Peony: Take 1
You say Peony, I say Paeony – either way – the Greek myth goes down like this:
Asclepius was the god of healing and medicine. Peaon was his wingman. Peaon got so talented that Asclepius got all jealous. To save Peaon from Asclepius’ wrath, Zeus turned him into a flower; the Peony. Asclepius later got caught raising folks from the dead in exchange for gold. Zeus struck him down with a lightning bolt. I’m not sure who was left to do the healing after that.
Anyway now is the season for these showstoppers. We can get peonies year-round – flown in from New Zealand and Holland – but they’re not the same. Not as full, not as fragrant.
Two weeks ago the really good peonies starting showing. Varieties? Bowl of Cream, Big Ben, Crinkled Linens, Charles Burgess…shall I go on? Festiva Maxima, Felix Krause, Paula Fey, Pillow Talk. The price deflates this time of year from upwards of $15 a stem down to $6 or 7. You don’t need a lot. One or two. Unless you’re trying to appeal to an angry girlfriend (10 full-blown stems packs a wallop and makes a huge bouquet worth drooling over). Peonies are Chuck Bass’s go-to flower for when he’s told Blair Waldorf he doesn’t love her, when in fact he really does and decides to tell her he’s had a change of heart. (She never accepts.) Incidentally, a bouquet of peonies also makes for a good “hit-him-over-the-head” scenario, due to their relative lightness and lack of thorns. Petals slowly trickle out of freeze-frame as music gently rises.
But you’re not the type for drama like that, and probably just want something pretty for your table. Put some sprite or sugar in the water to feed the cut stems.
Peonies grow well in most temperate zones. The best site I’ve found for purchasing them (as roots, not plants) is . There’s also a wealth of information on the Garden Muse’s blog .