Posted by: jevcat | June 9, 2011

A Paean to Peonies

A walk in the church garden Sunday confirmed that I not only missed the lilac season this year, I’ve missed the peony season as well.  As a child, I don’t think peonies were even on my radar, but, as an adult, I’ve developed an inordinate fondness for their blowsy beauty.  Perhaps it’s because I admire their blatancy – peonies don’t care what you think.

Peonies are not polite.  Peonies don’t whisper (except to seduce); they shout – and what they shout can’t be printed in a family publication.

Peonies are the sexiest flower, and one of the things I find interesting about peonies is their – to me – almost hermaphrodite nature.  Peony buds seem masculine to me, suggestive in their rosy roundness.  But for aggressive femininity, not even a rose can beat a peony in full bloom.

Daffodils are the ingénues of the flower world – sometimes you can almost hear them giggle – and tulips are the Audrey Hepburns:  slender, elegant, well-mannered, lady-like.

Peonies are not elegant and most definitely not lady-like.  Peonies go Marilyn Monroe one better – they let it all hang out.  A breeze ruffling a batch of open peonies has all the subtly of a can-can line:  Interested?  Come here.  Want something from me?  You can probably have it.

Peonies have the loveliness and terrifying, frowsy forwardness of a southern belle gone wild, crinolines and skirts thrown up in display, languorously beckoning:  what you see is what you get, and they are not ashamed of it.  They give it all they’ve got for your pleasure.

And then they’re gone, leaving behind the memory, a few fragile brown petals, and maybe just a hint of their surprisingly delicate scent.


  1. I have to admit, I haven’t exactly thought about flowers in quite the same way as you…but I like your descriptions! I’ve always been drawn to Birds of Paradise. Must have been all those years spent in Hawaii!

  2. Lovely photos, Janet.
    I LOVE lilacs. I was shattered when some county construction went through my side yard and took as victims my 3 lilac trees… 😦

    I wonder if I have a favorite flower–other than the lilac?


    • Oh, Jane! I would have been furious and desolate! I’ve always said if I ever had a house (something not likely to ever happen, especially now), the first thing I would do would be to plant lilacs!

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