Pretty in Pink


The peonies are blooming in resplendent glory, so weighty that their faces are surveying the ground.  They are wonderfully fragrant, their perfume wafting through the garden, sweet greetings as soon as one exits through the garage door into the back yard.  I have two plants, both pink.  I prefer the scent of the white variety.  I purchases a white one this spring.  Mischievous nymphs were said to hide in the petals of the Peony, giving it the meaning of Shame or Bashfulness in the Language of Flowers. While the peony takes several years to re-establish itself when moved, it blooms annually for decades once it has done so.

“Ode on Melancholy”

…  But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globèd peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes. …

–John Keats (1795-1821)

The peony is named after Paeon (also spelled Paean), a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.  Asclepius became jealous of his pupil; Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower.

Frédéric Bazille (artist)
French, 1841 – 1870
Young Woman with Peonies, 1870
oil on canvas
overall: 60 x 75 cm (23 5/8 x 29 1/2 in.) framed: 83.8 x 99.4 x 7.6 cm (33 x 39 1/8 x 3 in.)
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon