Welcome to week six of our column entitled Pretty Petals. Each week we will introduce you to a flower that we are working with here in the studio as well as flowers that we absolutely adore. Please join us every Thursday for some floral eye-candy where you will learn about a variety of very special blooms. This week we are admiring the peony
The peony is a flower that is representative of many things to many different cultures. Here are just a few fun facts about the significance that this blossom holds. Peonies are an ancient flower, dating back to Greek mythology. The peony is named after Paean, a student of the Greek god of medicine and healing, Asclepius. Zeus turned Paean into a beautiful peony flower to save him from the anger of Asclepius, who had become jealous of his student’s healing abilities.
The peony is very rich in symbolism in Japan. Its inherent meaning of prosperity and strength makes it one of the most popular images for body art in this country. The peony is traditionally understood in Japanese culture, as a being “masculine”, embracing bravery, however, both men and women use the image equally.
During the Victorian era the language of the peony was one of romance, prosperity, good fortune and a blessed marriage. The peony is the blossom used to celebrate the 12th year of marriage.
Peonies are native to north Japan, parts of Asia, parts of North America and southern Europe. We are fortunate here in southern Ontario to be a part of a climate that enables peonies to grow abundantly in the late spring and early summer. If our spring is a cool one, we can see peonies in bloom as late as the end of June. Peonies, whether a tree or a bush, come in many different colours: white, cream, fushia, pink, yellow, peach, red, burgundy, purple and mauve. Each plant can be categorized by petal count: single, semi double, and double. This refers to the number of rows of petals present on a bud. The traditional garden type peony that we are used to in Ontario is the double peony – a large densely packed blossom.
Peonies tend to attract ants to the flower buds. This is due to the nectar that forms on the outside of the flower buds but it is not required for the plants’ own pollination or other growth. Some people believe that the presence of ants aid in the opening of the flower by their consumption of the sticky sap – but in fact, the blooms with open with or without these little critters. The best way to avoid bringing ants into the house when you cut peonies from your garden is to place the bloom under water for five minutes (*only do this with a slightly opened bloom – not a fully opened one). Peonies are best cut when they are just starting to crack open. They will continue to develop and open beautifully once cut from the plant. Keep the foliage too! It has a lovely shaped leaf that will last as long as the bloom, if not longer. Cut peonies will last 5-7 days.
In the late winter and early spring, the Canadian floral industry is able to import peonies from various countries, such as the southern United States, Israel, Holland, Italy, and Africa. Generally, the varieties that are available to us from these countries tend to be very small and terribly expensive ($10-$20 per bloom). So, if you have always dreamt of having peonies at your wedding, our suggestion to you would be to plan a May or early June wedding!