The peony is one of the most popular flowers used in modern wedding bouquets, and given their subtle, sweet fragrance and delicate features, one can easily see why!
Peonies are not only beautiful but also carry depth of meaning in various cultures around the world. In China, the peony is a traditional floral symbol and is also known as "flower of riches and honour" and "king of the flowers" and is used symbolically in Chinese art. Serbian folklore says that red peonies blooming in the fields of Kosovo represent the blood of Serbian warriors who died when fighting in the Battle of Kosovo in June 1389.
Peonies have long been growing in Eastern gardens for thousands of years. The flowers were often transported when different emperors moved their courts, and reached Japan around the beginning of the 8th century. Here they were revered for their beauty and further hybridized.
In Europe, herbaceous peonies are a part of ancient Greek mythology and are highly regarded for their medicinal properties. Both in Europe and in eastern Asia, the root, bark, seed and flowers were all believed to have medicinal uses. They were a symbol for healing and used to treat ailments such as stomach pains, bladder issues, jaundice and even nightmares!
Peonies can be used in just about any flower arrangement, however are most popular in wedding bouquets.
The petals of peonies are parboiled (added to boiling water and cooked until they start to soften, then removed) and sweetened as a tea-time delicacy in China. Peony petals can also be added to salads, punches and lemonades.
Confucius (551-479BC) is quoted to have said "I eat nothing without its sauce. I enjoy it very much, because of its flavour."
Care & Handling
- Peonies should be kept in a coolroom at around 6 - 8 degrees Celsius
- Purchase and cut peonies when the bud blooms are showing colour
- Check that the foliage is undamaged and is strong in colour - the stems should look crisp and clean
- Remove any foliage that will sit below the waterline
- Use bleach in the water to prevent bacteria growth. Adding preservative to the water is optional.
- If the blooms flag due to air embolisms, revive them by placing them in boiled water for 30 seconds.
Five Fun Facts
- The peony can survive up to 100 years when it is cultivated under optimal conditions!
- Marco Polo (the famous merchant and explorer) described peonie as "roses as big as cabbages".
- Peonies are available in all colours except blue.
- The peony grows either as a herbaceaous plant or a semi-woody shrub which can grow up to 3.5metres tall.
- Peony flowers have both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers) = Perfect Peonies!