“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.” —Claude Monet
Pillows of air kisses that cannot help but make one smile upon gazing upon them. The peony.
My mother’s vast garden of peonies are one of the many highlights of her garden. For nearly forty years my parents’ garden has been given time and careful thougth and attention, and a tremendous amount of work each year to offer the beauty seen today.
Not every summer do I have the opportunity to return home during late June and early July when my mother’s peonies are in their fully glory, but this year, I did.
With an abundance of Sarah Bernhardt peonies sharing their soft blush throughout the garden, reds, whites and coral hues as well join the peony blooming extravaganza. (Watch the video below to view some of the peonies in the garden with Ruby Peak looking on in the background.)
The history of the peony is long having been grown in gardens in the east for more than 4000 years. Not everyone has agreed upon the myth of how the peony came to be. I am choosing the myth of Paeon, the Greek god from which came the flower’s name.
In Greek mythology, Paeon was the physican to the gods who was saved by Zeus who turned him into the flower we now call the peony in order to save his life as Paeon had extracted milky liquid from the root of the peony to cure Plato. This angered the god of medicine and healing, Asclepius, Paeon’s teacher, and as Paeon’s life was threatened due to the jealousy felt by Asclepius, Zeus swooped in and saved Paeon from death, immortalizing him.
Associated with healing, I certainly feel a surge of rejuvenation simply gazing upon their evanescent beauty and am reminded to savor the many good things instead of holding on tightly thereby letting them be as they are, and patiently waiting for their return the next year.
There are three over-arching types of peonies: the herbaceous peony, seen in my mother’s garden which as a perennial magically seems to grow out of the ground from nothing each spring and grow into its magnificent green tall gorgeousness offering its jewels in late spring and early summer for only a couple of weeks. There are also tree peonies which are decidious and can grow up to seven feet tall and bring forth the largest blooms, and the third is a hybrid, Itoh peonies or intersectional hybrid, created by Japanese grower Toichi Itoh in 1948. The hybrid peony is more compact, growing to about about “3 feet tall and wide, similar to herbaceous peonies, but have the incised leaves and large blooms of tree peonies. The stems are stronger, so the large flowers are held upright, but the plant completely disappears in fall, like its perennial parent.”
I very rarely see peonies grown in Bend, but I also didn’t see many in Wallowa County where my mother’s are grown, so perhaps it is just a matter of choosing to grow them and being patient enough for them to mature into the beauty that can be enjoyed. Wallowa County does receive more moisture than Bend, but with the right amount of watering and placement, they are absolutely capable of thriving. And so I will try!
I purchased a handful of herbaecous peonies for my boulevards this year as bare-root, and while I will certainly be patient for these plants to come into their full aesthetic strength in a couple of year’s time, I have learned from my mother that I probably should have purchased them potted in soil instead. The classroom is the garden now, and I am thankful to be a student.
I don’t remember my mother planting her peonies, as the entire property my parents’ house sits upon was an empty pasture before they arrived, but upon reflection that is how my mother gardened, because she loved it. Not for show. (Please know, I am sharing these pictures with you with permission, but it was my proposal to do so.) She is both patient with her plants as she is with me, my brother and her grandchildren and my appreciation for all that she has done and continues to do. I have always loved returning home to enjoy the beauty of the entire garden and home my parents care for so lovingly, and my boys too especially consider it to be their second home, but now I tour it with different eyes.
I hope you enjoy today’s tour as well. Bonne journée.
“Eventually, my eyes were opened, and I really understood nature. I learned to love at the same time.” —Claude Monet