Pretty Peonies

The peonies flowered in the garden at the start of June. Luckily I managed to take some photographs of them before they were battered to death by the torrential rain storms we had last week.photo of peony

Peonies are garden shrubs with many varieties of colours and petal formations, prized for their bold colourful blooms. The plant was named after Paeon, the Greek god of healing, sometimes known as Asclepius. He was the son of Apollo and carried a staff entwined by a serpent, the symbol of the medical profession today. He was raised by a centaur and taught his medical knowledge by a snake. So successful was he at healing people that the human population increased out of control and Zeus was forced to kill him to restore balance. Members of the peony family were used in traditional  oriental medicine and they contain many compounds that could be beneficial to health.photo of peony

Along with koi fish, peonies are a popular tattoo motif for Japanese men, inspired by the illustrations of the eighteenth century Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi. You can see an example by clicking this link here.

So the next obvious question is, can I eat them? Well it seems that you can. The petals can be sugared and make very fetching edible decorations, for some culinary ideas click here and here.photo of peony

John Keats in his poem “Ode on Melancholy” suggests distracting oneself from dark thoughts with the visual  pleasures of peonies and other pretty flowers, you can read the entire poem by clicking here, but I shall tantalize you with an extract:

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
       Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
       And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
       Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
               Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
       Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
               And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

photo of peonyWhile still in poetic mood, perhaps the last word should go to the master of the haiku, Matsuo Basho:

A bee
staggers out
of the peony.

 

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2 thoughts on “Pretty Peonies

  1. Hi Rambling Ratz! Lovely blog you have here! I just discovered it when I was writing my own post featuring photographs of peonies–it came up as a suggestion for a related article, so I linked to it in my “Related Articles” section at the bottom of my post today. (It’s here, in case you want to take a peek: http://www.joyfullygreen.com/2014/06/my-week-in-5-photos-blooming-and-growing-and-not-just-the-flowers.html). Thanks for including such interesting information about this strange and gorgeous flower.
    Happy to “meet” you!
    Best,
    Joy

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