Aside from being the predecessor to June – Summer, we salute you – the dawn of May also brings the arrival of our beloved beautiful Peonies. As many florists might say, it’s officially Peony season.
The enchanting flowers be found blooming in abundance from late spring into early summer, their many petals unfurling majestically – from a once tightly closed ball – in an array of distinctive colours. So what better stem to celebrate as our Flower of the Month?
The Peony takes its name from Paeon, a character from Greek mythology. Though he was scarcely mentioned in the great works of Greek literature, there are a couple of versions floating about that relate to the flower. One story has it that Paeon was a student of Asclepius – the god of medicine and healing – who was turned into a peony by Zeus in order to save him from Asclepius’ homicidal jealousy and the mortal death that would await him otherwise. Not sure what to make of that particular rescue, Zeus… Another, more gentle, version casts Paeon as the physician to the gods, who is gifted the flower on Mount Olympus by the mother of Apollo.
There are said to be 33 known species of the flower, and the stem itself has since become the traditional floral symbol of China, and more universally associated with wealth and honour. Whether it’s for their mythological connotations, their romantic colour ways, their symbolism, or simply due to their short blooming season (that makes them so sought after) – the Peony is a strong favourite for spring brides and English summer weddings. And while 12 years of marriage are traditionally honoured as the ‘Peony’ anniversary, a bouquet of Peonies are said to represent a happy life, good health and prosperity – seriously, what more could you ask for when embarking on your new journey with your partner? We’ll be popping a bouquet of big blooming peonies on the mantelpiece and hoping for the same treatment…