June weddings were made for peonies! You might think it is the other way around, but I say what better excuse for a wedding than the heady days of peony in full bloom? I absolutely love, love love, peonies! Each year, I can’t wait for them to pop open in June in my garden. They are so lush, so fragrant and oh, so romantic. Their frilly petals are reminiscent of silk flowers donned in Victorian hats.
They feel so European to me and are what I expect to see in an English or French country cottage garden. This is probably because I associate them with lovely impressionist Renoir paintings. And though they certainly have a history in Europe, they are also very much from Asia.
It is said that mischievous nymphs hid in the petals of the peony, so their meaning is bashfulness. But there is nothing bashful about the large blossoms and their intoxicating perfume! The colors range from sorbet-like pastels (OK, perhaps those are somewhat bashful) to deep fuchsias and dark and intense reds. They are also symbolic of riches and good fortune, a happy marriage and a happy life.
Peony remind me of my childhood when in June all the people of my little town of Roosevelt, NJ got together for RPS’s 8th grade graduation. The eighth-graders went around from house to house to pick flowers for the event and peony took the star role. Whenever I smell peonies in the air around my garden, I am transported to those wonderful early summer days when the sense of community was so comforting.
I wish you wonderful memories of June and peonies!
By Mary Oliver
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are