Late spring into early summer is one of our favourite times of year for the simple reason that beautiful blooming peonies can be found in abundance, their many petals unfurling majestically in many distinctive colours.
The peony takes its name from Paeon, a character from Greek mythology. 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). Supposedly he 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.
The flower itself has since become the traditional floral symbol of China, and more universally associated with wealth and honour. They are regarded as omens of good fortune and happy marriages - 12 years of marriage are traditionally honoured as the ‘Peony’ anniversary.