The thing about peonies…

 Lush, blowsy, sensual…and fleeting

Susan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

“The flowers bend their bright bodies, and tip their fragrance to the air, and rise, their red stems holding all that dampness and recklessness gladly and lightly, and there it is again…beauty, the brave, the exemplary, blazing open….

“Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden and softly, and exclaiming of their dearness, fill your arms with the white and pink flowers, with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling, their eagerness to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are nothing, forever?”

From “Peonies,” a poem by Mary Oliver

Peonies in bloom

Peonies are the flowers closest to my true heart. Not for me the strait-laced daffodils and simple tulips. I crave the peony and its unkempt beauty.

Big and bold, sensual and messy, sturdy enough to keep coming back in the garden for decades–but fleeting in their bloom time, best picked and savored when their buds are the size of fists. Bring them inside and they burst open like fireworks. Yes, sometimes they bring in ants. So what? Life has ants. Get over it.

Delicious and blowsy, the white blossoms are tipped with scarlet–the scarlet letter? The pinks are sugarplum fairies, a little girl’s dream. And the scarlet blooms? They unfold wantonly, revealing gaudy yellow pistils. Only their scent is subtle, a  soft and romantic fragrance that whispers intimacies.

It’s June and the peonies are blooming. When I lived in St. Louis, I would occasionally slip into the darkness of a June night with scissors, looting the neglected peony bushes of neighbors. They might be content to let the flowers bloom and wither without gathering them, but I was greedy. I wanted more peonies, even, than my own shrubs produced.

Peonies don’t grow in Santa Barbara–not for them a gentle climate; they need a harsh winter to produce their bounty. But the universe was generous. Trader Joe’s was awash in peonies, buds not yet burst, when I stopped in for groceries. True to my greedy self, I gathered an armload, then augmented them with ferns and geranium leaves cut from the gardens around the house into two billowing bouquets.

What, you may be asking, does this paeon to peonies (which, by the way, are named for Paean, physician to the gods of Greek mythology) have to do with a simplified, artful life–or with buying resale.

It’s simple, really. I’ve made physical and emotional room in my life to enjoy the beauty of the peonies,  and to take time to tell you why I love them. Could any pursuit be more luxurious? I think not.






3 thoughts on “The thing about peonies…

  1. Joy @ Joyfully Green

    Hello Susan,
    What a 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: I love the “unkemptness” of the peony as well. What a strange and gorgeous flower…
    Happy to “meet” you!




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