Three years ago, I realized that I had never fully appreciated peonies. The ones growing in my garden in England, planted by the previous owner, were the common red sort. They were nice and went well with the Siberian irises, but I didn’t quite understand the reverent adoration of the peony (to the point of obsession by some fanciers) in Chinese and Japanese culture.
My first encounter with truly breathtaking peonies was three years ago. I saw these beauties in the rain, blooming magnificently despite being choked by weeds and nearly crushed by scaffolding, while the house was undergoing renovation. Thinking that they deserved to be appreciated rather than smothered by concrete dust and debris, I took home what I could pick without getting stung by the fierce nettles. I was unprepared for their perfume, reminiscent of hyacinths, though not as overpowering. There are those who cannot bear to be in the same room as hyacinths, but peonies are more subtle — they keep their scent close to their hearts. And their multi-layered petals streaked with red – oh, such exquisite, delicate complexity and perfection!
Of the three bushes, only one survived the aftermath of construction, perhaps the other two had become buried too deeply by the building crew while tidying up. Peonies prefer to sit rather shallowly on the ground. The lone survivor took all of three years to recover from the trauma. The year we moved in, it had only one flower bud; it was too malnourished and had become vulnerable to predation by ants and aphids to fully open. Here are some exquisite blooms from the same bush two years on, looking stunningly marvellous and very queenly indeed! The equally exquisite roses (of unknown provenance) are fitting ladies-in-waiting. 🙂 Please click on photos for a larger view.