Peonies

We are a few months away from peony time. Outside it’s still freezing. March has almost arrived. Under what might be the last remnants of this winter’s snow, our bulbs are waking up. Daffodil leaftips are testing the air. The first snowdrops, the sheltered ones planted against a south wall, have been in bloom for some weeks now. Out in the yard, hundreds of buds have appeared, just waiting for a warm spell to coax them into action.

On the 9th of February, we planted flats of leeks, onions, and parsley. This week we’ll start more seeds, and set up the lightstand.

Our amaryllises are abloom. Two pots with multiple stems of buds and flowers, are in the center of the dining froom table.

Those amaryllis made me think of the peonies.

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. 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”.

Most of the peonies here at Wishetwurra Farm are doubles.

Their scent is heavenly. At blossomtime, their aroma pervades our Maytime and Junetime air. There’s a big white double in the garden bed that’s just outside our bedroom window. When night air comes from the south, we get peony-perfumed air all night.

Double peonies are nice, but singles I go gaga for.

Peonies have personality. I don’t think I’ve yet taken a peony picture that didn’t surprise me. I think I’m taking a photo of one aspect of what it means to be a peony, and some other aspect is what the photo ends up showing.

Today’s final photo is a slightly worked-over image of the last of this year’s white peonies.

Every phase of peony life has its notable qualities. First red shoots boldly announce that spring has truly arrived. That red turns to green with a newborn’s spurt of first growth. Buds shyly begin as hard, ant-tended spheres. Those buds slowly expand from day to day, and one day you notice that the color of the future flower is showing. Then, suddenly, the flowers are open, for a few days of absolute glory.

Then, sudden senescence.

Overnight, the table under the bouquet is covered with curls of petal.

Sinuosities of petals, on the old pine table.

For the rest of the summer and, the peony frugally stores the energy from every photon it can snare, building up reserves for another season of bloom.

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