Sunday, June 29, 2008
One of my favorite flowers is the peony. Their extravagant blossoms set among lush green foliage and heady fragrance make them a flower garden star.
Peonies were plentiful in the gardens of my youth. Many homes in the area would have a row of them alongside the garage or house. We had some next to the garage as well as a row of them serving as a "fence" between our yard and the neighbor's. Our neighbor was a skilled peony-grower and she would share the root cuttings with my mom.
Spring was peony time. First, the leafy bush would grow out of the stubs of last year's plant. (In the fall, the bush gets cut down to the ground, in preparation for winter). Next, the round buds, approximately an inch or so in diameter, would appear. The buds secrete some sort of nectar that attracts ants, so you always saw ants on the buds. That was pretty gross when you are a kid. When you cut the flowers to bring in the house, you had to make sure all the ants were gone. In mid-June the blossoms opened.
We had magenta plants like in this picture, as well as white, red and a few different shades of pink. One of my favorites was a pink one that had fewer petals and an open center that showed a cluster of yellow stamens. My mom always made nice arrangements that filled the house with a sweet fragrance.
A few years ago was the first time I had seen cut peonies for sale. (This was in California). I was pretty excited to see them available, but I about fainted when I saw they were going for something like 5 bucks a stem. That's usurious! There was NO WAY I could bring myself to pay $15 for a bunch of peonies! I remember calling my mom about it and she gave me her usual answer: "Well then I guess you need to move back here, so you can have all the peonies (or whatever it was that I would be complaining about) you want free".
Same thing with lilacs. Why the heck are they so darn expensive in California? In my old neighborhood, you could just walk down the alley and snag a few off someone's bush. They wouldn't even know.
I got these at Von's for only $5.99--a fair price. I have to say though, they aren't as fragrant as some, but no ants.