• Denise Walden

A Peony for Your Thoughts


The Peony. Continuity. Love. Family Connections.

Peonies have grown in the gardens of my life, giving me a heart connection to family members, past and present, who have grown and nurtured these beautiful flowers over the many years. Each spring, I watch these hearty plants push through the soil. And each year, I think of my father and my son who have shared deep appreciation for the peony and even a memorable bride or two who loved including this flower in her wedding.

Originally from China, dating back to perhaps 1000 BC, peonies were first brought to Europe and eventually to America. The settlers planted peonies in their gardens with an appreciation for both their beauty as well as medicinal properties. Peony beds can be generations old which is why many homeowners and gardeners develop a history and affection for this dependable herbaceous perennial.

When I was a girl, our neighbor consented to let my father divide the plants from her peony bed. Dad waited until the late summer to divide the thick roots (rhizomes). He enthusiastically planted them in a long bed along our fence. The peonies responded to the new soil and eastern exposure. My mother was thrilled. They bloomed gloriously over the following seasons. My present bed of the lovely blooms is about 30 years old. Several of the plants have grown from rhizomes divided from my previous home. My son has divided my peonies and has planted them in each if his last two homes. See how that works? Continuity. Love. Family connections.

The symbol of romance and prosperity, peonies are considered a good omen for a happy marriage and good fortune. The peony flower and foliage are very popular for weddings. Several years ago, a lovely bride and her mother came to me for wedding flowers and wanted to use the peonies from mom's long-established garden. These ladies, too, had a loving history with the peony. I gladly agreed to their request.

As the months passed, I developed the designs for the bride’s wedding. It had been an incredibly cold winter and a very late spring that year. The three of us started to become nervous about the timing of mom's peonies. As a result of the late spring, the local peonies had been delayed by about two weeks. Mom’s peony blooms wouldn't be available! Mom and bride were deeply disappointed.

But wait . . there’s hope! The bride's sister, who married a few years before and moved to a southern state, transplanted peonies from mom's garden into her own garden. We were in luck. The sister’s

beautiful, luscious, fragrant peonies were shipped north for the wedding. The bride, her mother and sister were delighted that we could use them. Continuity. Love. Family connections.

As both a designer and gardener, year after year, I'm attentively watching the peony poke through the earth, develop foliage, and burst forth in abundant blooms. I'm tickled to design with these sumptuous flowers. They have such a wonderful color, texture and fragrance. After the blooms are spent, I find the long-lasting foliage interesting and embed them into my designs. Eventually the plants reverse back into the earth to rest, like we all will do…but, I know that my plants have been nurtured in love, creating family connections and continuity for generations to come.

Flowers for life. May you grow and bloom.


Do you have a favorite story about peonies? We'd love to hear your story. Tell us here or leave a comment below.

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