weeder’s digest: peonies

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Peony: Take 1

You say Peony, I say Paeony – either way – the Greek myth goes down like this:
Asclepius was the god of healing and medicine. Peaon was his wingman. Peaon got so talented that Asclepius got all jealous. To save Peaon from Asclepius’ wrath, Zeus turned him into a flower; the Peony. Asclepius later got caught raising folks from the dead in exchange for gold. Zeus struck him down with a lightning bolt. I’m not sure who was left to do the healing after that.

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Anyway now is the season for these showstoppers. We can get peonies year-round – flown in from New Zealand and Holland – but they’re not the same. Not as full, not as fragrant.

Two weeks ago the really good peonies starting showing. Varieties? Bowl of Cream, Big Ben, Crinkled Linens, Charles Burgess…shall I go on? Festiva Maxima, Felix Krause, Paula Fey, Pillow Talk. The price deflates this time of year from upwards of $15 a stem down to $6 or 7. You don’t need a lot. One or two. Unless you’re trying to appeal to an angry girlfriend (10 full-blown stems packs a wallop and makes a huge bouquet worth drooling over). Peonies are Chuck Bass’s go-to flower for when he’s told Blair Waldorf he doesn’t love her, when in fact he really does and decides to tell her he’s had a change of heart. (She never accepts.) Incidentally, a bouquet of peonies also makes for a good “hit-him-over-the-head” scenario, due to their relative lightness and lack of thorns. Petals slowly trickle out of freeze-frame as music gently rises.

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But you’re not the type for drama like that, and probably just want something pretty for your table. Put some sprite or sugar in the water to feed the cut stems.

Peonies grow well in most temperate zones. The best site I’ve found for purchasing them (as roots, not plants) is Song Sparrow. There’s also a wealth of information on the Garden Muse’s blog here.

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  1. kim says:

    Blair never accepts? :) the finale of season 2 is worth watching.
    Peonies are one of the reasons my heart shrinks a bit when I realize I don’t have a garden.

  2. jamie Freitas says:

    these are breathtaking… both the flowers & the shots!!!

  3. holly says:

    nice!! i just got two bouquets of these and all of them opened SO big and outstretched except for one, I think I’ll try the sprite/sugar tip. thanks!

  4. emilykristin says:

    I love them. They were the only flowers in season during our wedding, but I didn’t like them at the time and chose something else – a decision I regret. But this year my husband gave me a bouquet of white peonies for our anniversary, and they are sitting next to me now. I was trying to think of how to describe them this morning – I laughed when I read “Bowl of Cream” – of course!

  5. Becky says:

    Soooo beautiful! Love peonies and have been trying my hand at growing different types. What a great help the article linked here was! I want to buy all of them on the shopping page. I couldn’t find the one in the 5th pic that’s a grey/blue/white-ish color and frayed on the edging. Do you know the name of it!?

  6. anastasia says:

    just gorgeous! i want a whole backyard filled with peonies, poppies, chrysanthemums, lilacs, and hydrangea; that would be lovely. and a big freestanding hammock strewn with fluffy pillows and a quilt plopped right in the middle of it all; like a ships prow sailing through frothy and wild waves.

  7. Julie says:

    Gorgeous. What is the white peony with the frayed edge, please? THanks!

  8. Peonyrouge says:

    Lovely, lovely, lovely. Peonies, my favourite flower second to none – especially the rare red ones.

  9. Rebecca says:

    http://bit.ly/Nr1mH for any aus/nsw readers, here is a link to a peony garden in mittagong. they put them under chinese paper umbrellas when the weather gets hot. too cute.

  10. Lynne says:

    Aahh, did you miss the last episode of Gossip Girl. Chuck had a spectacular bouquet of peonies and Blaire sed yes.

  11. Sheila says:

    I got peonies at Trader Joe’s for $6.99 and there were five in the bunch! I suppose this is one of the perks of living in sunny Los Angeles.

  12. Katrin says:

    Gorgeous images – I can nearly smell the peonies.

  13. eileen says:

    $2/stem at the hollywood farmers mkt this past sunday! yeah! i got 5!

  14. NM says:

    This was an awesome post. Loved story + loved photos. :)

  15. bethany says:

    kate b and becky:
    those look like white “parrot tulips” to me.

    im going peony crazy for my wedding next week. peonies, garden roses and hydrangeas and thats about it.

  16. bethany says:

    the white tulip is next to gray “dusty miller ” which makes it look gray/silver.
    at least thats my guess

  17. lesterhead says:

    Going to pick some up after work- gorgeous photos!

  18. Aziyadé says:

    Fleurs, couleur = bonheur Amicalement Chantal

  19. peony lady says:

    Love your blog! Great interesting stories. I love peonies too! I started out with 25 varieties and it kept going on, so I decided to open a peony farm. Am in love with the corals:
    Coral Charm, Coral Sunset (my newest) and Pink Hawaiian Coral. They are performers! Of course, the itohs are now a mainstay in my garden. And I am looking forward to Hot Chocolate for next year. Good job on the blog.

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