most profound that day were the Peony "bushes" in full bloom! At that moment a love affair began that continues to this day.

Peonies will always send me to such a beautiful, serene moment in time.

Nothing else in nature can compare to the Peonies aroma that sucked me in like a butterfly to pollen. The blooms, no matter what variety , are the most glorious works of art that only the Master God
would be capable of creating.

How ironic then it is, that Mother Nature provides both the Peony's best advocate and it's most horrific enemy in one source: rain!

But isn't that the way life is as well? The ones you love the most can bring not only the greatest joy ever, yet the greatest pain you'll ever know. However if we never loved at all, we wouldn't know that kind of bountiful love nor the deepest pain.

When I see the beautiful Peonies in late spring I think of all things wonderful, past and present and dwell happily.

The Peonies after a hard rain brings to me reflection that all beauty does not last forever and must be appreciated at that single, solitary moment, and treasured forever.


AS said...


Thanks for the great comment. I enjoyed it. I didn't know you liked to write.

Seriously, I think you should start a blog. I am sure you would find it entertaining.